Running on Empty: Overcome your childhood emotional neglect, by Jonice Webb, PhD.

My Copy: 9781614482420 (image from

Running on Empty is a book I needed to pick up and I’m glad I did. We often look at our lives in terms of the things that happened, whether it was great days at the beach or field trips or homework or whatever else when we were kids. However, one can argue that life is just as much about what didn’t happen or was missing as it is about what DID happen.

Absence is presence, I suppose. And it actually makes a lot of sense. Ms. Webb has written a book all about it.

Running on Empty has a lot of hypotheticals and case studies regarding therapy clients when dealing with certain parental types, or rather, certain mannerisms in case of some minor issue or major problem. She coined the notion of Emotional Neglect as something therapists should be on the lookout for. She argues that unless you’ve got outright abusive parents, most parents will see that the child’s physical needs are taken care of. However, emotional neglect comes in when the parents are busy or just not focused on the child’s emotional needs. This gets tricky for the person to realize until much later in life.

But it’s not all diagnosis and certainly not some form of how to blame mom or dad or whoever was in charge. It’s also got a good-sized basic component about how to try to build yourself up and recognize what you’re feeling, and allow yourself to feel it and try to understand it, and then move on. Perhaps some of the emotional things you should have learned but didn’t growing up can be remedied a bit with the advice Ms. Webb gives.

This book is definitely one I’d recommend to anyone who might’ve had some good general feeling about their childhood, but can’t quite put a finger on very many memories to support their feelings about it. This is a read for those out there who have felt that something was off that they just couldn’t put their finger on, that there was something in their childhood that struck them later as unsettling or just sad for some reason. A “wrong” emotion or contradictory emotion during certain events could have come from parental involvement in the memory or their lack of proper reaction or any reaction at all to the child’s need for comfort or understanding.

There have been quite a few times I’ve felt rather off about my own memories in childhood. I remember some good times around the neighborhood riding my bike everywhere and the occasional crazy playing with kiddos. But when I try to think of my parents in those moments, it’s like it all goes fuzzy and i have to think super hard beyond one moment from each that pops up. I’ve had to try hard to think of why my parents didn’t seem to be in the best parts of my childhood, or they were there, but it just didn’t feel quite right, like once i got older, I realized certain places I shouldn’t have been or there were some people I didn’t need to be around.

If you’ve had those moments, then Running on Empty is a great read to start you thinking. Even if you need therapy or don’t at all, it’s worth it to maybe help answer a few questions about those niggling feelings that pop up from the past and you just can’t help and don’t understand why they’re there (or something’s not there, as the case often is).

Research-worthy. I’ll be hanging onto it a while.

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