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Emotional Maturity: Why It Matters

This is another one of those books that I read and thought "I wish I read this in my 20s". I'm glad I found it now, and can share some wisdom with you. I hope you read it too. It is for any of you who felt that something was missing from your parents; perhaps they were overly preoccupied with themselves, overly emotional, cold and distant, passive or neglectful, or treated you more like a friend than their child. At worst they can be rejecting and abusive.

Adult Children Of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson describes the concepts of emotional immaturity and maturity. Emotionally immature parents have many of the qualities above. Their children often miss out on their core needs (for love, validation, play, security and competence) being met, and so learn to survive in different ways. Gibson describes how children of such parents develop different coping mechanisms; they either externalise their problems and emotions, or internalise them. Simply, externalisers act out their pain, hurt and fear, whereas internalisers go inwards to solve their emotional world, and self-reflect.

Externalisers can struggle with connecting to others as they are often reactive, whereas internalisers often feel drained and exhausted by others, as they take on responsible, caring roles. Sometimes their thoughts could be "If only I'm kind enough or helpful enough, then I'll get the closeness I long for". More often I see internalisers in therapy, though our coping styles are not so fixed.

So, what does emotional maturity look like, and why does it matter? I'll answer the why first:

Emotional maturity is the building block of a secure, healthy, safe, functioning relationship. Emotional maturity involves a special set of skills including self-reflection, self-awareness, empathy, reliability and predictability. It involves respecting others' opinions and boundaries, a lack of defensiveness (not taking everything personally), accountability, emotional attunement and responsiveness, an ability to compromise, and think and feel simultaneously (thinking allows for reflection and even-temperedness). They also can apologise, be honest, know how to make amends, can give and receive comfort, and can laugh and be playful. They're nice to be around and make life less stressful.

Emotional immaturity can look like reactivity, self-centredness, victimhood mentality, an uneven temper, negativity, an inability to see things from another perspective, or not respecting your boundaries or needs. They can struggle to take feedback and may see everything as a character attack. If this is something you struggle with, it may be worth seeing a therapist; particularly if your relationships matter, Often this pattern comes about through trauma and pain; it's not your fault, but it is yours to fix.

And if you find yourself in relationships with emotionally immature people, it may also be time to speak to someone; you may be feeling drained, tired and resentful, and need to get to the bottom of things. It is a pattern that can be changed, and is worth doing the work.

I have a huge amount of respect and gratitude to the author of this work. I hope you found this helpful.

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