Growing up is about developing Emotional Intelligence (understanding of human emotions) and Emotional Maturity (EM), the ability to use and apply Emotional Intelligence (EI) to connect more deeply and authentically with yourself and others.
Peter Vajda does a wonderful job of explaining the process of growing up in his article on Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Maturity. In his article, he points out that although Emotional Intelligence is important, the real work lies in applying EI to the process of growing up by realizing that many of the coping challenges we face as adults lie in the experiences we had as a young child trying to feel secure and safe or simply loved by our parents.
Ever since my profound experience of the Mankind Project‘s New Warrior Training Adventure, I have seen this pattern show up over and over. As I facilitate men in our small ongoing support circles, the pattern that shows up constantly is a belief about self that was formed before the age of 10 and was effective as a child but crippling as an adult. An example may help here.
Many years ago, a young man sought my help understanding why he could not speak above a whisper. I helped him look back in time and he recalled an experience when he was three years old, sitting in church with his mother. He was squirming and talking as most three year old children would in the same situation, and his mother was repeatedly shushing him and telling him to be quite. The message he took from this experience was that in order to be loved, he must be quiet. Once he realized the source of that message, he also realized that the message did not have to apply to his adult life. He let go with a giant roar and, in that moment, he took a step towards growing up.
Vajia articulates five simple principles that “underlie emotional maturity”:
- Every negative emotion we experience in the here and now is actually a childhood reaction applied to the current person, circumstance or event.
- Childhood emotions play out in our adult life.
- When we “work” to understand the nature of our emotions, we “get” that as a child we reacted the way we did to either feel safe and secure, or to receive acknowledgement, approval and love.
- Our behavior is always vacillating between the child-like emotionally mature adult and the childish emotionally immature adult.
- The most visible and effective outcome of emotional maturity is our ability to be in the moment, in our body and present, non-reactive and non-judgmental.
Here are some links that describe Emotional Intelligence and Emotional Maturity: