Childhood Emotional Neglect Part 2: 5 Ways in Which Childhood Emotional Neglect Still Hurts Us

May 30, 2024

**This blog is a continuation of my previous post “Childhood Emotional Neglect Part 1: I’ve Had a Difficult Childhood, Especially Lately”. If you haven’t read part one, double back and read it here before moving forward with this entry. 

Are you unsure if you experienced emotional neglect as a child? Here are 5 ways in which childhood emotional neglect shows up in your adult self:

1. People Pleasing

People pleasing can show up in multiple ways, but it often looks like sacrificing your best interest to put others first in order to avoid conflict. Difficulty managing and maintaining boundaries is a classic example of this. This stems from a deep held belief that if you are not agreeable and “easy” to be around that love and affection will be revoked form you. That was likely a very real fear as a child, with very painful consequences; it makes sense that you have carried these strategies into adulthood.

2. Difficulty Managing Your Emotions

You don’t have to be perfect at managing your emotions but if you are often overwhelmed by emotion and have a difficult time calming down this may be an area to focus on. You may also be unaware of what feelings you’re experiencing. This can also look like shutting down and feeling nothing, as your emotions may seem too big to experience.

3. Normalization of Abuse

If you grew up in a household where abuse was common, you may not be able to easily identify it in your adult relationships. The neural pathways in your brain see abusive behavior and categorizes it as “normal” because it was the norm for your developing brain. This is especially true of emotional and verbal abuse which can be more difficult to identify and are likely passed down generationally and become highly normalized.

4. Difficulty with Conflict and Intimacy

Both conflict and intimacy are very emotional interactions. These experiences can feel overwhelming if you were never taught how to manage big feelings, good or bad. Many emotionally neglected people may avoid or mishandle situations involving conflict and/or intimacy simply because they are lacking the emotional skills to navigate these interactions. 

5. You’re A Workaholic

This ties into people pleasing as well as conflict avoidance. For most jobs it is easy to measure your success: projects to complete, deadlines to meet, deals to make, lives to save, etc. Measurable success can feel safe and familiar, especially if you were a good student in grade school. It offers evidence of your worth whether that be to a partner or an employer. If you have deeply held (subconscious) beliefs that you must earn your love, working yourself to the bone is a sure way to prove that worth. This doesn’t apply to everyone, some jobs/careers take more time and energy than others, but this is something to pause and give thought to if you find yourself over working.

If any of these qualities resonate with you and you are curious about exploring ways to live a life not burdened by earning your worth or avoiding your feelings, it may be time to see a counselor. Individual and intimate relationship counseling can help with childhood emotional neglect in three ways. 1) discover which of your needs were unmet as a child, 2) how you can meet those needs as an adult 3) how you can recruit your partner(s) to help nurture that part of you. 

Keep an eye out for my next blog where I dig in a little deeper about the neuroscience of how therapy works and how you can rewire your brain to be more connected both to yourself and to others.

Be Well,


Written By:
Gianna Colera, LPC-Associate, LMFT-Associate, Supervised by Nicole Richardson, LPC-S, LMFT-S


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