Childhood emotional neglect

Emotional neglect refers to our emotional needs as children not being met.

Childhood Εmotional Νeglect (CEN) London

Signs of emotional neglect in adults


You may see yourself as “different” or think “there’s something wrong with me”.

You may feel alone even when you are in the company of others.

You may feel as if there is a void or emptiness inside, or you may feel hollow.

You may find it hard to make decisions, even for things that appear minor. 

You may feel numb or cut off from our feelings.

You may find it hard to name your feelings.

You may look everywhere for “fixes”; retail therapy, or an obsessive commitment to hobbies and work.

You may act as if you have to prove yourself every time you see your friends of loved ones. 

You have a sense that you do not know yourself.

What causes childhood emotional neglect?

For babies to become themselves, they require mirroring and validation of their experiences so that they can be registered as joy, sadness, anger etc. This means that our caregivers need to have the capacity to receive, tolerate, and show us what it is we are showing them.

Sometimes a caregiver is depressed, a single parent, or has not had an experience of validation in themselves. This can mean that they may withdraw, misunderstand, or feel hurt by what they are being shown.

The result is that we may, from early on, create gaps, voids, or emptinesses in our lived experience. 

Child Νeglect Therapy London
Childhood Psychotherapy London

Emotional neglect leaves a gap in our self-knowledge

If our caregivers were not able to “see” what we needed, it will be very hard for us as adults to see what we need.

We may often feel invisible or believe that others see us as unimportant or forgettable.  

In the the worst cases we may feel as if we do not, or should not, exist. 

How does therapy help with childhood emotional neglect


First and foremost, you have access to a safe space, away from distractions, where the focus is on you.

One of the things that a good therapist does is to function like a mirror. They will show back to you what they see during your session together and this provides you with an opportunity to see yourself through someone else’s eyes. 

You will discover that underneath the anxiety you experience there are unfelt emotions. Feeling these can be like meeting yourself for the first time. 

You will learn to set healthy boundaries and say no in an empathic way.

If you know what you feel, you know what you need. 

If you know what you need, you can be more confident, assertive, and make better decisions.

As you learn to connect with your therapist in anger, sadness, and joy, you can begin to overcome the sense of isolation and risk connections with others in your life. 




Photography by Amanda Dalbjörn, Vasily Koloda, Ben White, & Toa Heftiba

childhood emotional neglect therapy

Benefits of therapy

Increased self awareness
  • Discover your unique relationship models
  • Identify otherwise invisible patterns of thinking and feeling that lead to unhelpful behaviours
  • Explore your values and make decisions
Use your emotions
  • Turn your emotions into information
  • Identify your needs
  • Become the truest version of yourself
Improve your relationships
  • Connect
  • Communicate
  • Share
  • Become more assertive
  • Become more collaboartive
Reduce suffering
  • Reduce self-criticism
  • Reduce doubt
  • Reduce worry and rumination
  • Reduce a sense of meaninglesness

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