Review of “Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect”

Review of "Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect"Pin
Review of "Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect"

Updated 8/12/2023

What is Childhood Emotional Neglect

Jonice Webb, PhD who wrote Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect says

Childhood Emotional Neglect is what happens when, throughout your childhood, your parents fail to respond enough to your emotional needs.

Jonice Webb PhD

I am drawn to this book, because I’ve realized that my parents provided for all of my needs growing up except for my emotional needs. They taught me to ignore emotions and get on with life, because that is what they learned from their parents. I learned this as I watched them stuff their feelings, and as they ignored my feelings or minimized them. I frequently heard that “I was making mountains out of molehills.” If you’ve never heard this figure of speech before, it means turning small issues into large ones.

As an adult, I’ve realized stuffing and ignoring my emotions hasn’t been good for my health. One sign of childhood emotional neglect (CEN), is feeling like something is missing or not right in your life. That you don’t seem to be as happy as other people. Since you believe you had a good childhood, you blame yourself for this feeling. Lack of having your emotional needs met leads to having an empty emotional tank.

Dr. Webb quotes Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor in her book:

“Although many of us think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.”

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, Neuroscientist

Affects of Childhood Emotional Neglect

This quote is very interesting. I’ve been reading a lot about the development of babies now that I’m a grandmother. Newborns don’t have words or abstract concepts to help them make sense of the world. They experience and learn about the world by tasting, touching, seeing, smelling, hearing and these experiences are first saved as emotions or sensations. For example, when a newborn cries and gets fed, they associate being fed with comfort. Messy diapers get associated with discomfort. As infants grow, they learn how the world works.

Since we start out as feeling creatures, not having our emotional needs met, leads to some significant problems as children and in adulthood. Brain-based Learning Expert, Eric Jensen says:

“There is no separation of mind and emotions; emotions, thinking, and learning are all linked.”

Eric Jensen, a pioneer of brain-based learning

Since children’s development is impacted by how their emotional needs are met, I feel driven to address my Childhood Emotional Neglect so that I can help my adult children recognize the affects on them. Not only to improve their lives, but the life of my granddaughter. If you’d like more information on children, see the book The Body Keeps The Score.

Dr. Webb offers a questionnaire to help people determine if they are dealing with Childhood Emotional Neglect. You can access it here:

If you find that you have been emotionally neglected as a child, this book will help you understand how it happened and how to heal from it.

How “Running On Empty,” Is Set Up

12 Parenting Styles

Running On Empty has three sections.

In Part 1, she discusses 12 parenting styles that lead to an empty emotional tank. They are:

  1. The Narcissistic Parent

2. The Authoritarian Parent

3. The Permissive Parent

4. The Bereaved Parent: Divorced or Widowed

5. The Addicted Parent

6. The Depressed Parent

7. The Workaholic Parent

8. The Parent With a Special Needs Family Member

9. The Achievement/Perfection Parent

10. The Sociopathic Parent

11. Child as Parent

12. The Well-Meaning-but-Neglected-Themselves Parent

The Difficulties Emotionally Neglected Kids Face As Adults

Next, Section 2 covers the issues emotionally neglected children face as adults. These issues are:

  • Feelings of Emptiness
  • Fear of Needing Others
  • Unrealistic Self-Appraisal
  • No Compassion For Self While Having Plenty of Compassion For Others
  • Guilt & Shame: What is wrong with me?
  • Self-Directed Anger, Self-Blame
  • If People Really Know Me They Won’t Like Me
  • Difficulty Nurturing Self and Others
  • Poor Self-Discipline
  • Difficulty Understanding, Feeling, & Managing Emotions

How To Fill Your Emotional Tank

And last, this final section contains four chapters titled:

How Change Happens

Why Feelings Matter & What To Do With Them


Ending the Cycle: Giving Your Child What You Never Got

The Self-Care section includes a resource section with lists of emotion words, and the Self-Care chapter has worksheets and trackers to help you learn the important skills of self-care.

Jumpstart Healing From Childhood Emotional Neglect

Dr. Webb also has a YouTube channel. Check out this video:

My Thoughts

So, I picked up this book after taking the Childhood Emotional Neglect quiz cited above. I’m currently working through the self-care section and continuing to identify my emotions using the list of emotions. I am not a mental health specialist, so check with your provider before starting any new program. That said, I’m finding this book to be very helpful for my healing journey as I work with my therapist.

Till next time, Kathy

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By Kathryn

I'm a writer, disabled registered nurse, and former home school parent of 6 children ages 19 to 32. I'm also a domestic abuse survivor.

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