Emotional neglect is a heavy term and yet it could have happened to anyone during childhood. Even parents with good intentions sometimes miss certain signals from their children. The consequences of not enough support in childhood can therefore happen to anyone. In this article, Imi Lo, expert in the field of emotional hypersensitivity, writes about the consequences of not enough support in childhood.
The experiences a child has early in life have a strong influence on how they see themselves and the world around them.
Newborn children are not yet able to regulate their emotions, feelings of hunger or fear. In order to grow, young children seek warmth, comfort and closeness from their parents. When this emotional support is not available, their body’s physiological system is activated and cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’ is released. If this becomes a chronic pattern, the brain development of the children is compromised. The parts of the brain responsible for ‘executive functions’ – planning, emotional regulation and impulse control – are then affected.
As a naturally intense and impulsive child, it was very important to you that your parents set an example for you and taught you how to become aware of your physical needs, deal with stress and regulate your emotions. You needed your parents to learn, grow and explore the world. In addition, they taught you how to explore your limits in an appropriate way. Without this emotional feedback and practical guidance, you may not have known how to navigate your way through life, which may leave you struggling later in life with mood swings, anger, impulse control, or eating disorders.
Were you not (enough) supported by your parents, despite their good intentions? These are the consequences of little support:
1. Low self-esteem
If as a child you were not given the opportunity to internalize a deep sense of love and security, you may now have a persistent feeling that you are not good enough, that you are somehow disgusting, ugly or stupid or that there is something wrong with you. something is wrong with you. This feeling may be accompanied by thoughts such as, “Nothing I do is good enough,” “There is something fundamentally wrong with me,” or even “I’m bad and it’s not good for other people to be around me.” to be’. In more extreme cases, your low self-esteem can turn into self-loathing.
2. Excessive Self-Criticism
Sensitive children who are not sufficiently supported often grow up to be adults who are very critical of themselves. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but because you didn’t get this message growing up and your parents didn’t show you how to forgive yourself and others and therefore didn’t internalize it, you may be very aware that you do nothing wrong and you think that nothing you do should fail.
3. Loneliness and Despair
If you felt ‘unseen’ as a child and felt that you were not welcome in this world, you may find it difficult to connect with yourself and other people. You may feel cut off from other people, with both an intense need and an extreme fear of contact. If you get the feeling that no one can connect with your deep feelings, or see who you are, you can eventually become desperate.
4. Not feeling well grounded and powerless
Lack of real connection to the important people in your life can negatively affect your relationship with yourself and the rest of the world. Physically, you may not feel well grounded and you may feel that you are unable to keep to yourself. Psychologically, you may feel as though you are not connected to anything or anyone, that you are not cherished and that you are not safe, as if you are a scared child inside an adult’s body.
5. Distrust the world and be hyperalert
The experiences a child has early in life have a strong influence on how they see themselves and the world around them. If you’ve experienced a role reversal that forced you into the “little adult” position in your family, you had no one to rely on. Because you had way too much on your plate, you were conditioned to anticipate threats and stressors.
Because of this you were constantly vigilant. Your inability to relax may have made you feel like you were always on the lookout for danger. As a result, you may now suffer from insomnia and irritability, you may be jittery, and have a host of anxiety-related disorders or obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
5. A hollow and empty feeling
If your parents gave you little attention, were emotionally unavailable, did not reflect enough and were insufficiently attuned to your emotions, and as a result you have not been able to develop your self-awareness properly, you may never be completely sure of who you are or where the boundaries between you and other people. Because you’ve never really had the time and space to figure out what wants and needs you have and grow into your authentic self, you can experience an inner void.
Because the neglect you experienced was so painful, you may have adopted dissociation to deal with it (you may also have adopted this strategy from your dissociated parents). Dissociation can cause you to disconnect from your body, emotions, and other people. You can continue to function in the outside world, but with a lingering sense of inner deadness and numbness.
6. Persistent guilt and self-denial
Children who take over the role of parent within the family often grow up with a sense of guilt and a persistent fear that they are not and can never be ‘good enough’. Their “failure” to save their parents—their inability to take away their parents’ suffering—translates into a damaging sense of guilt. As a result, they can focus too much on other people, at the expense of their own health and well-being.
They often sacrifice themselves. Then they listen to others, but never take up any space themselves. They do their best to take care of others and neglect themselves. They may have too much of a sense of responsibility, putting them at risk of getting caught up in destructive relationships; in it they then take responsibility for the rude and reprehensible behavior of others.
Diary Exercise: Family Dynamics
Let’s take a look at ourselves. Sit in a quiet place. Read the descriptions of the different family dynamics above again and do so in a receptive way. Notice how your body reacts to this. Does your deeper being resonate more with some family dynamics than others? Do you prefer not to read further with some family dynamics?
Record in your journal, or in a notebook, how you react emotionally and physically to reading the family dynamics. Notice how reflecting on your childhood affects the image you have of yourself, your relationships, and the world in general.
If you didn’t develop well as a child and there were harmful dynamics, it can be very difficult to look back on your past; it can evoke strong feelings in you. Resistance to this process is normal and understandable.
Paradoxically, when you look at your painful past, you also have to reflect on the sadness and anger for what you missed as a child. While we can no longer change the past, recent discoveries in neuroscience give us hope that we can recover from the impact it may have had on us. Thanks to the brain’s plasticity, nurturing, healthy relationships and positive experiences can help us heal the wounds we inflicted as children.
Regardless of what happened in the past, you now have a choice. If you allow yourself to acknowledge the pain of your past hardships, you can slowly but surely take up more space for yourself, raise your voice more often, and claim your place in this world.