Do you often feel empty inside, isolated, alone or just numb?
Do you have trouble respecting your own desires and needs?
Do you tend to blame yourself for your problems, get angry with yourself, and be self-critical?
Do you feel ashamed for having strong feelings?
Do you have trouble expressing anger, and feel you must keep it inside?
Do you not seek the comfort of others when upset, but prefer to suffer alone?
Do you secretly feel there’s something wrong with you, and you need the help of a NYC psychotherapist?
If all this sounds familiar, you may be a person who grew up experiencing Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN). Childhood Emotional Neglect occurs when a person had loving, well-intentioned parents who didn’t respect, validate, accept, reflect and help their child process his or her emotions. It’s not from abuse or bad things his parents did do. It’s what they didn’t do that hurt their child. It’s a mistake of omission.
Childhood Emotional Neglect that requires therapy occurs when parents didn’t regularly help the child soothe his or her powerful emotional states in what’s called the interpersonal venue, that is, in the presence of another caring empathetic person. Then the child learns the terrible habit of not soothing his emotions through other people, and instead repressing them and storing them locked away in his heart, where they fester there for decades just below consciousness. However with the help of a kind NYC psychotherapist, you will bring those emotions into consciousness.
Childhood Emotional Neglect occurs when parents caused the child to feel ashamed for having his or her natural emotions, desires, needs or impulses. These things are critical parts of anyone’s very self, and feeling ashamed of them causes terrible low self-esteem and a whole host of other emotional health problems. However in therapy right here in NYC, you will learn self-acceptance and recover from shame.
Childhood Emotional Neglect occurs when parents didn’t celebrate a child’s experience of emotional states, so the child never learns to respect and honor his or her feelings. This leads to lifelong feelings of emptiness. However with the help of a good New York City psychotherapist, you will learn to appreciate and cherish all of your emotions.
Childhood Emotional Neglect requiring the help of a psychologist occurs when a child was taught that it is unacceptable to express anger. Then he or she learns the extremely harmful habit of repressing anger, or expressing it later towards the wrong people. New research demonstrates that a lifelong habit of repressing anger not only causes many mental health and interpersonal problems, but actually causes cancer, heart disease, and many other actual physical illnesses. However with the aid of an empathetic NYC therapist, you will process your anger and let it fade into the past.
Respect for desires
Childhood emotional neglect occurs when parents do not respect and honor a child’s desires, either by ignoring them or by being over-controlling. This leads the child to think, “My desires and needs are not important. I won’t respect or honor them either.” This causes a lifelong habit of poor decision making and lack of assertion, as well as a chronic feeling of being out of touch with oneself. However with proper counseling right here in New York City, you will develop the custom of honoring your desires.
The child’s needs must come first
Childhood Emotional Neglect which requires the help of a therapist occurs when parents use the child as a vehicle to fulfill their needs, in other words by making the parents’ needs the most important ones in the family. This leads the child to think, “My needs are not important. I am only here to serve others, it’s only what others need that is important.” This causes terrible low self-esteem and all sorts of maladaptive behavior. However with good psychotherapy, you will learn to empower yourself by putting your own needs first.
Childhood Emotional Neglect occurs when parents are too strict or authoritarian, and then the child learns that his needs and desires are not important, only following the parents’ rules and their need for order it the highest value. This leads a child to feel that he or she is unimportant and that its only what others want that counts, not what him or herself values. However, with an empathetic therapist, you will acquire the priceless gem of self-determination.
Childhood Emotional Neglect requiring the help of a counselor occurs when parents are overly critical of their children, and show a lack of approval or acceptance. This is devastating to children and causes them to feel terribly ashamed of themselves and all their decisions, motivations, actions, feelings, desires and values. It can lead to a condition called perfectionism, where a person who was so criticized feels terribly about him or herself, and tries to make up for it through great achievements or near perfect performance. However with a warm, supportive psychotherapist, you will learn to abandon self-criticism and develop self-acceptance.
To find out more about my approach to Perfectionism Treatment, click here.
Only occasional neglect
Childhood Emotional Neglect occurs when a person had parents who behaved properly most of the time but occasionally behaved like terrible parents. Even only occasional but steady minor mistreatment generates in the child great anxiety that bad things are always going to happen and he or she cannot trust people or life. However with the help of a supportive therapist, you will learn to trust in a positive future.
