what is emotional maturity?

Let’s kick off a new series, “Developing emotional maturity – part 1 of many”.

What is emotional maturity? Emotional maturity isn’t something that necessarily grows with chronological age, i.e. you don’t get more emotionally mature when you get older. Some adults are very emotionally immature; some have never matured emotionally.

And, you can’t tell someone that. Telling an emotionally immature person they’re immature will get an explosively immature reaction. Childish. Not a pretty sight. And it’s too bad. It’s those emotionally immature people that need a lot of help, but how in the world do you help them? They have to want the help, like the alcoholic who has comes to the point of admitting they need help.

There’s a lot to unpack about this topic, as I began looking more closely at it, and as I review my own journey of emotionally maturing. Not to say that I’ve arrived.

I do think about this topic, and have to say that I haven’t come across great books or teachings on this. Don’t recall any classes or seminars on this. And, it seems that cultures have different categories for emotions and feelings, if the difficulty of navigating both Asian and American cultures is any indication.

Before I find out how does someone develop emotional maturity, let’s consider what emotional maturity looks like. From my quick scan of the Web, these are my tentative thoughts in process:

  • Emotional maturity is being responsible for one’s behaviors– both actions and words.
  • Emotional maturity is NOT controlling one’s emotions. It’s controlling one’s behaviors and choosing to act in a way that doesn’t impulsively give in to reactive feelings.
  • Emotional maturity recognizes it’s okay to feel. It’s human to feel the full range of emotions. It’s not okay to act out immaturely, definitely not illegally.
  • Emotional maturity seems to go hand-in-hand with developing mental health.
  • Emotional maturity doesn’t mean every person will feel the same way about a situation / stimulus / idea. There’s some kind of relationship between core values and emotions / feelings. Would you believe values can change?
  • There’s probably a fine difference between emotions and feelings, but it’s too close to call for me, so I’m using them synonymously. Add a comment to explain otherwise, ok?

James Burns says, Emotionally Mature People Are Responsible. Excerpt below:

Emotionally mature people accept responsibility for their actions. They don’t look for excuses for their behavior. There may be reasons or circumstances why emotionally mature people act in an irresponsible way, but they don’t waste time making all kinds of excuses. Emotionally mature people don’t feel victimized by circumstances or other people. Even when circumstances or events are difficult, they deal with them without resorting to blaming others. … It becomes the responsibility of the individual to overcome difficult circumstances that were not really the fault of that person.

One overly simplistic but sorta fun way to find out how emotionally mature you are is to take an online quiz. Here’s my results:

You Are 60% Grown Up, 40% Kid

You’ve grown up a good bit, but you still have a way to go before you’re emotionally mature.
You have the skills to control your emotions, you just have to use them.
Whenever you feel yourself acting out, just stop. It’s really that simple.
Acting like an adult is all about doing the best you can.

Um, see, I’m not there yet. I can sure use all the help I can get, very open to getting help.

Aside: “How Can I Be More Emotionally Mature?” was asked at Yahoo Answers and people responded with a random lot of suggestions. Doesn’t quite do it for me.

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18 Responses

  1. Jerry says:

    DJ, I'm wondering if this is associated with emotional intelligence (EQ)?

  2. Rachel says:

    Love this. Def. helped diagnose some people I've known…..lol 😉

  3. djchuang says:

    @Jerry, I do think emotional maturity is related to emotional intelligence. The way I think of it is the former is a generic category for how well one can manage behaviors when emotions arise, and the latter is a more quantified approach with measurements to describing how much someone is able to manage his own emotions and sense the emotions of others. But that's all a pure guess, because I haven't read Goleman's book. And, there's certainly a lot more published about emotional intelligence than about emotional maturity per se.

  4. Chene says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I have been searching for this!!!! Please tell me you have more on this subject!!! I am looking for something to help me 'grow up' to become mature at 35!!!

  5. gasweeten says:

    The “test” was quite immaturely constructed and developed. I have written and taught on this topic for many years. I have had extensive experience in Asia as well. The “test” had to do with what is called, “Reactivity” versus “Responsive”. A Reactive person emotionally reacts with defensiveness or dependence little thought to the rationality of the Reactivity. Being mature requires that we Know our own thoughts and feelings, can name them, share them appropriately and manage them responsively.

    Immature persons React to external events and have little self awareness, self management or self control. (Little Fruit of the Holy Spirit.) Thus, immature persons feel deep shame and loss of face as a result of social, cultural or family issues. Reactive persons allow themselves to be “Conformaed to the world”.

    Immature persons are often anxious, worried and easily depressed. The James 5:11 ff, etc. Life experiences and mutual fellowship facilitate maturity. The term in King James for “Perfect” is better translated as “Mature”.

    Thanks for the series. See my web at http://www.sweetenlife.com

  6. akram says:

    what is difference between emotional maturity and EQ?
    please answer.

  7. Marj says:

    Once we discover how to put our intelligence first instead of dealing with life based on our emotions…we can then begin the true process of growth.