TIme to mature - Emotionally

Education, May 04, 2021

What is emotional maturity and why is it so important for well-being?

A lack of emotional maturity creates so much conflict, strife, and pain. Many people in our society close off to growth very early in their lives due to trauma. This may be physical, or emotional. Constant trauma creates a lack of empathy for all involved. When people don't have the ability to walk in an others shoes then our social fabric, connectivity of families, communities, and our nations fall apart.  Much of emotionally immature people's  hurtful behaviour is unintentional - they lack awareness, and their reactions are beyond conscious control. Since they are often at the mercy of their emotions, their higher thinking fails under stress. In a state of 'fight or flight' there is little space for proactive decision making and hasty reactions are common.  It is vital we give our growing kids time and space to experience and express their emotions and feelings. When this doesn't happen we create barriers for individuals figuring out who they really are. Fractured individuals are more likely to have dis-ease, and a fractured, sick society results. Dr. Nicole LePera (@theholisticpsychologist) states "Empathy is a state of childhood development learned through parent figures who are able to see our perspective, sooth our stressful emotions, and hold space for our self expression without trying to control it." 

 

Emotional maturity means someone is capable of thinking objectively and conceptually while keeping a deep emotional connection to others. 

  1. They can function while having deep emotional attachments - smoothly incorporating both in daily life.
  2. They pursue what they want without exploiting or hurting others.
  3. They have differentiated from their original family relationships to create a life of their own.
  4. They have a well developed sense of self/identity and treasure close relationships.
  5. Honest and comfortable about their own feelings
  6. Well developed empathy, impulse control and emotional intelligence. 
  7. Interested in other peoples inner lives.
  8. When problems arise they deal with others directly to smooth out the issues.
  9. Cope with stress in a realistic, forward looking way.
  10. Enjoy being objective and know themselves well enough to admit and work on weaknesses. 

The following are traits associated with Emotional Immaturity

  1. Rigid and single minded - They are rigid or impulsive and cope with reality by narrowing down to something manageable. Once they form an opinion their minds are closed, there is one right answer. Very black and white in thinking.
  2. Low stress tolerance - Instead of assessing the situation and anticipating the future they use coping mechanisms  that deny, distort, or replace reality (Vaillant, 2000). This can take the form of alcohol and drugs.  They have trouble owning mistakes and look to blame others. Regulating emotions is difficult , and it's hard for them to calm down. They expect others to soothe them by doing what they want.
  3. Do what feels best - As we mature we learn that what feels good isn't always the best thing to do. This childhood instinct in emotionally immature people doesn't change (Bowen 1978)
  4. They are subjective, not objective - what is true doesn't really matter nearly as much as what feels true. Facts, logic, and history don't hold sway with emotionally immature people. 
  5. Have little respect for differences - they get annoyed by other people's differing thoughts and opinions. They think everyone should see things their way. They are more comfortable in role-defined relationships where everyone holds the same beliefs.
  6. Egocentric - They are self preoccupied and self involved.  Unlike children they are self- preoccupied in an obsessed way, not with the innocence and joy of a child. They keep defences up so others can't get close enough to destabilise their shaky sense of self worth.
  7. Self-Referential, Not self reflective - Their focus on themselves isn't about gaining insight of self understanding, it's about being the center of attention. A healthy extrovert craves interaction, not just an audience, they are interested and receptive when others participate. An extrovert who is emotionally immature will shut everyone else down to talk and hold center stage.
  8. Inconsistent and contradictory - They don't have a well-integrated sense of who they are, and are more like a mosaic of various borrowed parts that don't fit together. This can be due to not being able to express and integrate emotional experiences as they grow. Their personalities are weakly structured and flip between different emotions and behaviours. 
  9. Fear feelings - most genuine emotion makes them feel exposed and nervous. For most of their life energy has been used to create screens protecting them from emotional vulnerability with others. 
  10. Focus on Physical instead of emotional - Emotionally immature parents will focus on the physical needs of the child over the emotional needs. Unfortunately this perpetuates the cycle. 
  11. They can be kill joy's
  12. Don't experience mixed emotions - having mixed emotions helps deal with the complexities of life. Emotionally immature people tend to be black and white with no gray.

 

Authentic, expansive relationships are relationships that seek growth, and therefore expect discomfort. Then there can be a mutual evolution instead of rigidity based on cultural, religious, or societal stereotypes. The focus is on allowing each other to be the best and most authentic version of themselves - even if this is an uncomfortable process.  Can people mature emotionally when these immature types of traits are set in? That depends on whether they are willing to self reflect, which is the first step in any change. If people are not interested in noticing their negative impacts on others then they will have no motivation to change. Self reflection, and taking on board feedback about negative behaviours is very uncomfortable. As a society we tend to shy away from discomfort and gravitate towards comfort - therefore not changing. 

It's time we start to emotionally mature as a society. It takes a village to raise a child, and our children need more role models growing up that allow emotions to be displayed; conflict to be resolved with carefully proactive conversation - not physical violence; and an understanding that we all matter. So get comfortable with uncomfortable. Choose growth over stagnation, emotional maturity over remaining immature. 

 

Brad Dixon is a sports physio, coach, and wellness evangelist based at EVERFIT Physio & Coaching. His passion is promoting enhancing daily habits that nudge people towards potential and save the planet. His book ‘Holistic Human’ is available here - https://everfit.co.nz/Store/Category/Book . The power is in our daily habits! Connect with Brad at www.everfit.co.nz, Facebook, Strava, Instagram (@everfitcoach), and YOU TUBE https://youtube.com/c/EverFITcoach 

My daughters Eva and Stella aged 4 and 2 playing on the beach