Childhood Emotional Neglect requiring the assistance of a therapist occurs when parents make many of the above mistakes but do not admit or recognize they are doing anything wrong. This leads the child into the terrible habit of idealizing the parent and blaming him or herself for his problems, leading to lifelong low self-esteem and emotional health problems. However the help of a wise counselor, you can end the cycle of self-blame.
Childhood Emotional Neglect occurs when parents teach their children that objective success in the eyes of others is what is most important, instead of what is truly important, his or her own emotional life and his or her true feelings, needs and desires. This teaches a child to ignore his emotional experience, a critical part of his self, and to be unhealthily obsessed with objective achievements. However with the help of a supportive therapist, you will learn the supreme value of your emotional experience.
NYC psychologist Shannon Cohen assures us that relief and resolution of Child Emotional Neglect is possible through good psychotherapy with a warm, wise and empathetic therapist.
What do you have to do in order to heal?
Awareness of emotions!
Goal number one in therapy is to develop the golden habit of gaining conscious awareness of your emotional life, both in your present-day experience, and in your history. That means, during counseling, becoming consciously aware of how you felt at every stage of your past. You must become accustomed to thinking about, accepting, verbalizing and processing every emotional state that may arise or has arisen in the past, whether positive or negative, joyous or upsetting. You must discuss these emotions in the presence of an enlightened witness, such as your therapist, but also with loved ones and friends. You must become totally comfortable talking about and thinking about your emotions in every moment. Emotions are the life blood of any human being, and they must flow freely and be constantly monitored and managed by the central command of your conscious mind.
Psychologist Dr. Jonice Webb popularized the term Childhood Emotional Neglect in her wonderful therapeutic book, Running on Empty.
There she has an amazing list of thousands of names of possible common emotions. This list needs to be studied in therapy on a daily basis and you need to regularly use those words in all their details to label and thus gain mastery of every aspect of your emotional life.
Then, under the wise guidance of your therapist, you need to go through every stage of your past, and apply those words to gain an understanding of how you felt at every stage of your history, especially your childhood. This work takes great bravery, for it can be very challenging to unlock all those repressed feelings from the past. But it is so liberating! I have seen clients in psychotherapy in my New York City office experience such tremendous, exhilarating relief upon finally knowing how they now feel and have always felt!
Then you must learn in therapy to gain a clear understanding of and a respect for your own desires and needs,
as that is something those who suffered Childhood Emotional Neglect really need. You need to learn to put yourself first, because it is only by performing great acts of kindness to yourself and exhibiting great self-respect and self-honor, can you learn to give to and perform acts of kindness towards others.
The great, golden key to overcoming in psychotherapy Childhood Emotional Neglect and all trauma.
Anytime someone has been hurt, even through honest mistakes, including Childhood Emotional Neglect, it is a trauma. And there is a natural, God-given mechanism for healing and recovering from any trauma: Mourning and Grieving.
How does Mourning and Grieving in therapy work?
Let’s say a person lost a loved one. This is a very deep and terrible trauma. In the immediate aftermath, every time the person is reminded of and thinks of his recent loss, he will be shocked and traumatized anew. Every time he may temporarily forget about his loss and revert to pre-loss awareness, and then is reminded of his loss again, it is a mini-trauma and a damaging stress on the body and his mental health. Any healthy person can take a certain amount of such trauma, but the goal of healthy mourning, is to process the loss so he no longer experiences the constant re-traumatization.
Therefore, mourning and Grieving in psychotherapy is nothing other than the integration of the awareness of the loss and all its details into the everyday waking consciousness of the individual.
That means the therapeutic goal of mourning is to become so aware of his loss consciously, that he can never forget it again even for a moment, and therefore he can never be reminded of it and be shocked and re-traumatized. In other words, he needs to become so aware of his loss that he is just as aware of “I am Joseph who has lost his father” as he is aware of, “I am Joseph who lives in New York City,” or “I am Joseph who is married,” or “I am Joseph who is Jewish.” He needs to become so accustomed to the fact that his father is gone that he is literally bored by the idea, it is so obvious and accepted that he can’t be bothered to think about it anymore. Only then will the trauma be truly processed and it will slip into the past as just a memory, and he will be able to healthily move on with his or her life.
There are many different traditional customs for mourning,
such as wearing black, wailing, wakes, and social contact. Most of them are intended to help the mourner to process the loss as I have said. There’s one culture where the mourner will spend a period of weeks only at home visiting with friends and family, doing nothing other than thinking of and talking about his lost loved one. In that culture, he would typically retell the story of how he felt when he first found out about his loved one’s passing, again and again to guest after guest. He is careful not to allow anyone to distract him even for a moment from his loss, in this way he powerfully integrates an awareness of the loss into his everyday consciousness, and it loses its power to traumatize him, and he will be healed.
