In the work I do with sexual addicts I often use the term “self-neglect”. It seems those of us in recovery are experts at neglecting our needs and emotions. When we look back at our childhoods, we see that we learned this pattern of relating to ourselves from how others treated us.
I have read that 97% of sexual addicts experienced emotional neglect in their childhoods. What is emotional neglect, you may ask? Dr Jonice Webb shares in the video below that when a child lacks “parental emotional attunement” she “receives a subtle, even if unintended, but very powerful message from her parents” of “‘your feelings don’t matter. Your emotional needs don’t matter.’ And on a whole different level what the child really hears is ‘You don’t matter’.” Dr Webb shares that children raised in this kind of environment will tend to blame themselves because they have no other explanation for this experience.
Growing in our understanding of these early experiences is an important part of recovery. Learning how to attune to our own feelings, name them, care for them, and express them with others who care will be part of recovering from childhood emotional neglect. In recovery, we learn how to care for ourselves when we are suffering, rather than neglecting ourselves or abusing ourselves by acting out our addiction. May all us on the pathway to healing learn how to nurture and care for ourselves regardless of how others have treated us throughout our lives. We both need and deserve this tender care.
-Written by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us on this blog and on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!