neglect is to ignore or minimize something of importance
to someone. Something of undeniable
importance to everyone is their physical
health and longevity. Yet paradoxically, most
Western people neglect (take
poor care of) themselves. Glaring symptoms of
this are widespread U.S.
hyper-tension, depression, poor diets, little
exercise and quality
sleep, ignoring atmospheric pollution, and
Do you agree?
Premise - self neglect implies a person's
basic attitude is "I'm not worth caring about."
It also may mean "Nothing bad will happen to
me," which can be a serious
Both are clear symptoms of major psychological
from traumatic early-childhood years.
Reactions to a self-neglectful person vary with
personalities, circumstances, and the
relationship. For example, observing an obese
store clerk evokes a different response than an
overweight mate or child. This article focuses
on responding to someone you feel is important.
Common responses range between hinting ("You
might feel better if you...'), moralizing
("People who ignore their health are ______"),
warning ("You're a heart attack waiting to
happen!"), threatening, criticizing ("What's
happened to your common sense?"), and advising
("You really ought to _______").
Responses like these are apt to imply a
and impairs hearing and trust.
In contrast, consider these respectful...
for relating to a psychologically-wounded
awareness to judge (a) whether you
feel the other person is self-neglectful
and in denial (vs. bad, lazy, careless,
disinterested, passionate, distracted,
etc.), and whether (b) you need to say
some-thing about how that affects you. If
until they become a habit.
cannot change the person's attitude, denial,
or distortion with reasoning, pleading, or
conflict. Use these
to guide you. You can tell the person
how their self-neglect affects you and what
Identify how you feel about the
person's self neglect. Stay clear on
the difference between psychological wounds
(the primary problem), the neglect (a
secondary problem) and the neglect's
symptoms - e.g. stress, worry, extra
weight, illness, depression, addiction,
If you feel indifferent to the neglectful
person, or fatalistic, "nothing," analytic
(in your head), angry, aggressive, or
punitive, suspect that a false self has
your true Self. Make
a high priority!
"(Name), are you open to some personal
feedback?" This is a courtesy.
If you get "No," you have
to respond to...
really stressed most of the time, and you
don't seem concerned about that."
"When you choose
to ignore your health, I feel worried and
"I worry that
your addicted to work, and are trying to
avoid some major
"I care about
you, (Name), and I'm really scared I'm going
to lose you!"
"(Name) you have
of a false self
you, which is putting your health at risk
and denying that." That really
because you're setting a dangerous lifestyle
example for your kids."
"Will you to read
Grown Wounded Children and discuss it with
me?" (This may open the door to
discussing the primary problem).
"Will you to
article on the [wounds + unawareness]
cycle and discuss it with me?"
Notice the theme of these
samp0ple responses - brevity, honesty, directness, self-reports,
vs. blaming, moralizing, or
catastrophizing; and adapt it to your style
and personality. Again, notice that these
responses aim to fill your needs - not to change the other person's
attitude or behaviors!
"resistances" to responses like these
- like indignation, denial, excuses,
explanations, criticisms, discounts (like
"Don't worry, I'm fine."), going silent,
changing the subject, hostility, joking, or
whining (" just can't help it!"). If you get
anything like these, use
to acknowledge (vs. agree with) it, and
restate your response.
Another option is to use
- i.e. to make a factual observation
about the other per-son's communication
("I noticed you just changed the subject /
discounted my feelings / wanted to reassure
me / looked away / rolled your eyes /
shrugged / said nothing...") Again -
expect "resistance" to your
meta-comment, and use empathic listening to
Think of several people in your life you feel
are seriously self-neglectful, and imagine
selecting from these communication options with
each one. Imagine (a) how each person might
react, and (b) how you would feel. If you might
feel anxious and/or guilty, review your personal
Bottom line -
don't have to repress, attack, blame, nag, or
chide a self-neglectful person - you have many
This is one of a series
of brief articles suggesting effective ways to
respond to common social behaviors. This article
offers (a) perspective on self-respect and self-neglect, and (b)
options for responding to a self-neglectful person. The ways are
your true Self
clarity on your
feelings, needs, and mutual
fluency in the
relationship skills of awareness, metatalk, assertion,
and empathic listening.