One time my friend’s father died young very tragically.
When I called to comfort my friend, he asked me to call his mother and express my condolences, but I forgot to make the call. A year later I figured, “Better late than never,” and I called my friends’ mother and told her I’d like to express my belated condolences. This was after she had completed a long and thorough course of traditional mourning. Her response was amazing. She just brushed it off, “Oh I’m totally over it now. I don’t have a husband but I have a great son to make up for it.” She had so totally processed her loss that she simply didn’t need any more consoling. No mentioning of her loss could cause her any suffering or trauma at all any more.
Now we must remember that although the loss of a loved one is a great trauma that must be mourned for and processed, the loss of a happy childhood through Child Emotional Neglect is a much greater loss!
An unhappy childhood is the greatest tragedy that any human can ever experience! It must be mourned and grieved in psychotherapy much more deeply and thoroughly than the loss of a loved one. But there is another reason why. Most survivors of Childhood Emotional Neglect are not even aware that they suffered any form of loss. Typically, they don’t even consider themselves a victim of any wrongdoing. At first, they usually report a happy childhood, love and idealize their parents and blame themselves for their problems! Therefore, even the most elementary first steps of mourning in therapy, of recognizing, “I am hurt,” and “I have lost” have yet to be taken. So, there is great work to be done in with your therapist. The person must become so completely aware that he suffered a difficult childhood, that if someone were to casually ask him about it, his reaction might be, “Oh yeah, me? I had a pretty miserable childhood of course. It’s an old story for me.” He must have totally processed and accepted that fact in therapy including all the details of his childhood history. Only then will he heal, and a great improvement in emotional disorder symptoms will result, as well as a resolution of difficulties in interpersonal relations.
To accomplish this, we psychotherapists use the triangle of trauma developed by psychologist Dr. Joseph Nicolosi.
In the first part of the triangle a person is in emotional health, or assertion. The second part of the triangle is when he is the victim of a trauma, of being hurt by someone. The automatic result of the trauma is several things including shame, self-blame, low self-esteem, anger at the self, and kindness and compassion for the aggressor. This state if not resolved leads to mental illness such as anxiety or depression, addiction, interpersonal conflict and self-destructive behavior. The third part of the triangle is when he takes steps in therapy to heal from the trauma by moving into grief, and deeply mourning his trauma. There you have kindness, acceptance, compassion and pity for the self, and anger and blame towards the aggressor, the source of the trauma. After spending some time in this part of the triangle, the person will be healed and will move full circle back into assertion. Working this triangle is one of the chief goals of counseling.
Therefore, in order to heal in psychotherapy from your Childhood Emotional Neglect,
you need to deeply mourn and grieve all the unfortunate events of your childhood. This means becoming incredibly aware of all the details, and their moral values. You must appreciate how damaging your parents’ mistakes were to you, and how they have had lifelong consequences. You must trace with your counselor how each form of neglect resulted in each type of emotional health symptom you are experiencing now. For example, you must understand how the neglect resulted step by step in your anxiety or your low self-esteem, so you can defuse the whole mechanism and reprogram yourself with healthy emotional habits. Viewing pictures of your past and discussing your history with family members and old friends will be helpful. This all needs to be done under the guidance of a wise, patient, empathetic psychotherapist.
Whenever someone is hurt, even by mistake, anger is always the natural and automatic reaction in the victim. Anger is a healthy part of the immune system. Just like on a micro level, your immune system defends your body from attack by bacteria and other things, anger is part of your immune system on a macro level. It is the very useful emotion that motivates you to defend yourself from harm or attack, whether physical, emotional or financial. Therefore, when you have suffered from Childhood Emotional Neglect, which means that although your parents may have loved you and they may have meant well, they did in fact harm you, you must have been angered and still must be angry at them! If you are not feeling anger towards them right now, your anger is most likely repressed. Repressed anger is unhealthy and causes all sorts of emotional and physical health problems such as low self-esteem and many others. It must be resolved in counseling. How do we do this?
First you must truly gain with your therapist an awareness of how your parents, or any others, truly harmed you.
Then you must become totally consciously aware of, that is liberate, your anger, in your mind, directed only towards those who harmed you.
