Emotional maturity doesn’t happen naturally. Considering that children often have more self-control than parents, it doesn’t appear to be a function of age.
Emotional reactions and self-control are not mutually exclusive. We can be quite angry or hurt, and we don’t have to blow up or run away. “I know I’m acting childishly, but I don’t care. It’s how I feel.”
It takes intentional work at self-awareness to grow up emotionally. The longer we practice self-indulgence, the more we believe, “It’s just who I am. I can’t help it.”
We are NOT what we feel. If I feel weak or trapped, superior or inferior, it means I feel that way. I can find evidence that supports it or denies it; I can feed feelings or starve them.
Emotions come quickly and can hit us hard: sadness, worry, anger, anxiety, jealousy, fear, frustration. Trying to make them go away can actually make them last longer. Ignoring, denying, or judging them isn’t effective either.
Accepting them, letting them exist, can be uncomfortable but effective to help emotions dissipate.
Emotional reactions and self-control are possible. You can have both. It’s emotional maturity.
I’m a Domestic Relations Mediator registered with the courts in Indiana. When people have children together and split up, regardless if they were married, there are issues of custody, parenting time, and child support to be decided.
Rather than fighting it out as adversaries, they can use the process of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to reach agreement through mediation about custody, parenting time of their children, and child support; if they were married, the divorce can be settled using this process as well.
The more they agree to in mediation, the more control they have. When it goes to court, someone else decides for them. They have no control over the outcome. More control is better.
I help them reach agreement, write it up, and submit it. The courts review it, and it generally becomes a court order. Even partial agreement on some issues is better than none at all.
I’m not an attorney. I’m a counselor and a mediator. There’s a place for both. The courts have given me authority in these cases because many decisions are family issues, not legal ones.
Too many couples couldn’t find peace when they were together, but they can’t find it after they split either! Legal cases create sides. Mediation creates peace. Peace feeds security, confidence, and self-esteem in children. Conflict and chaos feeds the opposite.
Shame exacerbates a variety of problems in our adult relationships, especially in our most intimate ones.
It’s not the only reason for all of these behaviors, but it’s a short list of ways that shame reveals itself in adulthood. A common example for identifying shame is when adults feel guilty for giving their parents a hard time when they were a kid.
Kids can do some crazy crap, and most parents understand that because we did some crazy crap when we were kids! It’s what kids do. It doesn’t mean we are bad people. It means we were a kid.
“You don’t understand how bad I was.” After I hear the stories, it is often the very common coming-of-age stuff. Even if it is more extreme, it is what it is. Kids don’t owe adults an easy experience. Sometimes kids pick a really tough road. It’s the job of the grown-up to be the adult, which includes growing in emotional maturity themselves as needed.
That bad feeling about who we were as a kid is really shame. We may have concluded we were bad from seeing distraught adults, or from adults who used shame as a method to control us. Accepting who we were as a kid is directly related to accepting ourselves as an adult.
If you want to learn more, Brene Brown has some great material on YouTube and in her books.