What happens when a Highly Sensitive person grows up with Emotional Neglect.
If you’re highly sensitive, there’s a good chance that you experience emotions in a very strong way- so much so that your emotions can flood you. That’s because highly sensitive people (HSPs) are born with a nervous systems that processes and feels things much more deeply than the average person. Most HSPs are aware of their own feelings and the feelings of others, which can be a powerful gift.
But what happens when you grow up in a family that doesn’t value this trait at all?
That could mean- parents who said you were overreacting for having feelings. Your parents never expressed their own emotions, and were uncomfortable when you did so. Being labeled as different (a dreamer, crybaby) because you are sensitive.
Sadly, this isn’t uncommon. In fact,a grow body of research suggests that many otherwise healthy families raise their children with emotions neglect- a failure to value or respond to emotions.
This can create unhealthy outcomes for any child, but especially high sensitive children. The parent who doesn’t validate their child’s feeling or respond to their child’s emotions can leave children feeling deeply alone. Children feel like they should never ask for help because it’s perceived as a sign of weakness.
Emotions are, in many ways, an HSP’s first language. And an emotionally neglectful family doesn’t speak that language. You cannot make a child highly sensitive with an emotional upbringing and likewise, you cannot make someone less sensitive through emotional neglect. Highly sensitive, by definition, is a genetic trait, you’re either born with it or you’re not.
So emotional neglect doesn’t change whether a child is an HSP. But,it does affect HSPs very differently than other children.
While parents certainly have emotions of their own, they expressing them outwardly or acknowledging the emotions of others. It’s like they completely divorce themselves from the most important part of their HSP child’s inner life.
At best, growing up as an HSP in an emotionally neglectful house is like being like a musician in a world with no music. In other cases, it much worse- it’s the equivalent of having parents who actively tell you that your music is bad.
Imagine being deeply thoughtful, intensely feeling child growing up in a family that is neither. Imagine your intense feelings being ignored or discouraged. Imagine that your thoughtfulness is viewed as weakness.
Of course many HSPS don’t have to imagine it at all. It’s often how we were raised. And that kind of emotional neglect sends HSP children a message: Your greatest strength is not valued here.