The Black Hole of Emotional Neglect by Pam Witzemann


Please help me welcome guest blogger Pam Witzemann as she shares about Emotional Neglect. Emotional Neglect is a form of psychological abuse. Pam is a frequent guest blogger here at Emerging from Broken and contributes her voice to the comments in almost every post here on Emerging from Broken. As always please add your thoughts and comments. Darlene Ouimet Founder of Emerging from Broken

Psychological Abuse and Emotional NeglectThe Black Hole of Emotional Neglect by Pam Witzemann

Emotional neglect is largely, invisible. When one is emotionally neglected as a child, it is impossible to understand what is missing because it is impossible to understand what one has never known and can’t see. The emotional neglect of a child, places within them a black hole. It produces an insatiable loneliness that can consume the spirit, body, and soul of a child. As a child, I was a victim of emotional neglect.

My most familiar emotion as a child was loneliness. I was prevaded and often overwhelmed by it; but I also couldn’t name it. At the center of my being, was a darkness that often pulled me under and left me in such a state of depression as to paralyze me. I was filled with a deep longing for someone to notice my pain and help me. This core emptiness followed me into adulthood and ruled over the choices I made. Inside me lived death and I longed for the final consummation of death. In that deep night, I was made blind to happiness, joy, and life itself. I was a dark child who didn’t expect to live past fifteen. When I outlived my expectation, I was careless with my life and did everything possible to hasten my own demise.

I was a tiny girl. I was often sick and spent many hours, days, and weeks alone in bed. I spent the bulk of my fourth year of life sick, in bed recovering from Scarlet Fever that was left untreated for too long. I lived in a kind of nether world, suspended within my own inner darkness that enveloped my thoughts and dreams. All of my childhood memories are set within that dark void. I was sick so often that illness became the main feature of my identity. I knew myself as small, weak, and sickly. My demeanor was pouty and morose. My companions were books and paper to draw on(front, back, and every blank space so as not to be scolded for wasting paper) and the books I read were far beyond my years and suitability for my age. I loved Edgar Allen Poe as the black hole within me recognized a spiritual companion. I accepted the void inside as normal and never understood that I was lacking the interest, love, and nurture of my parents. I saw the problem as me. I was too small, too sick and weak, too clumsy, too mopey and pouty. No one could love or like me because I was unlovable by design.

I grew to be an angry and rebellious teenager. My rebellious acts were my desperate cries for help as the pull of the black hole, sitting in the place of my true, undeveloped identity, threatened to consume me, forever. I wrote poems with lines such as follows: “My souls illusion, Your souls illusion, Named love, The never ending dream…” because by my late teens, I was sure that love was only a dream. It was an illusion that taunted me and frustrated me as I moved from the emotional neglect and psychological abuse of my parents to the sexual abuse of men. By age eighteen, I had experienced so much personal destruction by those claiming to love me that I became as a dying, bitter, old woman with no hope for any future. The only comfort and relief from the constant emotional pain, that I felt physically in my chest, was my drugs. It seemed to me that my drugs loved me better than any human being because they relieved me of having to feel the emptiness inside that grew more powerful by the day. My drugs loved me and I loved them. My drugs closed over me in death and I welcomed the darkness as a refuge that empathized with my inner being; but also, as the final and eternal comfort that my empty, shriveled heart desired.

There are many theories about black holes and one theory states that when a black hole fully consumes a world, it emerges from the other side, whole and made new. That is how I also experienced my final consummation that came by my own hand in the form of suicide. When the doctors brought me back from death, I was sorrowful to find myself alive. I don’t know how many days I laid in that hospital bed but I do remember the tears I shed at the thought of returning to a life that was little better than being one of the walking dead. A junky’s life is lived as a vampire in constant pursuit of the substance of enslavement. When my systems stabilized, I was admitted to the mental unit for three days observation and then released back into the world that held no promise or future for me. I continued in the pursuit of my love until I weighed 75 pounds and became sick with hepatitis. This was my bottom and the moment when there seemed no way to go but up. I completed my passage through the black hole and began my rebirth on the other side.