You see, when a person has been hurt but is not consciously aware of the aggressor, the immune system goes wild because it fears a repeat of the aggression, and since you don’t know where it came from, the immune system fears danger and aggression from every turn. Therefore, it may incite you to express anger towards innocent others or especially towards yourself. But when you can consciously recognize in counseling who is truly responsible for hurting you, that recognition diverts the anger away from innocent bystanders including yourself, and on to those who truly hurt you. This is immensely relieving! When you can recognize who truly hurt you, you benefit because you can identify the source and prevent them from repeating the mistreatment and hurting you again. That puts your immune system as ease and you no longer are such a constant victim of rage. In addition, there is a tremendous feeling of justice and fairness in “The chickens coming home to roost.” Furthermore if you can politely and respectfully express your grievance towards those who hurt you, you can get an admission and even an apology from them, and a promise that the mistreatment will never be repeated. This is unbelievably relieving, and will go light years to further your progress in psychotherapy.
I know one client in counseling in NYC with a history of being verbally mistreated by his mother
who after years in therapy, called her and told her he loves her and wants to have a good relationship with her, but he needs her help to emotionally heal, and could she please recognize some mistakes she made in raising him. Approached in this respectful and constructive way, she was only too glad to assist and exclaimed. “I’m so, so sorry I ever hurt you. I just didn’t know anything about parenting! I hope you get better!” That 5-minute conversation caused decades of anger and suffering to melt away, generated great progress in psychotherapy, and created a wonderful relationship between mother and son.
In addition, there is what’s called cognitive work to be done in counseling,
which involves changing your thought patterns, attitudes and values into more more healthy ones. For example, to challenge feelings and thoughts of low self-esteem, you might keep a journal of 2 good things you did in kindness and personal growth each day, and then at the end of the month review the 60 wonderful things you have done in therapy together with your therapist. This calling attention to what a wonderful person you truly are become will begin to raise your self-esteem back towards where it should be.
For those that due to that low self-worth developed the habit of perfectionism, of driving themselves to demand great accomplishments or perfection in an attempt to feel better, they can develop more balanced healthy values, such as appreciating moderate, average achievement instead of superior, and learning to appreciate the beauty of the mundane, the freedom to be an ordinary person. Clients in counseling have reported great relief at no longer feeling self-imposed pressure to constantly achieve amazing things.
NYC Psychologist Neil Feuerman says that this kind of psychotherapy leads to greatly improved interpersonal relationships.
As I have said elsewhere, unresolved emotional health issues stemming from Childhood Emotional Neglect is a major factor in marital or couples conflict, parenting difficulties and family conflict. The key is to resolve your individual emotional issues with your therapist and you will pave the way for healthy, mutually satisfying relationships.
But you may still have concerns about NYC psychotherapy and Childhood Emotional Neglect…
A New York City Psychotherapist can be expensive, and I’m not sure it’s worth the money…
You probably have many decades of life left to live. An investment of a year or so of therapy now is like an early intervention, and will give you so many years of much greater happiness and emotional health. Imagine living life without all those terrible feelings. The truth is, counseling now is a steal!
I love and need my parents very much… I’m afraid to blame them for my problems and express anger towards them…
Most clients who do this work with a psychotherapist report afterwards vastly improved, loving relationships with their parents. Not only that, but their parents’ emotional health improved as well. A family is a system, and any improvement in one element of the system benefits the whole family. It takes bravery to work through these issues, but the relief and benefits you reap are truly worth their weight in gold!
I’m afraid I will be overwhelmed in therapy by so much painful digging into the past…
The trick is, psychotherapy must be undertaken very gradually and slowly, so as not to overwhelm you. I recommend to my clients to spend only 5 minutes of each weekly therapy session talking about their childhood and parents, and the rest of the time we deal with things in the present, seeking practical solutions to everyday problems.
I have been working as a therapist in NYC with those who have suffered Childhood Emotional Neglect for many years.
I have helped many individuals recover their emotional health and lead much more satisfying, productive lives. I have the experience to offer you unique guidance and practical advice to resolve not only individual emotional health concerns, but also marital and couples’ issues, parenting difficulties, sibling conflict and overall family and interpersonal challenges.
It is my greatest joy to help those who are motivated to grow and heal!
Feel free to peruse my fascinating blog, or download one of my informative free reports and get on my email list. If you are dealing with emotional health issues, and feel I may be the right New York City therapist for you to help you achieve relief, you may chat with me in the chat box, or call me directly at 646-681-1707 for a complementary 15-minute phone consultation. I try to pick up the phone especially mornings and lunchtime when I’m not in session. I look forward to speaking with you!
To learn about how Play Therapy helps resolve ADHD, click here.