Girl looking toward the sky standing outside

The following is a guest post by Maria Yahya, a writer and translator from Morocco.

My childhood was normal, until it was proved otherwise!
How it all began

I have been interested in self-help literature since I was a teenager. We all shared that interest at home, me and my siblings. I remember the day we first discovered a TV show on self-help. The presenter, who was a life coach, was talking too fast and in a different accent. We grabbed pens and papers and started taking notes. Once the show ended, we looked at each other in amazement! We loved it!

I have kept reading self-help content since. I tried to apply what I read to myself. It worked for a while until it didn’t! It was frustrating and painful. I knew I had some issues but didn’t know what it was or how to work on them.

The turning point

In 2016, I discovered a book that kick-started my healing journey. The book was titled Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect by psychologist Dr. Jonice Webb.

I started reading it with amazement! All my life’s struggles made sense, at the time. My normal childhood started looking not very normal after all. I realized I was emotionally neglected as a child.

What is emotional neglect?

“Childhood emotional neglect (CEN) is a form of childhood trauma (including physical/sexual/emotional abuse and physical/emotional neglect), referring to when a child’s basic emotional needs are not met, distress is not treated sensitively, and social and emotional development is ignored (Teicher & Samson, 2013).”
The influence of childhood emotional neglect experience on brain dynamic functional connectivity in young adults by Xiaokang Jin et al.

Dr. Webb refers to emotional neglect in her book as something that was not there. She says, “It’s hard to see that what’s NOT THERE can be more important than what IS there.” And studies show that what was missing is also as traumatizing for a kid as bad things that actually took place (abuse).

The author talks about twelve parenting styles that can lead to emotional neglect in kids, and gives examples of how this could result in different emotional and psychological struggles in adult life.

The book doesn’t give miracle solutions to this kind of trauma. No book can. But it is a very well written resource for validating one’s experience and raising one’s self-awareness of what had happened.

How has the book changed my life?

Thanks to the book, I have decided to go to therapy. And it was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. It wasn’t a peaceful ride. It was and still is a bumpy ride, a roller coaster at times. But it was worth every moment! I’ve tried different therapies since and I have learned a lot about myself and have seen so much improvement. I am still in my healing journey, which I have learned is a life journey.

It is mind blowing how the things we considered small or not important could have such an impact on our lives. Dr. Webb describes it best when she says, “When a child receives the message, even subtly or indirectly, that his emotions don’t matter, he will grow up feeling, somewhere deep inside, that he himself doesn’t matter.”

Final thought

Emotionally neglecting a child is not something that parents or caregivers do on purpose. They could have the sweetest and purest intentions in the world and end up failing. As Dr. Webb puts it:

“It is entirely possible for a parent who loves and wants the best for his child to emotionally neglect her. The truth is, to love your child is a very different thing from being in tune with your child. For healthy development, loving a child just isn’t enough. For a parent to be in tune with his child, he must be a person who is aware of and understands emotions in general. He must be observant so that he can see what his child can and can’t do as he develops. And he must be willing and able to put in the effort and energy required to truly know his child. A well-meaning parent who lacks in any one of these areas is at risk of emotionally failing his child.”

Maria Yahya is a trilingual writer and translator from Morocco. She is self-diagnosed with ADHD and autism and has a special interest in psychology, self-improvement, relationships, and writing.

Do you want to write a guest post for this blog? Write me a note telling me what book you’d like to write about. The book should be (in your opinion) intellectually or artistically great in some way.