Childhood is a crucial time and one in which we form our defining ideas on everything from romantic love to happiness. The relationships we share with our parents are important, but they can be damaging too. When you’re the adult child of an emotionally abusive parent, the road is hardly ever a straight one. It’s up to you to find healing, though, and it’s up to you to let in the light of happiness and truth.
Though we aren’t responsible for the complex damage done to us by emotionally abusive or neglectful parents, we are responsible for healing that damage in our adult lives so we can find happiness for ourselves. That comes with a big dose of brutal self-acceptance, however, and committing to undoing the damage that’s been years in the making. We can find joy after waking up from an emotionally abusive childhood, but only when we accept both who we are and who we want to be.
Childhood memories are rarely a straight road.
Our childhood memories often seem to be tinged with a touch of rose-tinted nostalgia. When you think of your childhood amid a stressed adulthood, you’re inclined to remember surprise Santa Claus visits or happy days on the playground with friends. What about the hard stuff, though? What about those tough-to-swallow memories that make us squirm, or otherwise defined who we are?
Emotional neglect occurs when our caretakers fail to appropriately respond to our emotional needs at critical stages in our development. While child abuse is a very intentional act, emotional neglect generally occurs out of ignorance or as the result of an extreme form of narcissism.It’s a failure to act and respond to a child’s emotional needs, and it’s an unwillingness to do the emotional work it takes to be an adequate parent.
Because emotional neglect is so subtle, many of us fail to recognize its consequences in our lives until we are well into our adulthood. Overcoming the effects of emotional neglect is a long process, and it takes a certain amount of brutal honestly, applied self-compassion and understanding. Getting ourselves back to true happiness and peace takes learning how to correct these flaws and start loving ourselves for who we are.
The 5 facets of childhood emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse isn’t just screaming and stomping around. There are very different facets to childhood emotional abuse. From a reject of needs, to corrupting our sense of right and wrong — these are the 5 facets of childhood abuse which could indicate you were abused or neglected emotionally.
Rejection of needs
An emotionally abusive parent is one who dismisses the emotional needs of their child, or otherwise refuses to show affection. This might occur by withholding affection when the child is perceived to have done something “wrong” or it may occur outright — by treating the child with cold and distant disdain. The caretaker here is denying the child the affection it needs to thrive or feel secure, thus inflicting deep and long-lasting trauma that can make it hard for those children to have happy and balanced relationships in future.
One of the hallmark signs of abuse is, without question, isolation. Abusers isolate their victims because it limits the chances of discovery, and also allows them to exert greater control over those relationships. An emotionally abusive parent might refuse to allow their child to take place in normal activities, or they might (once again) use isolation as a heavy-handed means of “punishment” though it is ultimately more about control and inflicting distress.
Terror, terror, terror
Terror doesn’t occur only in the home of the child who receives regularly beatings — it’s a foundation of emotional abuse too. Parents and caretakers terrorize their children with the promise of severe punishments, or the threat of something far more sinister which can cause them to hide or fear opening up. This constant terror creates a climate of threat, which with it erodes all sense of trust and safety the child has in their home and their caretakers.
Ignoring and dismissal
Emotional abuse doesn’t just come with terror and threats. It can include dismissal and emotional neglect as well. When a parent goes out of their way to ignore the needs of their child, or if they are suffering from untreated mental illness, it can leave the child with a sense of being unwanted and unconsidered. Children need validation because that validation guides them toward future social skills, abilities and understandings. when they are denied that by their caretakers, it can lead to major emotional upsets later on.
Corrupting the senses
Perhaps the most insidious aspect of emotional abuse is that of emotional and social corruption. This form of abuse takes place when the parent or caretaker encourages their offspring to engage in malicious or antisocial behavior. They might do this directly, or they might do this by responding to the child only when they are in an extreme or unpleasant emotional state. Only receiving the attention that you need when you’re acting up, hurting yourself, or hurting others leads to the development of false values and even damaging behavioral patterns.
Why we don’t always recognize childhood emotional abuse.
Unlike physical abuse, the scars of emotional abuse run deep and often far beneath the places we are comfortable lurking. Because emotional abuse requires us to bury our pain and our experiences deep, and dismiss our base instincts, it can be hard for us to recognize and accept that we were childhood victims of emotional abuse…