Abuse of any kind is a horrible thing. It has lasting effects on victims, and as National Child Abuse Prevention Month (April) wraps up, I wanted to take a moment to focus on an area of child abuse that is hardly ever discussed, Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).
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While much is said and reported about physical and sexual abuse, as it should be, understanding the realities and effects of emotional abuse are equally as important. And in fact, I have heard some victims of multiple types of abuse say that they would take the physical over the emotional abuse. Now, obviously not every victim may feel this way, nor should any person ever have to be subjected to any type of abuse.
The point is that, at least for some victims, the pain and effects of emotional abuse are in some way worse than those of physical abuse. I believe some have said that it is due to the fact that the physical wounds from physical abuse heal naturally, and while there are still memories and effects from this abuse, with emotional abuse the wounds are not visible to the eye and often go untreated, which then leads to a much different, perhaps more intense impact for much longer.
If we were to look strictly at the semantics of the words, neglect and abuse, neglect, by definition, is an omission of action rather than, with the word abuse, an action taken against someone. Where I feel like we need progress as a society is in recognizing that ignoring or failing to meet the needs of someone, especially a child under our care, is a form of abuse, or at the very least, has lasting impact on a person just as much as "outright" abuse does.
Think of the messages potentially internalized by a child whose needs are not met:
It’s pretty obvious why those who have experienced CEN often seem to default to certain types of behaviors or patterns that can be destructive or lay a foundation for problems later in life, if not immediately.
Dr. Jonice Webb, a Clinical Psychologist and author of Running on Empty, addresses in a little more depth in a series of four brief videos, this topic of Childhood Emotional Neglect:
If you believe you may have been neglected emotionally during childhood, Dr. Webb has on her website a questionnaire that I found helpful for determining the extent of the impact Childhood Emotional Neglect may have had on you. Please take time to evaluate where you are so that you can begin a healing process if needed.
Emotional health is an important part of an overall, balanced health and wellbeing. I highly, highly recommend from personal experience connecting with a support group for victims of abuse through the Celebrate Recovery program. Wherever you may be emotionally right now, I hope that you will do whatever necessary to find the healing you need and deserve to live life to its fullest!
You are worth it!
(And if you have children, so are they … you can stop the cycle and they deserve a mama who’s healthy in every way.)