Parents don’t have to hit or terrify us or even use cruel, mean words to leave scars. This seems difficult for people to understand. I could say well they didn’t beat me but wouldn’t that negate my feelings of loss and abandonment. I would be invalidating myself. It was very painful to reach up to my mom only to be pushed aside like I wasn’t important enough. It was painful when she left me in my crib for far to long and all alone. It hurt when my cries went unanswered. The truth about all this is when a parent fails to guide us or protect us or give lots of affection this is neglect. They may just fail to fulfill their important role as a parent. This too is neglect.
Emotional neglect is invisible. It’s hard for a small child to seek out help when no one sees that there is something wrong. It’s hard to see because if a parent is doing some good things people might just look at them as good parents all the while not realizing that the child is in dire need of affection. We can understand that neglect is often associated with not attending to the childs physical needs (food,clothing,shelter), but emotional neglect goes unrecognized.
It is not that people intend to be emotionally absent. Maybe they have a hard time being present in general or making emotionally contact with us. Generally we’re talking about people who are emotionally shut down like my Mom.
I do understand though that it is possible that a parent is busy taking care of someone else. It might be someone who is mentally or physical ill. I can’t say my mom worked too much because she didn’t have a job. Sometimes its just that a parent might not have had a good role model when they were a child. They could be acting on what their parents did to them. It can be generational. But regardless of all that the wound is invisible.
We don’t look down on a parent with these issues. They don’t look like an abusive parent. But it is still wrong and it leaves permanent scars. That’s really sad.
I read somewhere that not only is emotional neglect harmful, there is evidence that it is worse than physical or emotional abuse. A child tends to cling to an abusive parent rather than be abandoned. What a young child can least tolerate is being left alone or feeling invisible. That was me as a child. It’s a type of abuse that is hard to get protection from because I’ll say it once again, its invisible.
It’s true that we can’t change what happened, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make up for much of it. Healing from neglect isn’t about blaming but understanding what happened, how it impacted us, and most importantly what we can do now to help complete our own development.