Childhood Emotional Neglect happens when your parents fail to respond enough to your emotional needs while you are growing up.Yes, it’s that simple.

Even if your parents provided you with everything materially, and even if they loved you as their child, they may still not have been able to notice what you were feeling and respond enough; or to get to know you on a deeply personal level. They may not have been able to teach you how to recognize your own feelings, manage them or put them into words.

Now, as an adult, you may find yourself struggling to know yourself, love yourself, and understand your own feelings and emotional needs.

What didn’t you get while you were growing up? What didn’t you learn about emotions and yourself?

Recovery from CEN involves filling in these empty spaces.

Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect offers lots of helpful information and guidance to walk you through recovery. My second book, Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships With Your Partner, Your Parents & Your Children offers lots of helpful information about how to enrich your marriage, how to deal with your parents, and how to prevent CEN in your children.

But throughout your recovery process, you may need more information about the various road-bumps and challenges that you’ll encounter along the way.

Here is a list of someof the best self-help books in my waiting room, and the particular aspects of CEN addressed by each. Plus a few other helpful online resources.

  1. Self-Esteem: The bookSelf-Esteem by McKay & Fanning: I recommend this book for two adult CEN struggles. The first is Unrealistic Self-Appraisal (page 80 of Running on Empty). If you have difficulty identifying your own strengths and weaknesses or your own personal preferences and personality traits as is often a problem for people with CEN, there is an exercise in this book which addresses it directly. Secondly, if your unrealistic self-appraisal is skewed in the negative direction, that is the definition of low self-esteem. This book offers education, explanation, understanding and thought-provoking approaches to increasing your self-esteem and self-confidence.
  2. Your Parents:Running on Empty No More: Transform Your Relationshipsby me; and Children of the Self-Absorbedby Nina Brown, EdD are very helpful if your CEN is a product of parents who fall into the following Parent Types (page 14 of Running on Empty): Narcissistic, Authoritarian, Addicted, Achievement/Perfection or Sociopathic. In these two books, you will learn more about how your parents affected you, how to set boundaries with them as an adult, and more.
  3. Men With CEN: I Dont Want to Talk About It by Terrence Real. If you are a man, or have a man in your life, who struggles with emotional awareness, expression and connection, often a result of CEN, this book is a compassionate and enriching view of what that struggle is like and how to get out of it.
  4. Alexithymia: Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. These books are about one of the most primary struggles of the CEN person: alexithymia (p. 98 of Running on Empty), as well as the purpose and usefulness of emotion (p. 120 of Running on Empty). Both books are very readable and interesting, and will educate you on the most important principles of emotion: how it works, what it does, and how important it is to understand and navigate the world of feelings.
  5. Assertiveness: Your Perfect Right by Alberti & Emmons. This book is essentially a course in how to improve a number of struggles outlined in the Self-Care section of Running on Empty (p. 138 of Running on Empty). Like saying no, asking for help, and speaking up for yourself in general. When I Say No I Feel Guiltyby Manuel Smith is a more intellectual take on assertiveness. This book describes Your Ten Assertive Rights, which I think are helpful for all of those with CEN to read.
  6. Shame:When I think of shame (p. 86 of Running on Empty), I think of Brene brown. Her Ted Talk called Listening to Shame is a must-watch for all with CEN.
  7. Self-Confidence:As you know, CEN erodes your confidence in yourself. It’s hard to take risks, face challenges and cope with social situations when your self-confidence isn’t as solid as it should be. On HealthJourneys.comI highly recommend the mp3/CD on Self-Confidence. This CD kills two birds with one stone: mindfulness and self-confidence both addressed at the same time.
  8. Attraction to Narcissistic People: A great danger of CEN is to become codependent. When you’re not comfortable taking up space in the world, you are attractive to (and attracted to) people who need extra space. Ross Rosenberg has written a helpful book called The Human Magnet Syndrome. It will help you understand why you attract folks who are more self-focused, and learn what to do about it.
  9. Mindfulness:Mindfulness is an important aspect of CEN Recovery. It helps you focus inwardly, gain control of your own mind, and also reprogram some of your default settings.On you can find guided meditation mp3/CD’s by Belleruth Naparstek, LISW, BCD.

You can find all of these books on To learn more about Emotional Neglect and the book Running on Empty, visit

Have you found a helpful CEN resource that’s not listed here? Please comment on this post to share it with other readers!

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