I just finished one of the best books I’ve ever read: Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect by Jonice Webb, PhD with Christine Musello, PsyD. (2014, Morgan James Publishing, NY). Dr. Webb has opened my eyes to a whole, new way of looking at parenting and at childhood, my childhood.
She has written her book in very accessible language and is filled with practical advice as to how to deal with children and with ourselves as children who may have been emotionally neglected. The book includes a section for therapists, who often cannot stay ahead of the curve in such areas as family dysfunction.
I’ve discovered that dysfunction in family life, which leads to profound unhappiness in adult children, may not be around the classic areas of addiction, physical, sexual, emotional abuse, or domestic violence. Otherwise very nice people who happen to be parents may not have the emotional intelligence necessary to raise children who feel emotionally safe.
Webb describes “Twelve Ways to End up Empty” in Chapter Two by illustrating a number of ways parents act toward their children that is not helpful. They do not listen carefully enough to their children’s emotional landscape or are wrapped emotionally in the effects of their own childhood. These parents may be viewed as wonderful by others and by their children, on an intellectual level. But on an emotional level, the kids are being starved slowly and imperceptibly. They are not “feeling” what they need to sense in order to be emotionally healthy and whole.
The carry-over into adulthood is dramatic, for here we find children who have grown up to feel empty, dependent, unrealistic, lacking in compassion, guilty/shamed, angry, incapable of feeling liked, unable to nurture, undisciplined or clueless regarding the whole area of emotions.
Chapters Seven and eight offer solutions to self-care and to parenting in a way that ends the cycle. There’s much here to be learned about the subtleties of emotional nurturing and the means to achieve it.
I recommend the book, but even more, I recommend that we look into our lives, as I have, to discover the areas of our childhood that were not addressed adequately. We can then parent our own, inner child, and offer the messages we would have like to have heard. It’s never too late to heal. That’s Dr. Webb’s good news!
© Copyright Michael Parise 2018
Portions excerpted from Michael’s book: Life Interrupted, Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed
Since 1979 Michael has worked with individuals and groups to take full advantage interruptions and changes to balance responsibilities, simplify their lives, and find greater productivity and peace.
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