How Do You Define Emotional Maturity?
For some people, that two-word phrase makes sense. They have run into people who are emotionally mature and they have run into people who are emotionally immature.
For others, this two-word phase sounds like blather or nonsense or psychobabble. (Psychobabble is such a fun word! Many thanks to Chelle for teaching it to me).
When I was in my early twenties I would have struggled to speak intelligently about this important concept. These days I consider Emotional Maturity to be one of the 7 Life Trajectory Factors that help you determine where your life is headed. www.lifetrajectoryfactors.com www.pursuewholerness.com
I hope that by the end of this article you will be able to begin defining for yourself what emotional maturity is.
Emotional Maturity – Something You Observe Over Time
When it comes to physical maturity you can tell (at least roughly) where someone is. While you might mistake a 17-year-old teenager for a young man in his early twenties, you would never think that a baby is a 10-year-old boy and you would never think that a man is his thirties was in his late fifties.
Emotional maturity is something all together different. At first, a man in his thirties can seem to have the emotional maturity of someone who is in his thirties—i.e. he can seem to have the emotional maturity of a seasoned adult… However once you get to know him, it can become apparent that most of the time, even though he is thirty chronologically, he has the emotional maturity of a teenager with occasional digressions to the emotional maturity of a child.
Emotional Maturity is something that you often need observe over time to get an accurate picture of where someone is.
Stages of Emotional Maturity
I teach that people generally spend the bulk of their time in one of four stages of emotional maturity—Child, Teenager, Young Adult, and Seasoned Adult.
If you observe someone with an eye to discerning their level of emotional maturity, most of the time, you will be able to ascertain at what stage of emotional maturity they spend most of their time.
Sometimes, particularly under stress, people regress. My wife Gayla tells me that when I am under certain kinds of stress, I become emotionally immature and I drop from the Seasoned Adult Stage to the Teenager or Child stage. I want to disagree with her, however my friend Kevin tells me the same thing.
It’s about Effectiveness
The greater a person’s level of emotional maturity is the more effective they can be. Conversely the more emotionally immature a person generally is, the more ineffective they will be.
If you want to increase your effectiveness, you need to pursue emotional maturity.
This effectiveness (or the lack thereof) applies especially in relationships. For example—husbands who generally dwell at a Child or Teenager stage of emotional maturity often have wives who do not feel cared for by them.
Husbands who have grown emotionally to the stage of Seasoned Adult, usually can do a better job of being effective at having their wives feel cared for by them.
Does Your Wife Feel Cared For? Ten amazing, life changing articles.
Becoming More Emotionally Mature
You can become more emotionally mature. If you have people in you life telling you that you need to become healthier in regards to your emotions, they are probably right.
Are you in touch enough with your emotions to be able to accurately state how you feel when someone asks you? There was a time when I could not do that. Once I began working on my “emotions” I had to get a list of emotions and read it to even begin to know how I might feel.
If you want to become more emotionally mature I can recommend three different possible options for you to consider.
#1 Journal. Start writing about how you feel, even if you are not “feeling” anything. Start writing about at what stage of emotional maturity you may be. At the end of this article I will share a detailed description of various stages of emotional maturity that I have found to be very helpful. Read that list and journal about it.
Journal about times when when you shift from one stage of emotional maturity to another. As I mentioned, certain stressful situations can greatly effect at what stage of emotional maturity you are able function during that stressful situation.
If you choose to journal, you will be amazed at how much you can learn from regularly putting pen to paper. For more on Journaling for Wholerness / Life Change see www.journalforwholerness.com and www.journal100pages.com
#2 See a Competent Professional Counselor. I myself saw a psychologist for more than three years in my early twenties to help me. During my time seeing Bryan (my counselor), we touched upon many things, including my emotions, or should I say my lack of emotions.
To be clear—I had emotions, everybody does, I was just not in touch with them. Find a counselor and have them read this article. They will be able to guide you from where you are now, to where you want to be.
#3 Learn about EQ, Also-Known-As, Emotional Intelligence. If you would like to start with with a more clinical or “head” approach to pursing Emotional Maturity, read a book on EQ. I can recommend three very good ones.
Daniel Goleman explains Emotional Intelligence in this You Tube Video.
That Darn Word “Emotion”
For some of you, the fact the the word “emotion” is part of the phrase “emotional maturity,” is tripping you up. I have run into men and women who have told me that “emotions are simply not something they ‘do’.”
