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Do You Know Your Emotions?

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

During our early years, we look to those around us, in particular our caregivers, to navigate and understand the plethora of emotions we can all feel.

How our caregivers normalize and guide us in this process significantly and undeniably impacts how we use and understand feelings with others.

To survive early exposure to emotional neglect, we often detach from experiencing, expressing, and validating emotions.

Through our learned experiences, we may decide that feelings are wrong and leave us vulnerable to the rejection of others.

We learn about the value of feelings and emotions from a very young age.

How were feelings recognized during stressful events as a child or adolescent?

Were you told to get over it, comforted, or ignored altogether?

Did you feel as if your emotions were valid, or did you feel as if emotions were seen as a nuisance or background noise?

How our caregivers or home environment validated emotions plays a huge role in how we learn to recognize and validate feelings.

Find yourself avoiding emotions, being unable to recognize what you are feeling, or being challenged with validating your or another’s feelings. It may indicate that your own experience of not being validated influenced you to detach from emotions as a survival skill.

As we grow and develop, the importance our caregivers demonstrate towards our feelings is vital to how we associate emotions as good or bad. When our emotions are validated, we feel safe to experience and share all ranges of emotions. We learn that vulnerability is terrible if our feelings are dismissed or criticized.

According to Psychology Today, the following are 8 Signs of Emotional Neglect among family or home environment:

  1. Your family conversations tend to be on surface topics, seldom about emotional, meaningful, painful, or negative things. This may even make it boring.

  2. You sometimes feel an unexplained resentment or anger toward your parents (which you may feel guilty about).

  3. You go to family events hoping to enjoy yourself, but you often feel empty or disappointed.

  4. Complex or interpersonal problems in the family are generally ignored instead of addressed directly.

  5. It feels like your siblings are competing with each other, but you’re not sure for what.

  6. Affection in your family is expressed via action (doing things for people) and not by words or emotional expression.

  7. Emotion–perhaps only negative emotions, but maybe all–seems taboo in your family.

  8. You feel surprisingly lonely or left out when you’re with your family.

A helpful way to begin the gradual process of defining emotional availability as safe and secure is to reflect on your early exposure to how emotions were validated. Westside DBT suggests the following symptoms we may internalize due to exposure to emotional neglect:

  • “Numbing out” or being cut off from one’s feelings

  • Feeling like something is missing, but not being sure what it is

  • Feeling hollow inside

  • Being easily overwhelmed or discouraged

  • Low self-esteem

  • Perfectionism

  • Pronounced sensitivity to rejection

  • Lack of clarity regarding others’ expectations and your expectations for yourself.

In addition, it lists steps you can take to begin the process of reconnecting with yourself and emotional language:

1. Learn to be aware of positive and negative emotions when experiencing them.

2. Identify your needs, and take steps to meet them.

3. If you believe you don’t deserve to have your needs met, acknowledge the belief and see it as a belief, not a fact.

4. Be gentle and take good care of yourself, starting with small steps.

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