There is a lot of literature on how damaging having an emotionally neglectful mother can be. Such aspects as feeling worthless, helpless and unable to trust are usually brought out. However, I want to talk about another very important aspect, namely that as a kid of such a mother you internalize some of the communication patterns.
Empathy has never come natural to me and this is something I have struggled with for quite some time. I have always been touched by bigger world problems such as poverty, famine etc etc. At least that proves that I am not a cold or heartless person- I just have no education as to how to emphasize with a person right next to me. I have educated myself about emphaty and granted there are some good books out there such as “The EQ difference“. My problem- well once you have no clue as to how to relate to your own emotions, trying to emphatize with other people really comes artificially. I guess this is how a psychopath feels when he is trying to copy “the real emotions”.
I have always been attracted to caring men. Nevertheless their caring nature has surprised me. It surprised me that someone would be interested in me when I was ill and would be willing to come by just to check on if I was OK. My experience with my mother was that she just did not care. Sure she would once in a while buy me some candy when I was ill and provide me medication, but that was about it. Occasionally she would get angry when her sleep was interrupted because of my illnesses, so I learned not to burden her with such issues. Hence, it really blew me away when my boyfriends showed real care and love towards me when I was ill.
Unfortunately I could really not return the favor. I had learned to ignore my own illnesses and problems, so how could I ever be attentive to theirs? My attitude towards acknowledging any problems with one’s health or emotional wellbeing was: “Do not be a baby”. For many years I was totally unable to cry- the tears would just not come. I was just so alienated from my emotions.
I am making baby steps towards learning how to be caring towards myself and towards others. Now when someone gets injured during sports I can almost sincerely feel compassion and not immediately think- “what a wuss”. The real key has been learning how to attend my own emotions and health. I am not going to work anymore, when I just feel extremely crappy. I let myself cry. As I am becoming more comfortable with my own weaknesses, I have more compassion towards other people as well. However, this is not a simple process and it will probably take me a while to learn to be emphatic and caring. The key is not force it. I have had to find out that one just cannot learn to be emphatic. Empathy is something that for the survivors of neglectful childhood comes with time. Especially during the first period of your therapy you actually have to be selfish. You have to get into contact with your own pain before you can relate to anyone else’s.