Ever had the feeling that you don’t really know who you are, what you want and what you like? Or that you have no idea how to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty? Or that you just feel a general numbness in life and that you don’t belong? It could be that you experienced emotional abandonment as a child.
Emotional abandonment is not abuse and parents mean well in general; they are just not able to cater to the child emotional needs. I say ‘just’because that’s what a lot of us might think when being asked about our childhood. We might have had a good childhood, where our parents loved us, took care of our basic needs and wished for the best for us.
When you have experienced neglect it may be hard sometimes to pinpoint why you’re feeling a general sadness, or why you are experiencing anxiety or depression. Neglect is not always easy to recognize, it is usually left unspoken and unseen and can appear in different forms. Parents who neglect the emotional needs of their children are in general too caught up with their own lives to really see their child for who they are and they instead focuse on how they think their child should be; as an extension of themselves. Or they never had their emotional needs met by their parents and never learned the skills to cater to their own emotional needs, let alone their child’s. These parents don’t know how to set and keep healthy boundaries for the child, give encouragement and understanding or teach life-lessons that a child needs in order to thrive in the world.
Maybe you remember a particular event when you might have been scared or angry and they brushed it off, telling you to not overexaggerate, that it is none of your business. Or you might have blurry memories of sharing your emotions when you felt sad and they told you that it means nothing and that you should just get over it. They might not even have noticed your emotions and feelings because they were so busy with themselves and you felt invisible; not important enough to care about.
Emotional abandonment happens when you cannot connect with the people you care about. When our parents cannot connect to us and cater for our emotional needs, we never learn to connect to ourselves and cater for own needs either and we will repeat this cycle in our adult relationships. So you learned to not trust your own emotions, you started to repress them and you became fiercely independent and stopped asking for help. You might struggle with self-discipline; you’re either too hard on yourself or you have no self-discipline at all and you might struggle with addictions. Just like many of us, I searched for emotional fulfilment by escapism; dating, drinking, travelling, volunteering, shopping, smoking, the list goes on and on. The truth is; you cannot escape from the void you’re are feeling.
The only solution is to go inward and reconnect to our own true essence. You’re emotions are valid; they are messengers for you to realize where you’re life is off balance. When you learn to self-soothe and express your needs you can also reclaim connection to the people you love or set boundaries for toxic relationships.
So what can these messages be? Are you angry or resentful? You might have said yes too many times and doing too much for others. You need to set boundaries and say no.
Are you experiencing fear? There might be an actual physical danger and you need to move away from the situation. You might experience fear of intimacy when you are in push- and pull dance with your partner that you need to become aware of.
Are you feeling ashamed? Someone or something made you feel so bad about yourself? Shame can lead to you spiralling into a deep dark black hole and can cause anxiety. You might have taken on shame from your parents if they used it as a parenting technique. Shame has us feeling not good enough about ourselves and it tells us to reconnect with ourself and reclaim our worth.
Are you experiencing sadness? You might be going through a break-up, lost a loved one or your grieving your past self. You need to slow down, embrace the sadness and allow yourself to experience what you are going through in order to heal.
Becoming aware of how we are feeling and why is really empowering and a starting point to heal ourselves. We also need to investigate the beliefs we hold about ourselves and to see that they might not be true. Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or a therapist can also be benificial for your healing journey. Your feelings matter! Your needs matter! You matter!