People who grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN) often go through life with a set of requirements to achieve happiness. While good-intentioned, that list actually keeps CEN people from attaining the joy they want. "CEN folks don't know it, but the things they think will make them happy have little to do with their actual happiness," according to Jonice Webb, PhD and author of Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect. "In fact, their notion of happiness is mostly about protecting themselves."
Feeling that "there is something wrong with you" for having normal human feelings is the result of CEN. Going through adulthood, a CEN person's mission is to protect themselves from their own feelings and needs—and to keep others from knowing those needs as well.
Webb cites "The 6 Things CEN People Think They Need to be Happy":
1. To be 100% self-reliant
2. To never, ever appear emotional or needy
3. To make no mistakes
4. To not be asked about their feelings
5. To have no conflict
6. To keep most people in their lives at a distance
These are "What CEN People Actually Need to be Truly Happy":
1. To ask for help, and accept it: Doing this "opens door to validation, comfort, and solace that only makes you stronger, not weaker as you have always believed."
2. To accept your own needs as valid and real: When you accept your feelings and needs, it will "allow you to honor and express yourself in a way that can lead to true happiness."
3. To learn the voice of compassionate accountability and use it: Talk through your mistakes and learn from them, knowing that everyone makes errors.
4. To become comfortable identifying and sharing your feelings: Identifying a feeling "immediately takes some of its power away. It also gives you the ability to think about that feeling, being processing it, and finally, if needed, share it." This act of vulnerability will deepen your relationships.
5. To view conflict as a normal part of life: Conflict is "an opportunity to work out problems." By adopting this mindset, you are less likely to let the issues fester.
6. To let the people in your life get closer to you: According to research, "human connection is one of the life factors that contributes the most to human happiness."
These six things require "taking risks, tolerating making yourself vulnerable, and doing things that feel, on some level, wrong," says Webb. "But it's important to recognize that you've been walking the path your parents set for you for years. It's not your fault; it just is."
While the journey might initially seem overwhelming, know that the reward is worth it—finding the true happiness that you've always deserved.