In previous posts we explained how childhood emotional neglect can make you drink too much. We also described how to recognise the signs of childhood emotional neglect. This week we give some tips from Dr Jonice Webb on how to recover from childhood emotional neglect.
1.Ask yourself regularly how are you feeling?
Very often people brought up in families that did not openly discuss emotions don’t know how they feel. During the day stop and ask yourself how are you feeling? Initially this may be difficult so just ask yourself are you feeling positive or negative?
2.Accept your feelings
Don’t judge or criticise yourself. Just accept the feeling. Becoming aware of your feelings and accepting your feelings is a major step towards resolving your childhood emotional abuse. Once you start accepting your feelings and not criticising yourself it’s easier to not drink too much. The need for the emotional crutch alcohol provides is reduced.
3.Identify your own needs
Very often people who experienced emotional neglect as children don’t know what they want or don’t feel they deserve to have their own needs met. So imagine you have a magic wand and could immediately grant yourself three wishes. What would those three wishes be?
4.Imagine a kind person helping you
If you still find identifying your own needs difficult, don’t despair. You might be a successful first class honours graduate from Trinity with an amazing career and family. However if your feelings have not been acknowledged as a child, and it was all about career success, this can still be really tough.
It helps to recognise that you’ve grown up with a belief your feelings are not important. But this belief is not a fact and it’s not true. So imagine a really kind person who loves you no matter what. Some people find imagining themselves as a young child works. Imagine that kind person or child gently telling you what you need. What would they say?
5.Ask yourself questions
Asking your self questions about your feelings can also be helpful
How do you feel?
What do you want?
What are you afraid of?
What are you worried about?
What’s making you angry, sad, hurt, etc.?
The answers to these questions will help you to start unlocking and understanding your feelings.
6.Small steps work
Adults who experienced emotional neglect as children often have difficulty looking after their own needs (self-care). Frequently.they look after everybody else but themselves. Often they are carers in very stressful situations who then hit the bottle at night to keep going. So be very gentle with yourself. Talk to yourself with compassion and kindness as if you are talking to a small child.
For example, Instead of saying
“I drink too much because I’m lazy, stupid and can’t cope”
“I’m in a really stressful situation and that’s why I’m drinking too much. But I’m becoming more aware of the need to manage my drinking”
You’ll be surprised how even this very small change in thinking will help.
It takes time to unlearn old ways of behaving. After all if during your entire childhood your feelings were ignored, you are not going to change this overnight.
As the Japanese proverb says
“Fall seven times, stand up eight is success.”
8.Use these tips when you’re feeling bad, sad etc.
While these tips are really simple, they really do help. I find when I’m feeling numb or bad just becoming aware I’m feeling like this really helps. In my case, it’s often because I have a very unrealistic belief that everything I do must be perfect.
9. Accept we drink too much for a reason
As Valerie says
“You don’t wake up & go ‘I’ll drink a litre of vodka and destroy everything around me’,”
In Valerie’s case, she was was treated for 10 years for alcohol abuse, before finally post natal depression was diagnosed. So we drink too much for a reason.
If you’re finding it difficult to cut back on your drinking, try and identify the reasons why rather than just blaming yourself. If it’s childhood emotional neglect, these tips will really help.
You might also find our short course on the pro’s and con’s of drinking helpful.
10. Read the book
This material has been drawn the book
We’ve recommended this book to a number of people who have all found it very useful. So worth reading.