Why Life Without Emotional Maturity is Just No Fun!
“The awareness of the ambiguity of one’s highest achievements (as well as one’s deepest failures) is a definite symptom of maturity.”—Paul Tillich
Relationships and careers are built on a foundation of emotional maturity. No matter how dynamic, witty and intelligent one might be, these characteristics mean virtually nothing unless we have learned to control our emotional responses to life. True, we hire bright, well-educated, experienced applicants. Though, be assured, these attributes wear thin very quickly if their emotional maturity is marginal — or worse. Emotions are the icing on the cake. Emotions are the Corvette in the garage. Emotions are the aged, superb cabernet in the goblet for our species. Without our virtually unlimited variety of feelings we would be little more than soft, well dressed robots. Nonetheless, emotions have the potential to become raging California wild fires, burning out of control and destroying everything in their path. This destruction can include our careers.
Emotional maturity means, in essence, controlling our emotions rather than allowing our emotions to control us. That does not mean we should hide or repress emotions. No one expects you to be a human Sphinx.
We can use muscle relaxation, yoga, guided imagery and other relaxation tools to reduce the intensity of negative emotions. As a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, I believe thoughts, in conjunction with our environment, influence our emotions. Fortunately, we can train our thoughts by becoming aware of our negative and inaccurate beliefs and ideas and transforming them.
Dr. Martha Starks (Modes of Therapeutic Action) defines psychological maturity as “being able to accept the reality of people and things as they are, without needing them to be other than that.” Where does this inability to accept reality originate? According to the renowned Beck Institute, the explanation is, “…distorted beliefs influence the processing of information, and give rise to distorted thoughts.”
Strangely, our brains will believe anything we tell them. If you tell your brain that you are at risk (physically, emotionally or psychologically), it reacts to that information as if it were accurate. The physiological manifestations can begin before we realize what has happened (i.e., heart palpitations, shaking, sweating), which intensifies the effect. If we replace negative, irrational, self-limiting thoughts with accurate, empowering and more adaptive thoughts, our emotional control will improve dramatically. What does that mean? It means our relationships become richer, we feel in control and happier, we like ourselves more, and we are more likely to reach our life and career goals.
What Does Emotional Maturity Look Like?
How do you recognize emotional maturity? An emotionally mature person will have many of the following traits:
- Knowing what one wants and making it happen
- Thinking before acting and having control over one’s behavior
- Self-reliance and the ability to take responsibility for one’s life and actions
- Seeing the larger picture beyond self interest
- The ability to connect with others in a cooperative and positive way
- Genuinely caring about others and demonstrating that ability
- Honesty and living one’s principles
- Having moderation and balance in all things
- Having the ability to follow through, even when it is difficult
- Having humility and the ability to say, “I was wrong. I am sorry.”(Inspired by the Swedish Medical Center)
Where are you on the emotional maturity continuum? Take the quiz and learn.