Usually when I hear this from someone, I have already figured out that when it comes to relating to emotions in a healthy fashion (be it their emotions or the emotions of others), they have a serious challenge. www.itleaksout.com
People Who Do Not “Do” Emotions
Most often there are one or two or even three reasons for this—(being Vulcan is not one of the three).
Reason #1—These people’s parents did not have a healthy relationship to their own emotions. They have then passed this story on to their kids. People live the story they know and at the same time people don’t know the story they live.
Reason #2—They were raised in a conservative religious culture that missed the mark when it came to emotions. I have have encountered many, many people raised in conservative religous cultures who are quite unhealthy when it comes to emotions. (Sometimes #1 and #2 go together).
Of course, these people often do not see themselves as unhealthy when it comes to their emotions. They are living the story they know, and that story (“we don’t ‘do’ emotions”) was often tragically augmented and deepened by an allegedly Biblical (but unhealthy) sub-culture.
I have had people who were raised in conservative religious cultures tell me with a straight face that “they don’t do emotions” without even realizing how dysfunctional and unhealthy that is.
If that is you, I would highly encourage you to check out (i.e. read) these two books —
Feeling Like God—The Emotional Side of Discipleship and Why You Can’t Fully Follow Jesus Without It; by Chris Tiegreen.
You could also check out the following five articles written by; Marc Alan Schelske.
(FYI: These articles, like the two books recommended above, are great for people comfortable and familiar with the Christian faith and sub-culture).
Back to the Three Reasons that People Do Not “Do” Emotions
Reason #3—They were abused as child. I do not use the word “abuse” here lightly. I am talking about real-life child abuse, be it mental, sexual, physical, verbal, emotional or neglect. www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_abuse
People who have been abused as children, especially people who were abused by their parents, often grow up having challenges with emotions. Often they are simply shut down emotionally.
As a child, I myself was intensely abused by my mother and one of the coping mechanisms I learned to use, to survive my childhood, was to be completely shut down emotionally. I even had a phrase I used to describe this mechanism—Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel. I entered my twenties both saying this phrase, and proud of the fact that it was how I survived my childhood. I would say “Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel” without fully realizing how incredibly unhealthy it was.
I know firsthand what it is like to not feel and and to not know what to do with these things called “emotions.” As I mentioned I spent three-plus years in counseling to specifically deal with both the abuse I went through as a child and to learn how to be begin being healthy when it came to my emotions.
If you need to learn how to “feel” and/or recover from childhood abuse, I know that you can. I know the road I have walked and with effort (lots of effort) you can make the same journey.
Pursue Emotional Maturity—The Payoff is Worth It!
The wholer I have gotten emotionally, the more I have been able to enjoy life. I highly encourage you to pursue emotional maturity. Pay the price needed; over time you will come to greatly appreciate the benefits that come with emotional maturity.
A Detailed Listing of Emotional Maturity Stages
Peter Scazzero has written a wonderful book titled; Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. In that book he provides his stages of emotional maturity. I have found this list to be very helpful.
- Look for others to take care of them.
- Have great difficulty entering into the world of others.
- Are driven by need for instant gratification.
- Use others as objects to meet their needs.
- Are content and happy as long as they receive what they want.
- Unravel quickly from stress, disappointments, trials.
- Interpret disagreements as personal offenses.
- Are easily hurt.
- Complain, withdraw, manipulate, take revenge, become sarcastic when they don’t get their way.
- Have great difficulty calmly discussing their needs and wants in a mature, loving way.
- Tend to often be defensive.
- Are threatened and alarmed by criticism.
- Keep score of what they give so they can later ask for something in return.
- Deal with conflict poorly, often blaming, appeasing, going to a third party, pouting, or ignoring the issue entirely.
- Become preoccupied with themselves.
- Have great difficulty truly listening to another person’s pain, disappointments, or needs.
- Are critical and judgmental.
- Are able to ask for what they need, want, or prefer—clearly, directly, honestly.
- Recognize, manage, and take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings.
- Can, when under stress, state their own beliefs and values without becoming adversarial.
- Respect others without having to change them.
- Give people room to make mistakes and not be perfect.
- Appreciate people for who they are—good, bad, and ugly—not for what they give back.
- Accurately assess their own limits, strengths, and weaknesses and are able to freely discuss them with others.
- Are deeply in tune with their own emotional world and able to enter into the feelings, needs, and concerns of others without losing themselves.
- Have the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others.
Quoted from Peter Scazerro; Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.
I am Steven Shomler and I am pulling for you! Go Live the Good Life!