There were so many things missing inside of me that even as I became a spiritual person and began to see life as a solution rather than death, I couldn’t name what was missing. The emptiness and aloneness were still the major markers of my character. No one, besides my grandmother, was ever interested in who I was, what my talents and dreams were, or what I thought about anything. As a child, I was to entertain myself and not bother. I was a big bother when I was sick and I knew not to expect anything more in the way of attention or nurture. I wasn’t encouraged in anything unless it was of benefit to my father. Then I was to perform, admirably, on cue. If I didn’t, I would displease him and displeasing my father was the household definition of wrong-doing. It was sin. There was no God, no outer authority to measure morality by but instead, the whims and pleasures of my dad were the moral code we lived by. The ranch I grew up on was isolated and my family was a world of its own with little connection to society. The world revolved around my father and no one else’s needs mattered. The mother I needed belonged to him and he jealously guarded her from me. I don’t remember my mother holding me; and she told me once that it made my dad too jealous. I have one sweet memory of her singing to me but mostly, I remember her disgust and disapproval of me. I remember the anger and disappointment that seemed constantly aimed in my direction. I ran away from home on a regular basis but there was nowhere to go. I would run the mile or so to the eastern gate and stop, and wait, but no one ever came. Tired, thirsty, and cried-out, I always returned home and no one ever cared that I had been gone or that I had returned. Sometimes, I felt as if I didn’t exist and wondered if my dreams were real and my life the true dream.

If not for my grandmother, nothing that is me would ever have had opportunity to live. I wanted to live with her and no matter how long I was at her house, I never wanted to go home. With my grandmother, I was someone. I had substance but with my parents, I was mostly invisible as I felt the someone I was with my grandmother disappear upon entering my parent’s home. I lived in the make-believe world of, “Heidi” or “The Wizard of Oz” and other books I read. I found new definitions of me in assuming the roles of the main characters, who were strong, and loveable, and acting out their stories as if they were mine. What I experienced of the world outside of our ranch and school was through the characters I read about. Playing the roles of others became the way I dealt with life and the emptiness that was, me. There was never any thought given, by my parents, to introducing me to the world outside of our family to prepare me for adult life. My talents and interests were not worth developing. The only things that mattered about me were those attributes that would someday, please a man. My life didn’t matter and neither did I.

I no longer live with the void that I experienced as a constant pain in my chest; but now, as I write about it, I feel the memory of that pain. That empty place has gradually filled in and it began with the faith in God I found when the black hole consumed me and I was reborn on the other side; and I began to see life and not death as a solution to my problems. The light of life began to shine for me and lead me into a better way to live. It is common for people to say that we all have a void that only God can fill. That is probably true but the emptiness I lived with and inside of was greater than any natural, inborn need for God. It was the void that nurturing parents are assigned to fill as they love, protect, and encourage their child. By this they teach their son or daughter who they are, and of their importance, and place in the world. I didn’t have that and though I managed to survive, I had no fully developed identity of my own. I hid inside myself and assumed the role that best fit my current situation. I survived as a changling and when one role no longer served me, I discarded it, disconnected from everyone I knew, and assumed a new role to play while locking away, deep inside, any trauma connected with each act of my life. 

The filling in of the black hole of emotional neglect has been like the rebuilding of a faulty foundation beneath an old house. It began with God and has ended with my own identity developed and in tact. I played many roles as the real me was nurtured through the love of God, the love of my husband, children, and a few dear, old friends who saw something in me that was constant, no matter how many people I tried to be. I didn’t do this consciously but since I have confronted myself, my past traumas, and accepted the girl or girls and women that I was ashamed of, this pattern is clear to me. The people I’ve been don’t always agree and have little in common with one another, other than protecting me while I became. I am the constant that held them together. I am, Pam revealed by the power of truth and love. The black hole that once sat in the seat of my identity, no longer exists and the roles that I’ve adopted as a way to live life are falling away as I shed them and emerge fully, me.

Pam Witzemann

Pam Witzemann was born in Santa Fe, NM and is now 54 years old. She has been married for 33 years, raised two boys and has two grandsons. Pam and her husband have had their own business for about twenty years. Pam is a painter and a writer and hopes to make these pursuits more than a hobby in her later years. Pam authors the blog Boomer Back Beat; a place where baby boomers find inspiration in the process of aging.

Other posts by Pam ~ How I learned to Self Abuse ~ Profile of a spiritual abuser ~





127 response to "The Black Hole of Emotional Neglect by Pam Witzemann"

  1. By: Julie Posted: 15th December

    Thank you for writing this.

  2. By: Cassie Posted: 17th November

    I know this is an old post but I guess I found it at the right time. As I was reading I kept on thinking “this is me, this is my life.” It’s 5am and I haven’t slept because of a drug binge…I guess I keep thinking that I don’t deserve to be happy…healthy…loved. Anyway, the void is so real…I remember feeling that way at a very young age.
    I know that I do not love myself the way that I should, but I’m getting there. I don’t want to be another person that vents about how sucky their life has become…nor do I want to be validated by others (I feel that’s my responsibility).

