In our last post we described childhood emotional neglect and how it can make you drink more alcohol
While we may come from a loving caring family, very often our parents never learned to acknowledge our feelings. or emotions. Because this is something that did n’t happen, we’re often totally unaware.
This lack of parental support for feelings is called childhood emotional neglect.
As we described previously if we’ve experienced childhood emotional neglect we tend to blame ourselves for whatever is wrong in our lives. Often we tend to drink more alcohol to make ourselves feel better.
Dr Jonice Webb PhD a leading expert in this field lists 7 signs of growing up with childhood emotional neglect.
1.Feelings of emptiness
Some people just feel numb. Others have an empty feeling in their belly, or chest or throat. The feeling may not be there all the time, it may come and go. Often people drink more alcohol to make the feeling go away and feel better.
2.Fear of being dependent
Some people find they never want help from anybody. This is not a normal healthy need to be independent but a total unwillingness to let anybody help. These people find the thought of being dependent on anybody really frightening. As they get older and maybe they get less physically able they tend to drink more to push away the fear of becoming dependent on others.
Some people find they don’t understand themselves very well. They don’t understand their strengths and weakness or know what they can do well. They tend not to have a clear purpose in life or even understand what they like or dislike.
4.No compassion for yourself, plenty for others
Some people are always helping their friends and colleagues, listening to their problems with empathy and compassion. They provide lots of practical support to their friends. Yet they find it hard to be kind themselves and won’t discuss their own problems with friends and family. They often berate themselves for not doing more or for needing time out to relax because they are totally exhausted.
5.Guilt, shame, self-directed anger and blame
Guilt, shame, anger and blame; The Fabulous Four. People with childhood emotional neglect direct a lot of this at themselves. They do something minor wrong and become very self-critical. For example being 10 minutes late for an appointment means a day or two spent criticising themselves for being lazy and unpunctual.
Or a daughter gets poor marks in school and they blame themselves for not helping enough with homework.
So the glass of wine becomes a great ally for numbing these painful feelings.
6.Feeling fatally flawed
This often feels like other people don’t like you. It’s an underlying sense that
“Something is wrong with me”
“I’m not like other people”
Many people drink too much to push these feelings away.
7.Difficulty feeling, identifying, managing and/or expressing emotions
Often people feel they can’t speak out on what they actually feel. This can be because they don’t feel they have the right to speak about their feelings or because they don’t actually have the right words to describe their feelings.
They often feel confused about what other people do or even what they do.
They may feel very uncomfortable when people talk with emotion e.g. people talking with anger or sadness.
Do any of these signs ring a bell with you?
The more of these signs you can identify with, the more likely it is that you experienced childhood emotional neglect.
This is not saying that our parents did not love us, but they did not have the skills to help us deal with our feelings or emotions.
So the less in touch we are with our feelings the more likely it is we’ll turn to drink to make ourselves feel better.
What to Do?
If you’re feeling childhood emotional neglect applies to you, don’t panic. By simply being aware of it you’ve just taken a major step towards fixing this problem.
In a future post we‘ll look at how to get more in touch with your feelings and deal with the effects of childhood emotional neglect.
Are your feelings making you drink more alcohol?
If you’ve experienced childhood emotional abuse, you’re not alone if you’ve taken to drinking more alcohol. So try not to constantly criticise yourself as this is more likely to encourage you to drink more. If you find it impossible not to constantly criticise yourself, you may find support from a counsellor helpful. Our tips for finding the right counsellor for you can be found here
Or you may find Dr Jonice’s book “Running on empty” helpful.