As another year ends, we can be grateful.
Some, however, will not be feeling a desire to express gratitude as 2018 was yet another year of psychological pain and turbulence. They wonder if these symptoms will ever leave – and peace and non-suffering will ever come to them.
We know there will always be suffering but to what extent, is in our own hands. The world may often be chaotic, but we can remain separate from that chaos if we elect to skilfully and mindfully observe more, and judge less.
We’re always going to be in receipt of emotions, but we are not these emotions. Therefore, it’s the meaning we assign to our emotions that makes the difference between having emotions – and becoming our emotions. If we say, “I am sad” – this is a feeling, not ‘who’ we are. So, when we identify with negatively perceived emotional states then we mistakenly believe that is all we are – our sadness.
When we identify with negatively perceived emotional states, we mistakenly believe that is all we are.
Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)
As I personally grow further away from my childhood trauma and neglect, many will know that I have become a specialist in guiding clients away from the effects of CEN or childhood emotional neglect. For those unfamiliar with this subject, firstly let’s look at what CEN is.
Many of us believe, as adults reminiscing, that we had all our needs met as children when growing up – particularly in the first 10 years. CEN is not always about faeces stained walls and malnutrition or beatings and overt abuse of a child. CEN is often about parents doing the best they can with what they have; and this is what they have been taught!
How do we come to know what good enough parenting is – and what it isn’t?
We can find the answer from our own childhood observations and experiences, while we were watching how our caregivers behaved and interacted. If these observations and experiences were of less-skilful attitudes, then we stand a fair chance of continuing that sub-optimal legacy for our children. By exploring CEN, it will give us the opportunity to break any cycles affecting our further generations.
So, now you will probably ask, ‘How do I know if I have CEN?’
Symptoms of CEN
Recurring depression, anxiety and emotion-numbing behaviours are in our lives with reason. Ask yourself, “As a child, was I encouraged to communicate and express myself without a negative consequence?” or “How did I know what I had said had truly been heard and understood – and was of value?”
As young children if we are not actively listened to when we have something, we feel, is important to say, then we will unknowingly learn there is little value in healthy expressiveness. I then often will become the analyst, the thinker – rather than a ‘feeler’.
As an adult, I can’t always know what was missing in childhood and whether my emotional needs were being met, because I am now looking with adult intelligence.
But, if I periodically get that sense that something is missing, a hollow feeling; something I keep trying to ‘fill’ or numb, then, either via childhood trauma, or my emotional needs not always being met, I may well be assessed as being in receipt of childhood emotional neglect.
But know this also, this is not the time to be blaming anyone! Parents do the best they can with what they have. And now for the good news!
2019 can be the year you begin to learn and grow what may be absent from your emotional vocabulary. Your emotional intelligence (EQ) can be enhanced and it IS possible to teach your formative mind, the one that is driving your emotions, what is missing – and what needs healing.
Along my travels I discovered Running on Empty – a wonderful publication written by Dr Jonice Webb for parents and adults who feel somehow emotionally disjointed. In this book, she describes twelve different parenting styles that may lead to a child’s emotional needs not being met – and how CEN is observed and experienced in the adult.
Trauma and PTSD
Whether experienced in childhood, adolescence or as an adult, for around 25% of those of us who have experienced what to us was a significant traumatic event or multiple events – then we can expect to retain symptoms associated with anxiety, OCD, low self-esteem, addiction, anger, relationships challenges, or depression because of unprocessed traumatic memories.
These unprocessed events sit ‘stuck’ in the Limbic system of our brain; the area of our neurobiology associated with ‘fight, flight, freeze or fawn’.
Seemingly insignificant events in your current experiences can trigger, inappropriately, the adrenaline response, leaving us unable to think straight – and have us feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Where someone is unfortunate enough to be in receipt of multiple trauma, such as that found in sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, then this can lead to the diagnostic term ‘complex-PTSD’ or C-PTSD.
The positive news is that these events can be worked through with specialist care such as the Rewind Technique, a rapid symptom reducing process that does not require re-living the trauma and something I offer any client, where sought and appropriate, following an assessment.
So, along with treatment and guidance options for emotional dysregulation or overwhelm, trauma(s), childhood emotional neglect, relationships and family challenges, I find most of these difficulties are met with new-found self-compassion and a mindful approach. Mindfulness is very much in vogue of course, and with good reason! Society has perhaps never needed more than now, the space to think, find more clarity, heal and offer kindness. I teach mindfulness and it is through this practice that I myself came to greater peace and substantially less day-to-day suffering.
I mentioned at the top that there will always be suffering, and while this is true, it provides for greater peace when suffering isn’t present. If I didn’t understand and experience any suffering, how could I know non-suffering? Without the darkness, there can be no appreciation of the lighter days.
Learning mindfulness provides a conduit, a route to understanding and changing thoughts and perspectives that might otherwise trap us into believing whatever troubles us – is us.
This, then provides opportunities to be less reactive, to respond with greater insight and skill to life and its impermanent nature. AND the benefits of becoming more mindful far outweigh the efforts achieving this most healthy way of being.
Mindfulness Training and a Gift
If you would like to learn more about how mindfulness can become part of your life, we have created a free ‘taster’ 8-day online introduction course, an 8-week online program, and for those local to Anglia Counselling (Newmarket), bespoke one-to-one mindful training that is designed specifically for your life.
Please seek and find all you were and are entitled to in terms of your inner-peace. Make 2019 the year you stop waiting for it to be okay.
Wishing you all a peaceful 2019!
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).