Updated: Feb 14
5 steps to help you recognize and heal your emotional neglect.
According to Healthline:
"Childhood emotional neglect occurs when a child’s parent or parents fail to respond adequately to their child’s emotional needs. Emotional neglect is not necessarily childhood emotional abuse. Abuse is often intentional; it’s a purposeful choice to act in a way that is harmful. While emotional neglect can be an intentional disregard for a child’s feelings, it can also be failure to act or notice a child’s emotional needs. Parents who emotionally neglect their children may still provide care and necessities. They just miss out on or mishandle this one key area of support."
A good example of this is telling your parents that you are upset at a fellow classmate for hurting your feelings. The typical response is simply to pray for that person. Parents in the IFB are not encouraged to really listen and converse with their children when it comes to their emotions. In fact, emotions are not encouraged at all.
An article in Very Well Mind explains:
"In an invalidating environment, you're essentially told that your expression of feelings is wrong. The “invalidator” may deny, ignore, ridicule, deliberately misinterpret, or be critical of your feelings."
What did that teach you as a child? And how is it affecting you now?
The most common effects of childhood neglect in adulthood include:
post-traumatic stress disorder
increasing likelihood for an eating disorder
feeling deeply, personally flawed
guilt and shame
anger and aggressive behaviors
difficulty trusting others or relying upon anyone else
Learning to Validate Your Emotions
Validating your emotions is not easy when you spent most of your life shutting them down. However, to have robust and full relationships with others including coworkers, friends, family, partners and your own children you need to find a way to legitimize your emotions.
Step 1: Name the Emotion
The next time you have an emotional reaction to something or someone stop and acknowledge that emotion. Name it. Say, "I am angry." It might sound silly but when you were raised to not have any emotion, it is good to name it and claim it as a legitimate feeling to have.
Step 2: Where is the Emotion Coming From?
Next, ask yourself...“What is it that is making me feel this way?” Are you angry at your spouse for commenting on something you are wearing? Is his/her comment making you mad or the fact that you were told your whole life what you could and could not wear?
Step 3: Feel the Emotion
If you're mad, be mad. If you're sad, be sad. This would sound to someone not having grown up in the IFB as common sense. We know better. You no longer have to pray the sad away or feel that anger is a sin punishable by God and expect a spanking is on the way. Throw something. Have a good cry. Isn't it time if your inner child wants to throw a tantrum they should be able to!
Step 4: Share the Emotion
This is hard. Explaining to someone why you are upset goes against everything you were taught as a child. What if the person thinks you're crazy or doesn't validate your emotion? What if they tell you to "get over it"? What if they walk away from you and decide not to be in your life anymore? These are all valid fears that children from IFB suffer from.
Going back to the example of a spouse saying something about your outfit. Instead of silently being angry (which is so bad for your mental and physical health), calmly explain that comments like that trigger you. You're not pointing out something that they did wrong but just like someone who suffers from PTSD, the littlest things can become major triggers.
Step 5: Work on your Emotional Triggers
Once you start to identify and acknowledge your emotions, work on what triggers them. Write them in a journal. Seek out a religious trauma counselor.
It's not easy reprogramming your heart and mind after years of emotional neglect but if you do the work, all your relationships including self-love will flourish.
IFB Overcomers is an online resource for those who have left Independent Fundamentalism and are looking to heal and discover themselves. With a podcast, webinars, forum, blog and resources, we hope to help retrain your heart and mind from the mindset of the IFB and help you not only survive but overcome and then thrive!