    This seems like a disjointed rant…only because it’s the first time in my 26 years of life I get to let it out and it’s conjuring up emotions I haven’t felts in a long time. Sigh.

  3. By: Vanessa Posted: 22nd January

    Im a christian and was doing better after I became one. then Got some counciling from a church, which ended up abusive…because they didnt know what they were doing…back to the empty, loneliness.

  4. By: Christine Posted: 28th December

    Wow. Pam. As I read this, I swear I could have written it. At age 16, after spending weeks at age 15 in bed, sick, I became convinced that the only way I would survive was to look straight ahead and never look back. I did. I went on to marry and have 3 great children. You see as a mother and parent, I vowed my children would not grow up neglected. Or abused. My young adult children will attest to their wonderful beautiful childhood and I am proud of them for never taking it for granted and for being thankful to their father and me for raising them with love, security, morals and ethics.

    Now as I am in my mid fifties, I have fallen prey to being sick with Cancer. The hardest part and the part that not one person understands is that although I had 35 years of good health and happiness, I am now being sucked back into that black hole of sickness. I am feeling every mental condition imaginable from anxiety to depressed to paranoia.

    My children and husband stand fiercely beside me as I work to attain full recovery and once again walk the path of wellness. I believe that growing up with out proper nutrition, being cold and abused is playing on my mind. I know people get Cancer every day. They work through their treatments because they know they deserve to live and/ or give it their best shot.

    My emotions are all,over the place. And it is wrong for me to place my awful childhood as a burden for my loving family to also have to deal with. The mother figure that birthed me is now 87 and insisted through the years that I be responsible for her and her health as she aged. I dutifully did it. At the time I was diagnosised, I decided that Cancer can be amongst you in the form of relationships and finally I was able to cut the last tie that bound me to that crazy woman. The father died 6 months before my daughter was born, so I never had to worry she would be sexually abused.

    In closing all I want to say is that a Cancer diagnosis is something I could have lived with out. Everyday is also a fight to stay away from that black hole of despair that was my childhood. I loved my Life. I want it back, just for a little while. Please and Thank You God.

  5. By: Beth Posted: 6th October

    “My most familiar emotion as a child was loneliness. I was prevaded and often overwhelmed by it; but I also couldn’t name it. At the center of my being, was a darkness that often pulled me under and left me in such a state of depression as to paralyze me. I was filled with a deep longing for someone to notice my pain and help me. This core emptiness followed me into adulthood and ruled over the choices I made.”

    Pam, This is my story too and it is still a story that I am working to heal from. I am still that lonely depressed child who is struggling to fill the void that was left in me by emotional neglect.

    I am so glad for you that you had that grandmother to give you the feeling of being visible and cared for. I didn’t have that. There is a part of me that is wistfully jealous.

    I have waited… all of my life, for someone to ‘notice and care’, but no one has. And, finally it dawned on me that ‘I’ could be the one to ‘notice and care’. I can’t wait any longer for someone else.

  6. By: Connie Posted: 26th September

    My story is hauntingly similar to yours. I was the 9th born of 13 siblings, and loneliness, yes loneliness was the prevailing feeling of my childhood….all that came after is strikingly similar to your story…the abusive men, drugs, psycho-medications….still trying to break free and heal.

  7. By: jas Posted: 11th August

    the first part with your quote:My most familiar emotion as a child was loneliness. My most familiar emotion as a child was loneliness. I was prevaded and often overwhelmed by it; but I also couldn’t name it. At the center of my being, was a darkness that often pulled me under and left me in such a state of depression as to paralyze me. I was filled with a deep longing for someone to notice my pain and help me.
    really made me emotional because its the story of my life

  8. By: Zak Waldrop Posted: 29th May

    I agree to you laura, it’s really painful. The friends that you have are stabbing you at the back and its really-really frustrating to hear it from people who are concerns to you. I lost a lot of my friends due to my addiction and my friends they were like don’t come near me, it’s like I’m a carrier of a contagious disease.

