When your emotions are suppressed, it’s hard to feel the emotional connection that connects you to other people at a party.
An important question for you
The first question on the questionnaire to find out if you were emotionally neglected in your childhood is: ‘Do you sometimes feel like you don’t belong when you’re with friends or family?’ There’s a reason that question is at the top. This is the most common way of deducing whether someone has been emotionally neglected or not. At first, it may not seem logical. Why walk around feeling like you don’t belong? Doesn’t belong there? That you are on the outside and looking in from there? Especially with people who love you?
The feeling is hard to identify, it’s hard to name it, yet it can really affect someone. It can be difficult to meet people, but also to stay long. You may get annoyed around other people and not sure why. Maybe you’re really good at pretending you’re having a good time, but you’re the only one who knows you’re not. Maybe you just look around you at other people laughing and talking and having a good time and wondering what you’re missing.
In the twenty years that I have worked as a psychologist, I have heard many people describe this feeling. They all use different words, but they all have one thing in common: they all grew up in a family where they were emotionally neglected.
Emotional neglect happens when the parents don’t pay enough attention to their child’s emotional needs. If you are a child and your feelings are ignored, you indirectly get a powerful message from your parents. Namely, “Your feelings don’t matter.” I’ve seen this time and time again, kids getting this message and adapting to it. They suppress their feelings so that they are not a burden to anyone.
Your emotions and relationships
When you’re an adult, you need your emotions. Emotions are the glue that connects you to other people and the spices that make life interesting. When your emotions are suppressed, it’s hard to feel the emotional connection that connects you to other people at a party. It’s even harder to feel that spontaneous, happy synergy that happens when other people are fully present with each other. So instead you are a baker without yeast. You operate without an important ingredient that the people around you do have. And you feel that.
If you recognize yourself in this feeling, please do not forget that even though this is a real feeling, it is not real. The people around you don’t see you that way. They don’t see you on the outside. They don’t feel like you don’t belong. They want to connect with you and enjoy your company. The best thing about childhood emotional neglect is that you can heal from it.
Four tips to stop feeling like an outsider
- Be more aware of this feeling. Pay attention when you feel it, and notice the influence that the feeling has on you. Always keep the feeling in your head. Remind yourself that it’s just a feeling.
- Once you become more aware of the feeling, where it comes from, and what kind of power it has, you can fight it. Force yourself to meet up with people and constantly fight the feeling while you’re there.
- Tell someone (your partner, a sibling, or a close friend) about the feeling. Explain where the feeling comes from and how much trouble you have with it. Ask that person for his or her support at family gatherings, parties, and other appointments.
- Focus on your emotional neglect. It is important to attack your neglect from multiple angles. One of the best ways to do this is to start feeling and accepting your emotions more. The better you get at this, the weaker that feeling of not feeling at home becomes.
By becoming more comfortable with your feelings, you begin the process, but you also learn how your feelings (and yourself) fit into the relationships you have with other people. If this still scares you, you can start by learning more about how you can use your emotions to make your relationships closer. Do this through the book Breaking Patterns of Unknown Feelings. Once you realize what’s wrong, you’re well on your way. You then fight for a life in which you feel more at ease and you feel closer to others. It no longer feels like you are on the outside.