Ep 89: Are You a Product of Childhood Emotional Neglect?: Erica Komisar

Most of us are aware that what happens to us in childhood has a huge effect on who we become as adults. But what if the opposite is also true?

What if what doesn’t happen in childhood has an equal, or even greater effect?

The absence of emotional support in childhood is as damaging as other traumas. Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) is not a form of childhood abuse because it’s subtle and usually unintentional. Rather than a direct act, it is the absence of action. It’s inaction.

The result when a parent is disengaged in this way is that a child learns to ignore and hide his feelings from others, even from himself. Children in these homes learn very early in life that emotions are inconvenient and should be dismissed—and they take this mindset with them into their adult lives.

A child who receives the message that there’s no space for his emotions to comfortably exist in the home is not consciously aware of it because it’s rarely stated outright. It’s a subliminal message delivered by the absence of a response from parents. But the result is that the child suppresses his emotions by pushing them away so they do not bother anyone—even himself.

Years later, this same individual will continue to lack access to his emotions, which will almost certainly wreak havoc on his marriage and relationships. Here to discuss what I believe is a prolific problem today is author and psychoanalyst Erica Komisar, who discusses this issue in the framework of  “attachment disorders.”


3:20  What are the signs of childhood emotional neglect?

6:20  Erica describes the different types of attachment disorders

6:50  Secure attachment is the ideal because your primary caregiver is consistently present this leads to an emotionally healthy person

9:30  Avoidant attachment disorder: Babies use this strategy to cope with the “loss” of their mothers due to physical or emotional absence. This produces trouble with connection, committing to relationships and being overly “independent.”

14:00  The types of parents that may cause childhood emotional neglect: depressed parents, addicted parents, workaholic parent, the narcissistic parent and achievement focused parent

22:00  Depression is connected to avoidant detachment disorder

23:30  Disorganized attachment disorder is typically the worst and relates to borderline personality disorder. These babies have no strategy and usually are a combination of all three. They are angry, emotionally erratic, paranoid, etc.

28:00  Babies know when the mothers desperately want to be with them

32:00  Many kids don’t get help and carry these things well into adulthood, Unless we get to the root of our pain, it stays with us

34:10  The mothers who raise anxious children are anxious themselves

35:00  Ambivalent mothers are resentful of their children

37:00  What is the difference between abuse and neglect?

39:00  What are the ramifications of emotional neglect on adult relationships/marriages?

41:00 Erica talks about her new book about raising resilient adolescents

47:00  Erica and Suzanne talk about anxiety

48:45  The difference bw depression and anxiety

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne is an author, a coach, and a podcast host committed to helping women let go of cultural beliefs that undermine their happiness in life and in love.