Authors and experts on childhood development Judith R. Schore and Alan N. Schore wrote, “Attachment experiences shape the early organization of the right brain, the neurobiological core of the human unconsciousness.” It is this part of our brain that is responsible for processing through, as well as storing memories that work both to shape how we view emotional events as well as the feelings that they evoke.
For a child whose upbringing was one of love, trust, and reliability, these memories help to teach them the value of caring for those around them. They foster feelings of loyalty, protection, and compassion, shaping us into adults that exhibit a high level of both mental and emotional health. Taking the lessons that they learned throughout childhood and the example that it set, they allow it to shape the way that they view the world around them.
On the other hand, children who are raised without this example, feeling unloved, criticized or judged, create a different understanding of their family, and as such a different grasp of the ways of the world. Essentially, they see the world through a different, altered lens. In their book ‘A General Theory of Love,’ Thomas Lewis and his co-authors explain this impact, saying “The mental machinery does not evaluate; it cannot detect whether the larger world runs in accordance with the scheme it has drawn from the emotional microcosm of a family.”
This experience of growing up feeling unloved causes these individuals to struggle in these 7 ways:
1. They accept surface level affection in place of true love.
A child has a deep seeded desire to be loved and appreciated. They look to their parents for feelings of caring, compassion, and affection. If a child grows up missing this vital piece of the puzzle, they will find themselves as adults attempting to fill the void in their life. Rather than understanding the value of real love in their lives, they settle for surface level affection, entering into toxic relationships with no regard for what else might actually be available to them.
2. They constantly feel guilty in life.
Often in these toxic homes, parents make comments to their children that insinuate that they should be grateful to have a roof over their head and food on their plate. They grow up feeling like they are a burden on their parents, and develop feelings of guilt anytime they think about their needs in life. This translates into their adult life. For example, they may feel guilty that their partner does something nice for them because they believe that they don’t deserve it.
3. They view the world around them as inherently unsafe.
As a child, your feelings of safety and security come from your parents creating that environment in the family home. Doing so allows children to realize that there are people and situations that they can trust, and they begin to develop the ability to differentiate between those that are and those that aren’t ‘safe.’ Without this feeling of safety, a child grows into an adult who believes that everything is unsafe and no one is worthy of their trust.
4. They have difficulty understanding boundaries.
When a child is denied the love and affection that they crave, they will often look for it elsewhere as they grow up and are in contact with other adults in life. They begin to overcompensate as adults, believing that an abundance of love, attention, and affection is the key to demonstrating the love that they were lacking as a child. While it is well-intentioned, they struggle to understand that even their partner will need space from time to time.
5. They constantly question whether the people in their life really love them.
Growing up in a home that lacks love and compassion, these individuals grow up accepting that a toxic, distant relationship like the one that they have with their parents is normal. When they find themselves in a relationship as an adult that breaks that pattern, they can’t help but question whether it is actually real, or if they are just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
6. They struggle to ‘let anyone in.’
Children learn the foundation of relationship development through watching the adults in their life. They witness how their parents react with one another, as well as how they interact with others outside of the family unit as early as infants. Eventually, as they grow older, they start to mirror this activity learning first hand. When a child is missing this example of a positive relationship and doesn’t experience the feeling of connection first hand, they grow up distancing themselves from everyone in their life.
7. They often feel excluded in social settings due to their low self-esteem.
When children grow up constantly being scrutinized, judged and criticized they begin to learn that nothing that they do will ever be ‘good enough.’ This carries over into their adult lives, leaving them feeling as though everyone is judging them at all times. They often fail to take part in group settings for fear of being rejected, however, in doing so they feel excluded from the activities the group is taking part in. There may not even be any basis for these feelings, the group may not have said anything negative or have any negative views, but the feelings are so deeply rooted that they are unable to see past them.