Are you running on empty?

According to Jonice Webb Ph.D, author of Running on Empty – overcome your childhood neglect: “Many fine, high functioning, capable people secretly feel unfulfilled or disconnected”. These people ask themselves questions like “Shouldn’t I be happier?” and “Why haven’t I accomplished more?”

When these questions are asked by people who believed that they had mostly happy and healthy childhoods they blame themselves for whatever doesn’t feel right as an adult, with stories like “I had such a great childhood, I have no excuse for not being happy or achieving more.” These people are often confused about their lack of fulfilment and tend to feel embarrassed to ask for help.

The purpose of me writing this blog is to help anyone who feels lonely, disconnected or simply ‘as if something is missing’, despite their outward success or achievements. When I read this book recently it gave me a greater understanding and insight into my own journey.

For many years I experienced disconnection in a profound way at Christmas time. It didn’t make sense to me, when I had such a warm, caring, and fun-loving family. I’m so grateful that I took the time to work through my emotional healing process so that I can now enjoy the festive season.

After years of working as a therapist Jonice Webb identified an invisible force, underlying the issues of many of her clients, which she named ‘emotional neglect’. Adults who grow up emotionally neglected often seem normal on the surface and are unaware of a structural flaw in their foundation. They have no idea that their childhood played a role and instead blame themselves for whatever difficulties they may be experiencing in life.

At this point I want to say that, in fact, no-one is to blame! Since pure ‘emotional neglect’ is invisible, it can be passed down through the generations undetected – until someone chooses to identify it and change the pattern.

No two stories are the same but Jonice identifies ten common themes. At the time when I sought some support for my own emotional healing I resonated with five of them. 1) feelings of emptiness 2) counter dependence 3) unrealistic self-appraisal 4) guilt and shame (what’s wrong with me) 5) self-blame.

I know that before I embarked on my healing journey in 2008 I was ‘weighed down’ by all of the above, confused, and yet unable to ask for help.

The information Jonice shared about counter-dependence grabbed my attention. “Not many people have heard the term – mostly used by mental health professionals. It refers to the drive to need no-one, or more specifically, it’s the fear of being dependent. Counter dependent people avoid asking for help and go to treat lengths to not appear, or feel needy. They will make every effort not to rely on another person, even at their great expense.”

If you have been on one of my workshops you will already know that one of my most limiting beliefs was “I have to manage on my own”. Bingo, I was never able to understand that powerful, all-consuming and yet seemingly ridiculous fear that I had of being dependent. I often preferred to do things myself, I didn’t want to ask for help and if I did, I didn’t want anyone to know that I’d had help! (Thank goodness, I’m aware of that one now!).

I attributed this trait to being fiercely independent and, yet I also somehow knew that didn’t quite fit! However, counter-dependent – the fear of being needy or dependent – that was it! Ironically, this was the biggest challenge for me to overcome to move through my feelings of a lack of fulfilment. The first hurdle was that I had to ask for help. The second hurdle was that I had to continue to ask for help!

I value and appreciate the skill of my therapist, who enabled me to connect with my true self and who continued to support me until it was time for the relationship to close.

I have clients who admit that same trait of ‘fiercely not wanting to seek help’. I share my own story and the benefits of having reached out for support and will now share Jonice’s book, as one way to understand how that pattern evolved and how it can be overcome.

Through coaching and interactions with horses I help my clients who are ‘running on empty’ to receive support, fill the tank and move towards emotional well-being.

The process involves the opportunity to:
– Understand the purpose and value of your emotions
– Feel, identify and get the message of your feelings
– Accept and trust your own feelings
– Learn to express your feelings effectively
– Recognise, understand and value emotions in relationships

If you are someone, like me, who doesn’t like to ask for help then I want you to know that this may be one of the symptoms of your distress and that it’s possible to move through this limiting behaviour, receive support, feel, understand and express your emotions more fluently and find a deeper sense of fulfilment in life.

If you are interested to find out how I can help you to reach emotional wellbeing please get in touch.

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