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Signs of emotional neglect in childhood

It’s likely not a mystery to you whether you were neglected as a child or not, but it may come as a surprise to you, just how it may still be shaping your choices now as an adult. In this article we’ll discuss some of the signs of childhood neglect, the ways it presents itself in daily life, and what can be done about it. In understanding this, we can gain understanding of ourselves, the people around us who may be reacting to old childhood trauma, and what we can do to move forward and find ourselves again.

Easily overwhelmed or discouraged

People who experienced childhood neglect can grow up to be adults who struggle to identify and accept their emotions. Their automatic reaction is often to stuff the feelings down or try to ignore them. When feelings inevitably do try to make themselves known, it can feel hard to deal with them and result in overwhelm or explosive feelings.

Children that are emotionally neglected are often not encouraged to explore and understand their emotions, and emotion can feel foreign or uncomfortable. This not only results in trying to shutdown the emotions, but also attempting to avoid any situations that might cause upset. This can lead to dissociation, shutting down, explosive feelings, not trying new things, and a desire to avoid interaction with others.

What’s important to note here, is that these behaviour patterns are nearly always a result of trying to protect yourself. To a child in a neglectful home, dissociating or avoiding interactions with others may have been beneficial in keeping them safe. It’s usually more of a hinderance than a help once you’ve become an adult, yet the feelings and behaviours still persist. This is where hypnotherapy really shines, because you can change how you feel and react to a situation, on a deep and permanent level. You can start feeling braver, more social, and more you.

Overly independant

Children who learn that they can’t count on anyone else, tend to grow up to be adults who feel they can’t rely on others. They have a hard time asking for help, or allowing people to help them. They learned at a sensitive age that the only person they can rely on is themselves, that people are going to let them down, and so they make the decision to never ask for anything.

This can result in giving more than you get. Not surprisingly, this can contribute to anxiety and a desire to self-isolate. If on some level a person believes that people let you down and can’t be relied on, then the picture that’s being made in their mind isn’t a very good one. In fact, it can make social interactions seem incredibly tiring.

Learning where this came from, and feeling safe to ask for help can greatly improve many aspects of life, including stress, anxiety and self-isolating behaviour. Through hypnotherapy, you can start feeling calmer, happier, more trusting, have more energy, and be more connected to the people you care about.

Struggle with self-compassion

Those that grew up never having been shown compassion, or rarely experienced a nurturing relationship often struggle to feel compassion for themselves.

Growing up without nurturing or compassion can cause us to question our self worth. It may result in feeling undeserving, and that our needs aren’t important. Some people may even feel that there is something fundamentally wrong with them, or that they’re broken. Someone who experienced this type of neglect may grow up believing that they need to earn love and affection. They may become a perfectionist or display people pleasing behaviour. Putting others needs above their own, or feeling pressure to be perfect in order to feel worthy.

The truth is, you’re worthy just as you are. You are deserving of love and support. There is nothing you have to do to earn love, to be liked, to connect with others. That is true for all people, and it’s true for you. What if you allowed yourself to believe that deeply? You might notice a huge boost in confidence, you’d likely start attracting good and kind people in your life, you might feel calmer, less stress, happier, whole. Hypnotherapy can get you there, and even better, it’s doesn’t take years to do it. You can find understanding quickly, you can build up confidence and self-esteem, feel lighter and happier than ever in just a few short months.

Feeling empty or numb

We talked about stuffing feelings down, and that can absolutely lead to a sense of emptiness and numbness. If we didn’t have people in our lives that were interested in us, never checked in or listened, we start to struggle to fully experience our emotions. If our care givers never checked-in with us, or made us feel heard or interesting, we often don’t learn to check-in with ourselves.

Learning and realizing at a young age that no one is there to listen, can set you up with a lower level of understanding of what’s going on internally. It can seem like no emotion is okay to feel, so we don’t. Fortunately, emotional intelligence can absolutely be learned. In fact, you can become even more emotionally intelligent than someone who’s faced less adversities in their life.

Nearly all of my clients who experienced numbness, or dissociation were repressing their emotions. Do you know what happens when you learn to stop doing that? You start to feel alive again. The world looks clearer, a little brighter, a little shinier. You find yourself laughing more, smiling more, and enjoying things you used to enjoy again. The past does not dictate who you are today, sometimes it just needs to be processed, understood, and let go in order for you to start living your life to the fullest.

Feeling safe with other people  is probably the single most important aspect of mental health.

-Bessel A. Van Der Kolk


As humans, we need connection to survive. Children especially need connection and a feeling of social safety. On a natural level, we are programmed to seek out connection. This can be hindered when you have a guardian that doesn’t provide a safe and healthy space. Knowing and seeking that connection, but being in an environment that makes it feel unsafe, causes a disconnect.

Those that experiences childhood neglect can struggle to let others in. Feeling like no one really knows or understand them. The disconnect of needing connection and feeling that it’s dangerous can lead to self-isolation, loneliness, depression and anxiety. Even when you’re able to make connections with others, you may struggle to really believe it or feel it.

Unhealthy relationships

A childhood where you are treated as unimportant. Anything you say is unheard or appears to be uninteresting. Maybe everyone was too busy, or shooed you away when you tried to talk to them. There used to be a saying ‘children should be seen and not heard.’ Of coarse this in incredibly damaging. If our need for connection isn’t met, then the reaction can be to do anything and everything possible to get that attention and connection.

Learning that you need to please others in order to get the connection you so desperately needed as a child is detrimental as an adult. Failing to set proper boundaries and putting others needs above our own attracts the wrong kind of people. People that are more than happy to take too much and give back the bare minimum. If the bare minimum is still better than the nothing you received as a child, you’ll accept situations, relationships and behaviours that are unacceptable.

In learning why you do this, and letting it go, you can start to naturally repel people that take advantage of others, and attract healthy relationships. It’s can be really interesting and fascinating to learn about why we make the choices we do. Often times you’ll hear people ask, how do I keep choosing the wrong partners? How is it that I keep attracting these types of people? You may have even asked yourself this question. Why not find the answer? Once you’ve figured out where these patterns began, it’s so much easier to recognize a bad choice, and it’s much much easier to refuse it.

The hard lessons in life are not life sentences

Neglect is not who you are, and your past does not define who you are. There was a time that many of us had to keep ourselves safe when we are too young and small to protect ourselves. The beauty of therapy, is that we don’t need to stay stuck in old and unhelpful behaviour patterns. With hypnotherapy, you can start telling yourself the truth on a deep and meaningful level. The truth, that you are safe now, that you are worthy. I can help you discover your real self, to heal and live your life without baggage from the past. You can start living your life as the real you, the you that feels confident, worthy, happy, trusting, and in love with life. Because the truth is, you are worthy.

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