In the groundbreaking self-help book Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, Webb and Musello introduce the idea of emotional neglect – an inconspicuous force from childhood that cannot be easily detected or noticed but may be significantly affecting someone in the present. It is so profound that it shapes our perceptions of ourselves, our families, and even the world. And because it happened in our earliest years within our families, without proper role models to educate us on how to regulate our emotions, many of us will not even recognize we struggle. Instead, we wade through the murky waters of life with a sense of uncertainty. We may have great difficulty with emotional regulation, feel distanced from our parents or other primary caregivers, and have turbulent relationships with others.
Emotional neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment. It is also the most hidden. Adults who experienced emotional neglect in our childhoods were usually not neglected in the broadest sense of the word (that is, our basic needs met. Also, we likely did not experience or witness physical or sexual abuse. On the surface, it may seem like we had the “normal, cookie-cutter” childhood. And because of this sense of normalcy, we truly may not know we went through emotional neglect.
Emotional neglect is not about what happened in our childhoods. It is about what did not happen, what was never spoken, and what cannot be remembered.
Are you ready to foster yourself with love by overcoming the burdens of emotional neglect? Reach out to any of the talented therapists at Long Island EMDR. We all have a thorough education in emotional neglect as a requirement of being trauma therapists. You can reach us at 631-503-1539 and explore our team of clinicians here!
Webb, J., & Musello, C. (2019). Running on empty: Overcome your childhood emotional neglect. Morgan James Publishing.
Valerie Smith, LMSW, CFTG, is a therapist, social worker, and certified forest therapy guide at Long Island EMDR under the supervision of our clinical director, Jamie Vollmoeller, LCSW. Valerie possesses a bachelor and master’s degree in social work from Adelphi University and Fordham University, both from which she graduated summa cum laude. Valerie is also a certified forest therapy guide through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy (ANFT), where she trained in the Rocky Mountains to master sensory-based, mindful activities through a biophilic perspective. Valerie is passionate about the health benefits of a plant-based diet as well as holistic wellness. Valerie is trained in EMDR and TF-CBT, with experience in DBT-informed skills. She focuses her treatment on adolescent girls and young women with C-PTSD and PTSD. Additionally, she helps people with life-threatening disease and their caregivers. Finally, she works alongside those experiencing grief and bereavement, especially young adults who lost one or both of their parents/guardians.