Continuing the series on “Developing emotional maturity – part 7 of many”. [cf. part 1: what is emotional maturity? part 2: how to develop emotional maturity; part 3: spiritual maturity; part 4: emotional intelligence; part 5: emotional immaturity; part 6: depression]
The analogy that I’ve been kicking around in my head is how some people seem to behave emotionally like a child vs. a teenager vs. an adult. And adults (people who are f adult age) don’t like to hear that they’re like a child emotionally. (After all, they’re going to act like a child upon hearing candid feedback, throw a tantrum or something.)
I found these Eight Stages of Development (developed by psychiatrist Erik Erikson in 1956) to be a useful list:
- Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust (Hope)
- Learning Autonomy Versus Shame (Will)
- Learning Initiative Versus Guilt (Purpose)
- Industry Versus Inferiority (Competence)
- Learning Identity Versus Identity Diffusion (Fidelity)
- Learning Intimacy Versus Isolation (Love)
- Learning Generativity Versus Self-Absorption (Care)
- Integrity Versus Despair (Wisdom)
To developing emotionally could be described as, “… a learning – teaching process that… results in the [person] moving from its infant state of helpless but total egocentricity to its ideal adult state of sensible conformity coupled with independent creativity.”
How can those emotional maturity be developed? Let’s not the “child” designation trip us up. Maturity is not mastery or perfection; most of us have areas where we can develop more emotional maturity.
Here’s a great list of practical how-to’s from Enhancing Children’s Emotional Development (Leah Davies, M.Ed.) In essence, it’s facilitating someone to handle their emotions by processing them together. [read the entire article for full context]
- Help the children gain an understanding of their feelings through the use of … interactive storytelling or role-plays.
- Teach children to identify and verbalize their feelings, as well as to read the emotional signals from other children and adults.
- Watch a child’s facial expressions, posture, play or art work for signs that a child is experiencing a strong negative emotion. Then offer constructive ways to defuse it…
- Accept emotional responses as legitimate, even if you don’t like the behavior the feeling produces.
- Communicate understanding and empathy by reflecting the observed emotion.
- Observe the child’s nonverbal behavior for clues as to how he or she is feeling.
- Avoid negative statements like, “Can’t you do anything right?” or “What’s your problem?”
- Avoid moralizing, humiliating, lecturing, denying, pitying, and rescuing. Instead, listen patiently and nod your head appropriately.
- Problem solve with the child by encouraging him or her to think of options and decide what constructive action to take.
- Keep lines of communication open.
This article titled “Social and emotional growth,” summarizes 4 practices for emotional development:
- Continues to expand her circle of trusted adults. At the same time, maintains a closeness to a few special people.
- Gains self-esteem from feeling capable and demonstrating new skills.
- Uses more complex language to express her understanding of feelings and their causes.
- Uses physical, imaginative, and cognitive resources to comfort self and to control the expression of emotion.
Developing emotional maturity is no cake walk. It takes a lot of patience combined with good judgment and warm, nurturing relationships to raise emotionally healthy, comfortable and cheerful children. [replace "children" with "person" or "adult"] It’s about developing concepts like trust, choices, limits, and knowing you’re free to feel what you want, and to control what you do.