  9. By: Pam Posted: 20th October

    Hi Laura, I’ve only contributed a few articles to this site. I’m not an expert, just a fellow survivor.:0) Emotional neglect was the most difficult form of abuse for me to identify and I’m still coming to grips with how it damaged me. I spent a great deal of time alone in my room as a child, kept in bed because I was sick. I always accepted the family narative and it is only lately that it has dawned on me that keeping me in bed so much quite likely contributed to my ill-health. I spent the fourth year of my life in bed and had to learn to walk all over again. In some ways, I relate to children kept in closets. At age seven, I weighed 22 lbs. I had a very hard time relating to others especially, children. I always thought there was just something weird about me and there was. I grew up in bed, in a dark room, often medicated with alchohol and alone. I didn’t understand social cues and didn’t think like a normal child. I did teach myself to read during that fourth year and I think if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to over-come what I now view as my social disability as the result of emotional and medical neglect.

    I’m glad what I’ve written here speaks to you and I hope it helps in your own healing journey and also, in creating a healthy, nurturing, and loving environment for any child who passes through your care. We can’t fix our childhood through our children but we can make a difference to future generations by doing all we can to end the cycle of abuse in the families we create.


  10. By: Laura Posted: 20th October

    Dear Pam,
    I found your site when I was exploring the topic, filling the emotional hole in your heart. I was searching to find any un-done emotional work I might need to do in order to prepare for my desire to foster to adopt. My goal is to help a little person, to provide for them and save them from a life of loneliness and suffering, to give a family…
    Your story resonates with mine, starting with narcissistic parents who divorced when I was 16. My childhood was a life that was vulnerable to the circumstances that prevailed. My parent’s divorce freed me to accept Jesus and truth. I attended church at 26, married to supportive, loving husband, mother of two boys. I’ve been able to work through a tremendous amount of confusion and pain, set up boundaries, find general health, both spiritual and physical. I’ve developed a beautiful life with my family, indeed, not without diligent work and tremendous loads of love from above. Your words, especially the subsequent comments, have confirmed all my experiences, witness to the truth of it all and fill in the gaps I was hoping to explore. This is not easy to find!
    I’ve found that churches I’ve attended lack a true depth/maturity which my life has required. Their words have been a starting point but have often left me frustrated to fill out the true meaning… I suppose this is common.
    While I am deeply saddened for the circumstances that have been laid out above, I am truly overjoyed for the light that has been kindled in your heart and has developed to save from any further suffering or assaults. I am also thankful for the light that is shed on others. Thank you for sharing.
    I’m not sure whether our family will add another little one to the mix but I know that this search will not go without fruit.
    Blessings on your work and your wisdom.

  11. By: Pam Posted: 17th September

    Julianna, I’m saddened to read of the pain you have endured. When parents are engulfed in emotional pain and or mental illness, their child grows up inside of that illness. If there is no intervention, that illness causes the child to become emotionally misshapened and ensures a troubled future.

    All drugs imitate natural chemicals in the body and what you wrote reminds me of that fact. We both craved love and attention and we turned to drugs to fill that void. Drugs are all smoke and mirrors. They promise relief but in the end, create greater pain and damage. I’m glad you are in therapy and doing the real work that can end in your finding the love you weren’t given as a child.


  12. By: Julianna Posted: 16th September

    I am 51 years old and am still trying to come out the other side of the black hole that engulfed me when I was 10 years old. Almost an entire lifetime ruined because of emotional neglect. My father died when I was 9 and my brother committed suicide when I was 11. My mother did not openly grieve and taught me that it is not ok to show your emotions. She was riddled with shame. She made me feel that there was a lot to be shameful about. I believed that to feel shame, meant that I had done something shameful, so I felt shame about feeling shame. She had no time for me both physically and emotionally. At age 12 I began to hate myself. Somehow, in my immature twisted mind I felt I was to blame. I began self destroying. I took drugs, I drank alcohol, I self harmed, I nearly died. I did stupid, unfathomable things that I am ashamed of. I retreated into a lonely, dangerous drug fuelled fantasy world. I lost friends, I lost my self worth, I lost my identity. I became nothing. My mother remained absent, in denial and at times vented her anger and fear towards me with spiteful and hurtful words, but the thing that hurt the most was her emotional absence. All along there was one drug that I desperately needed that I couldn’t get. The most powerful drug ever produced …. it’s called love.
    In the core of my being, I still believe I’m nothing.
    I used to abuse myself. I don’t do that anymore. I found someone else to abuse me instead. I ended up marrying a man with Narcissistic Personality Disorder who has confirmed every negative thing I have ever believed about myself and who is also emotionally absent. I am in therapy now on a lonely, painful journey back to my true self. I have so much healing to do but at least for the first time in my life I am giving myself what I have always deserved – love and attention.

