Three kinds of neglect that affect our spiritual lives and cause tremendous wounding: emotional neglect, physical neglect, and neglect in spiritual communities.

Regarding emotional neglect, we are fortunate to have the work of Dr. Jonice Webb available to us in her book “Running on Empty.”   She describes Childhood Emotional Neglect as:

“A deep feeling of disconnection from self and others, feelings of emptiness, extreme independence, low self-knowledge, low self-compassion, excessive self-blame and shame, low emotional awareness, and struggles with self-discipline.”

 She goes on to say that it’s okay that parents fail to notice their children’s emotions every single day.
“No parent can or should be 100% aware of his child’s feelings all the time, and that is not a requirement to be a good parent.  Childhood Emotional Neglect only happens when the parent fails to notice the child’s emotions enough.”

Emotional Neglect is the silent killer of a child’s spirit.

An offshoot of emotional neglect frequently is neglect of our physical selves.  We may feel ashamed of how we look.  We may make excuses for not eating and exercising properly.  Or we may be overly preoccupied by our appearances.

We often end up feeling disappointed in ourselves. We do not feel as if we’re enough. To compensate we may do some really stupid or dangerous things with our bodies in activities or relationships.

Emotional neglect can be extended into our spiritual communities.  We devalue ourselves and so devalue others, through toxic remarks or shaming.  We forget that we each have the capacity either to bring healing or further wounding to others.  We also may expect too much of our churches and clergy, feeling chronically unappreciated.  We sometimes fail to take a real interest in each other with reverent curiosity.

Neglect often drives us to find an instant cure for our ailing spirits. Yet there is no one action we can take. We need to identify how we may have been emotionally neglected as children, let go of blaming, and become our own best parent.

I’d like to suggest three steps you might take right away:

First, value your uniqueness and personal dignity. Move from telling your favorite stories of how you were victimized or abused in the past. Instead focus on who you are and what you’re doing in this moment.

Second, remember you are perfect as you are. Focus on changing what you do and not who you are.

Third, remember that God is never offended by our mistakes, bad choices, and imperfection actions. God loves us even more because of them.  Foster a healthy spiritual community that mirrors the quality of God’s love, that communicates truth and love, that shuns tribalism, that encourages critical thinking and transparency, and that fosters mature working relationships.

© 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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