Love and Emotional Hunger: Can You Tell the Difference?

Colette Dowling, LCSW


Colette Dowling, the author of Love and Emotional Hunger (below) has written many books on women's emotional issues. She has a psychotherapy practice in Manhattan.

You can reach Colette for more information or a free consultation at 718-594-0201 or dowlingcolette@earthlinknet. 

         Can you tell the difference between love and emotional hunger?

  • Real love nourishes the other person, be it a child or an adult. The real lover is interested in supporting the other person and encourages the unfolding of his or her personality.
  • Emotional hunger has little to do with the other person and quite a bit more to do with oneself. The person driven by emotional hunger didn't get the love she needed as a child.
  • In a family, emotional hunger gets passed from generation to generation.
  • The emotionally hungry parent uses the child for his or her own needs, thus creating an emotionally hungry child.

What Are Some Signs of Emotionally Hungry Parenting?

  • * anxious overconcern and overprotection
  • * resentment of a child's accomplishments
  • * wanting the attention the child gets for oneself. Parents who are truly capable of giving love are not emotionally hungry. They have a positive self image and can feel compassion for the child.

               Parents who are capable of loving can maintain boundaries. The child of such parents feels and looks loved and is deeply secure.

               By comparison, children of hungry parents develop reciprocal hunger. They're overly dependent and emotionally volatile. They develop clinging behavior and are afraid to explore the environment.

  • As adults, children of emotionally hungry parents have higher than normal anxiety states.
  • They fear success (which, emotionally, would mean separation from the parent). In their love relationships they tend to be withholding because earlier experiences cause them to fear being depleted or sucked dry.

              Emotionally hungry parenting puts children "on the take", in other words. Such children feel deprived. What is given to them never feels like enough. The emotionally hungry adult may be afraid of having children for fear of being further emptied.

 Questions for Assessing Your Own Level of Emotional Hunger:

  • * How willing are you for your mate to have friends of his (or her) own?
  • * Are you envious of, or threatened by, your mate's successes and involvement with work?
  • * Do you believe your mate should spend all of his (or her) spare time with you?

            A person who suffers from emotional hunger doesn't feel loved.

           The things that stand in the way of feeling love can come to be understood and repaired, in psychotherapy.

           Once trust with a therapist is established the chain of intergenerational hunger can be broken.


NY psychotherapist Colette Dowling is a graduate of The Smith College School for Social Work and has completed training in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis at The Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy.

She has special training in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma

Colette has written eight books and is best known for uncovering women's psychological conflicts with independence in her best-seller, The Cinderella Complex:

Colette has a private practice in Manhattan and specializes in the treatment of women. Her  office is located on Lower Fifth, in the Flatiron district of Manhattan. 

For information or a free consultation you may reach Colette at dowlingcolette@earthlink.net., or by calling 718-594-0201.


Click here for more information on Colette's therapy practice.


To hear Colette talk about what it's like starting therapy with a new therapist click below.




For articles on women's mental health see Colette's website.

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Copyright Colette Dowling, 2006-2010
Contact: dowlingcolette@earthlink.net