  13. By: Pam Posted: 2nd September

    Loago, It is natural to want to give your baby two parents and it is common to think that if we choose the correct form then things will be the way they should be. However, family in form only and not in spirit can never be anything more than the image of a family. It will be better for your child to have one emotionally healthy parent than to have one emotionally ill parent and another so overwhelmed with his illness that there is nothing left to parent the child with. I hope you and your little one will have a brighter future.


  14. By: Loago Posted: 1st September

    I keep making mistakes. I was pregnant when we married.

  15. By: Loago Posted: 1st September

    Pam, thank you for your response. It is just what I needed to validate the intuition that I felt deep inside since even before we were married. I knew it was not going to work if I would be required to be the only one pulling my weight. I was pregnant when remarried and I was so confused because I wanted my baby to grow with both parents but I also felt there was something terribly wrong. Instead listening to that still small voice, I went ahead and got married. It’s one year later and I am ready for a divorce.

    Your response, coming from someone who understands my husband, validates for me my decision to divorce and cut my losses before I myself through emotional damage.

    I’m glad to have come through Emerging From Broken. At first I was going to read it to understand my husband, but now I’m reading it for my own journey of healing.

    Thank you! 🙂

    As I have

  16. By: Pam Posted: 1st September

    Loago, I feel for you,loving someone who isn’t capable of loving or hasn’t developed that capacity. I think it is possible for your husband to do so but he has to have the desire to become healthy. People who are neglected and/or abused as children either choose the path that requires lots of hard work that ends in emotional good health or they choose the coping mechanisms they learned from their parents. My family also, chooses to ignore problems rather than work on them. There are always problems in any relationship that need to be worked through and if one person is unwilling to do so, the relationship is doomed even before it begins. I don’t want to be so negative that I bring you down further but it is impossible to maintain a healthy relationship when only one person is doing the heavy lifting. None of us are able to heal another person. We can only choose what is healthy for ourselves or settle for the make-believe world that people create for themselves when they avoid embracing the truth, at all costs. You’ll never be able to fill the emotional black hole, left by neglect, in another. It can suck the life out of you trying to do so. I hope your husband will choose emotional health for himself by facing the truth and building a healthy self-esteem by doing the right thing and work toward becoming the man he was intended to be. He isn’t beyond hope if he is willing to put in the work. I hope that helps.


  17. By: Loago Posted: 31st August

    I meant to say without sacrificing my own emotional health BY accepting his neglect.

  18. By: Loago Posted: 31st August

    Good day Pam.

    I a a wife to someone who has lived a difficult life being hated by his mother from birth. I cannot understand him, he is unable to connect emotionally and often comes across as not being attracted to me to the point where I initiate sex 95% of the time and it is just sex, not making love. He comes acroSs as lacking empathy in that if I feel sad or cry, he remains numb and dissociates. It’s a painful way for me to live as I myself truly lived an opposite life.

    Now, my husband is a wonderful man and father to our infant daughter. He tries his absolute best to be a wonderful husband and provides for me and my daughter. But I crave an emotional closeness with him more than anything, but it seems he really doesn’t know how to be in an mutually satisfying emotional relationship.

    He is very scared of conflict and the methods he chooses to use sabotage the relationship but he doesn’t even realise it. He withdraws and instead of facing problems, prefers to sweep them under the carpet and move on to happy times. The problem is that by never addressing problems, they just grow.

    His seeming lack of sexual attraction has me afraid that he could be a gay man but I don’t know whether this is far-fetched. I’m also afraid that I am feeling neglected in this marriage and will also end up in this black hole you describe.

    I Am not even sure what my question is, but just wish the gaps could be filled in for me to help me understand my husband and how I can be supportive but without sacrificing my own emotional health but accepting his neglect. Thank you for sharing your life.

  19. By: Pam Posted: 3rd June

    Tricia, I know how frustrating and painful it is to reach for a mom or dad and find nothing there. In my own situation, I don’t think it is possible for me to try and maintain such a one-sided relationship with my parents because they aren’t capable of being a parent and even though I became an adult long ago, I can’t be around them without wanting them to be there for me and fulfill the role of parent. When they are in my life or even when I only had limited contact with them, our relationship is a black hole that sucks the emotional life out of me. They are so emotionally, needy themselves that any kind of ‘love’ relationship for them, is a matter of feeding on the emotional energy of the other. No parent should ever feed upon a child for any kind of personal gratification. I’m much happier since I no longer allow that to take place.


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