The damage caused by childhood emotional neglect is problematic for your inner self, as it settles deep within.
Research shows that emotional neglect can affect your happiness. Shielding your emotions can make your life feel gray, while the lives of others seem bountiful and colorful. The tendency to blame yourself, to be constantly angry with yourself and the shame that comes with it, takes a lot of energy and prevents you from fully experiencing happiness.
Believe in your own emotions
As a child, it is very normal to believe that adults know what is best for you. But if the parent you look up to and rely on continues to act as if your feelings don’t matter, that ultimately changes your ability to believe in your own emotions. And, of course, this also undermines your ability to believe in yourself. It’s possible you didn’t realize that at the time. You were just a child. You are not aware that you are not given the opportunity to bond with your own emotions. Including the ability to experience happiness.
3 Important signs that your happiness is being muted
The damage done over time by childhood emotional neglect is problematic for your inner self, as it settles deep within. Emotional neglect is sneaky, silent, and very malicious. In fact, decades later, it may be nearly impossible to identify it in order to better understand and recover yourself.
1. Your life feels colorless or even gray. In order to adapt to the messages from your childhood, your brain has shielded your emotions. As an adult, you live with the idea that your feelings don’t matter. Shielding your emotions helped you through childhood, but now you’re not a kid anymore and you need your emotions. These old messages need to be recognized, acknowledged and removed so that you can feel your emotions again.
Your emotions are the glue that connects you to others, the fire that motivates you and the vibrations and colors that you need to see in the world. You have an innate right to feel happy and yet, if you do have those moments, you may find that they pass quickly. As if it’s within reach, but you just can’t reach it.
2. Because you have trouble understanding, sorting out, and using your emotions, you are exposed to self-blame, shame, and most importantly, anger—often directed at yourself. You may believe that you are not smart, happy, or interesting enough for others. “Other people can… Why can’t I?” “Why did I… I should have known better.” ‘It’s all my fault. What is wrong with me?’ These and similar questions can get you stuck. You probably blame yourself for the lack of self-esteem and confidence. This endless circle takes a lot of energy that you could have spent creating a feeling of happiness.
3. Over time, your brain changes, making it more difficult to experience happiness. But before we get into how emotional neglect in childhood affects the brain, let me emphasize this: your brain is incredibly flexible. Changes in your brain can be reversed by making different choices and creating new habits.
According to a 2015 Duke University study, young children who grew up in emotionally neglectful families as young adults often exhibit a muffled “ventral striatum” (the brain’s reward system). As teenagers, they did not experience the positive elements in life as intense or rewarding as they should have been. Essentially, this means that the reward system in their brain that is supposed to provide happiness was muted.
The 3 steps to joie de vivre
Yes, there is a path to recovery from childhood emotional neglect and that path leads directly to your happiness. Thousands of people who have experienced emotional neglect have preceded you. It is clearly stated and clear: you can reverse the effects of emotional neglect by taking the following steps.
· Accept your emotions – they matter. Be aware of your emotions as they arise. They are all valuable. Are you ignoring them? Are you pretending they’re not there? Think you don’t need them? Those are the old unhelpful messages of your emotional neglect. Paying attention to your emotions and their messages can restore a full sense of happiness.
· It’s not your fault. You can now stop blaming yourself. Shame, guilt, and self-centered anger have no place in your life. Instead of being a person who asks, ‘Why can’t I…?’, you can become a person who says, ‘I’ll try.’ Instead of wondering what’s wrong with you, convert it to, “This is fine with me.” Pay attention to your inner voice and the way it speaks to you. A little self-compassion can take you far.
The moment you recognize and accept your inherent worth, your life can open up and change. And above all, be patient with yourself. It takes time to discover and accept that long-buried happiness — to feel your feelings and know that it’s okay to feel them. You deserve it.
· Take the time to look for small moments of happiness in your life. If you pay attention to what your feelings are attuned to while taking a fresh look, you will see and feel what you have been missing all along. Experience the glow of the sunlight against a clear blue sky; the elated laugh of a child as it races past with a kite; the unexpected kindness of a stranger.
Birds chirping in the early morning light. Maybe you get a freshly picked bunch of flowers from your neighbor, just because you can. By consciously investing in the pursuit of happiness, you begin to realize that the world serves you with mountains of happiness every day. And when you accept that, you see more of it, and you feel it.
Discover sources of positivity
Everything is possible the moment you open yourself to the moments of happiness that are already present in your life. You can regain the emotions you didn’t allow yourself to experience, find self-worth in getting to know yourself better, and discover valuable sources of positivity that have always been there and waiting for you.
I wish I could scan the brains of emotionally neglected people who have practiced these three steps for a long time. I believe that then we find that their ventral striata have awakened and come to life. But what really matters is that you too can come alive if you follow these steps. This also heals your emotional neglect. Your feelings and happiness belong to you. It’s time you claimed them.