The love of our parents is something society views as another of our “unalienable rights” as children. Society tends to prefer to create the worldview that all parents love their children, know how to show that love, and know the best way to parent each individual child. It assumes that each parent is a mature, responsible adult without any past emotional issues that affect their parenting.
Sadly, that is not often the case. Parents are human. They make mistakes. They have their own views of the world and what is proper parenting. All parents have weaknesses and unresolved issues; some may struggle with mental illnesses, addictions, personality disorders, emotional wounds or more.
The results from parents who struggle to maintain themselves – much less raise healthy members of the next generation – are children often left to manage on their own. They not only must learn how to handle the parent but also learn how to socialize, handle their own emotions, form their view of the world, and adopt proper morals. There is a quote I read once from a psychologist that stated, “Children are excellent observers, but horrible interpreters,” meaning they see everything but can’t make sense of it or have the wisdom to put it into perspective. Without someone to help you do that, your view of the world (and yourself) becomes skewed.
Women, generally the more emotionally-sensitive sex, carry their childhood emotions with them far longer than the majority of men. This is not to say men don’t carry childhood wounds with them, but that they tend to approach them in a more pragmatic way as they get older. Women, however, carry the pain with them for many years. It affects all their relationships until they finally heal.
Here are 5 emotional wounds woman carry into relationships when they are unloved as children.
1. Attachment Issues:
A child raised with a parent who responds with love, support, and care will see relationships and attachments as something good and safe. A child raised where the parent doesn’t show affection or is inconsistent in their availability for the child, learns that “people can’t be trusted.” She is learning that relationships are not secure or consistent; they can change on you quickly. For a child who needs emotional feedback and affection, this is devastating. She grows up constantly seeking this connection yet teaching herself to remain entirely self-reliant. Relationships make her anxious and uncertain as she always expects rejection to come her way.
2. Trust Issues:
A child raised with a parent who makes themselves available and helps the child understand and resolve even simple problems becomes confident that others are there for her. A child raised with a parent who pushes them away must learn to handle things themselves; if that parent is completely absent, she often learns that she cannot trust others. She learns that people won’t protect her or help her and that relationships are unsafe.
3. Difficulty with Boundaries:
A balanced parent understands the importance of teaching their child that everyone deserves their own space and time; each individual is their own being and has different needs that should be respected. An unbalanced parent doesn’t give their child enough space. She will treat the child as if only her needs matter. As that child grows, she values her independence and space more than average while feeling the need to please everyone. She also misinterprets others’ needs for space. She believes that others are rejecting her if they don’t want her around all the time.
4. Dominated by Fear of Failure:
A parent should teach their child that failure is normal and it’s just a setback, not a destination. An unbalanced parent may be hypercritical or punitive if certain expectations aren’t met. There are also situations where parents don’t give any attention unless things were done to their expectations. This leaves a child feeling that if she does not perform exceedingly well, she is undeserving of love or approval.
5. Poor Sense of Self:
A parent should show consistent approval and attention to a child so that the child learns that she is lovable and good just the way she is. An unhealthy, hypercritical parent who doesn’t give compliments or show affection is teaching the child to doubt that she is worthy of love and attention and must not do things right. Essentially, she feels defective.
These emotional wounds may show themselves in many ways.
The results of these emotional wounds may differ depending on if the wounds were caused by their mother or father. Some wounds from inattentive fathers may show themselves as:
1) More prone to depression: Many women have a hard time with romantic relationships due to poor relationships with their fathers. It severely effects their self-esteem and can lead to depression due to the sadness they don’t know how to handle.
2) More prone to eating disorders: Daughters without a strong father figure are twice as likely to develop obesity. Essentially, they fill the void of emptiness with food. Others may become anorexic or bulimic. They think if they had been thin enough, “daddy would have loved me.”
3) More prone to early sexual relationships: Many studies have shown that a girl lacking in her father’s affection is more likely to try to get a man’s approval through sexual relationships.
4) More prone to addiction: Per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a fatherless child is 69% more likely to use drugs and 76% more likely to commit crimes. A daughter is more likely to turn to drugs to numb the pain.
How to heal your unloved child within
It would be wonderful if we could go back into our past and recreate the loving childhood we dreamed of, where we could experience love, approval, and safety as so many others have. Instead, we are pushed to continue through life and make the best of it. Maybe that is the best way. After all, you wouldn’t be the person you are without going through your experiences. Your level of empathy, care, sensitivities, and resilience wouldn’t be the same. It is possible to heal from these past events and become a healthier, stronger you. Here are some steps to help you heal your unloved child within:
Write about it.
Tell your story. By writing, it allows you the opportunity to give it structure and organization – to remember complete events, not just the leftover emotions. It helps you to gain perspective. It also allows you to let the emotions out.
Look through old photographs.
Oftentimes we remember ourselves as the child we were told we were and not the reality. For example, a child who was told they were fat may be able to go back and see that in actuality, they were about the same size as other children. A child who got emotional wounds by being told they were stupid may see old report cards where they received some A’s, some B’s, and an occasional C. This allows you the chance to see the reality of yourself and become more aware of how this lie has created behaviors that have no base.
Re-evaluate your current relationships.
If you have a friendship or sexual relationship that is leaving you feeling bad about yourself, look at it. Look at what is drawing you to them. Are you just reinforcing your parent’s view of yourself through this other person? Do you have the strength to leave them? Do you tend to give more to others than you ask for in return? Maybe make a list of what you would like out the relationships and then step by step, bring them into more balance.
Accept the reality of your past and build new boundaries with your parents.
Being able to take control of your current relationship with your parents is as important as the others in your life. Make a list of where your parent’s/parents’ actions intrude upon your life in a painful or unfair way. Then make a list of rules you can establish to change this. Granted, this is not an easy process and will bring up old pain from these emotional wounds. Taking back the control you didn’t have as a child with your parent(s) is very therapeutic if done in a calm but firm way. There is a push and pull as both of you will slip into old patterns, but it is possible. If possible, make sure you do have a good support system with you as well.
Healing the emotional wounds that you brought into your adult relationships from when you were unloved as a child is tough. The one thing you should remember is that you already went through the toughest part and came out alive and still fighting. It is possible to heal this hurt child and become the balanced and loving adult you deserve to have a happy life.
If you struggle with emotional wounds that you carry into relationships, seek a counselor who can help you move through these feelings. They can put things into perspective and help you have more self-esteem and confidence.