Adaptive Living 


Therapy Services for Individuals, Families, and Adolescents


Adaptive Living Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries

August 4, 2019

It took me a while to decide on what my counseling focus would be as I began my new business. After some soul searching and curiosity, I realized that the people with whom I had the most impact were individuals in many different stages of life who had experienced childhood emotional neglect (CEN). These were people who had parents that struggled with their own emotional dysregulation, mental health or substance abuse issues, and as a result, had  parents who could not be emotionally present or accessible to them when it was needed.  What does that mean - parents who were not emotionally present or accessible? Well, it describes a parent who may have been able to provide basic needs and affection, but struggled to help a child through emotional experiences in life. Such parents may have become upset and angry when the child was upset. These parents may have been unpredictable due to altered personalities when using drugs or alcohol. Some of these parents may have been struggling with their own depression and withdrew socially, leaving kids to handle emotions on their own. Many of these clients with CEN came in for therapy struggling in their own relationships, and/or experiencing severe anxiety or depression without any understanding or context of how CEN was playing out  in their day to day lives. It became more and more obvious to me that in order for these clients to heal, CEN had to be acknowledged, explored and worked through. These clients needed to learn what their emotions were, how to stop numbing or pushing their emotions down and how to value themselves as important, valid and worthy. 

If you are interested in learning for about CEN and if it might be affecting you, take the CEN quiz at https://drjonicewebb.com/cenquestionnaire/



Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness is one of those concepts that is h​ard to pin down. What does it mean to be emotionally aware, why is it important and how do we know if it is something we need to address in our lives? One of the resulting impacts of CEN can be the detachment of one's self from their emotional experiences. This can happen when a parent cannot respond to or help navigate a child's emotions, which can cause feelings of rejection, pain or dismissal in the child. Some examples may include parental statements such as,  "Stop crying, you are being a baby" , to underlying messages of flaw such as, " Why cant you be more like your sister/brother?"  To cope with the pain of this experience, one may numb themselves with denial of emotional experience altogether and /or dismiss personal needs with minimizing self- talk.  "It isn't that important" or " I don't really care", " This pattern, when repeated enough over time, can rob us of the importance of our emotional experience. We might begin to lose touch with how we truly feel, missing important cues and information that our emotions can provide us. As a result, we may begin to experience confusion about who we truly are and struggle with knowing ourselves intimately. Uncertainty about how we feel, which direction to go, or struggling to make choices that align with who we are can become difficult. 

Step one in addressing the need to improve our emotional awareness is to acknowledge the process we may engage in of "pushing down negative" emotions. Emotions such as sadness, loneliness, rejection, hurt, dismissal, and feeling unimportant might be self- acknowledged as opposed to denied. Using an emotion list to label different feelings as they come up can strengthen this awareness and help us begin to feel things as they unfold.