Maturity Part II: Emotional Maturity
by Dr. Leela Francisco
The Heart Talks
Another modern term for Emotional Maturity is Psychological Maturity. It simple terms, we need to know whether we are in touch with our emotions and emotional reactions to the various situations we encounter. If we can, then do we know how to bring them to a balance? Do we realize how we can reach the point of having mature inter-relationships as well as develop into Spiritually mature people?
It is not a simple matter of reaction – “getting mad”, “freaking out”, “having a meltdown”, “panic reaction”, blowing it’, etc. These are only reactions that are expressed after a series of feelings one experiences in ones heart.
Listening to our heart talking is a good way to become emotionally mature. Our heart can be sensitive to the voice of the God, and tells us what to do when we are quite in ourselves. But to do this we need to learn to slow down and be aware of exactly what we’re feeling.
The First Step
There are no short cuts in growing up emotionally. We all have to go through the grind. Often it is painful, it requires sacrifice, it requires spending time with oneself to reflect on ones behavior. The first mistake we make is we allow Emotional Immaturity to continue just because we think “my friends are the same” or “my parents (mother/father) do the same thing”. Or otherwise, we move to the other extreme of being very judgmental about other people’s emotional immaturity! Both these extremes only speak of a lack of desire to grow or else a lack of awareness of oneself.
Each of us continues on the road to emotional maturity at every point in our lives. No one had reached total maturity in all areas, and being humble about learning better attitudes, as well as accepting others, is the first indication that one has realized this. One has crossed the first test in emotional maturity .... with humility!
Where do I go from here?
Good question! It’s often the hardest to answer and sometimes requires the aid of trustworthy friends, as well as people we don’t get along with! We need to develop in various aspects to reach a level of psychological maturity, and input from these people helps us know which the areas we need to work at. Each of these problem areas go through the 5 step process towards maturity:
One can only change what one is aware of. Knowing that a particular behavior, or habit or attitude or thinking pattern is detrimental to oneself or causing problems socially is the first step towards changing those in a healthy direction. We have to also understand our feelings (the heart talking) in each of these situations before we can work on them. The awareness helps us realize how these feelings (of rejection, of wanting to please, of feeling hurt, of un-forgiveness, of needing approval) need to be either healed or modified with the Grace of God. Help from a counselor may often be necessary for the best of us. We are then able to see our strengths and weakness, and understand our God given potential as individuals.
All this guides us in decision making for our future, with a realistic awareness of our own abilities, while we ultimately develop a grounded sense of self confidence.
Once we have a good understanding of ourselves and emotional reactions, we now have to be able to modify this behavior so that it does not interfere with our daily living and what we have do as social people. The way to achieve this is by being conscientious in our work and learning to delay gratification (avoid looking for quick fixes and seeking only fleeting pleasure in what we do). We also need to face any emotional distress that comes up and deal with it head on. A counselor, a teacher or a parent could help us through these times.
This allows us to recover well from emotional distress and continue to pursue our goals.
Understanding ourselves, helps us to identify what are our deepest preferences. Often if one is close to God, one is able to understand or be more easily aware of deep desires within ones heart. It is important to know what these are because they form the basis of any energy and drive towards achievement. Some choices may be simple such as whether one wants to study the Arts or one wants to study Science, etc. But our heart desires go even deeper than that, because they are supported by the talents and strengths that God has given us.
For example: Do I want to be a good mother or father? Do I want to head a major company that works for uplifting others or helping society as an important part of its strategy? Do I want to help alleviate the suffering in those who are sick? Do I feel the need to be available for the Spiritual welfare of other people? These are very basic character traits and desires of the heart that are seeds God has planted in each one of us - our vocation or mission in life. Once we know what we want to do in life, we’re deeply motivated, and can persevere though all setbacks or difficulties that come in our way – God provides the grace and our talents help us succeed.
As we continue to develop in ourselves, we reach a point of sensitivity when we can empathize with others needs. This means sensing what people are feeling and being able to understand their perspective. We then become broad minded people and are able to cultivate a rapport with different types of people, from different cultural backgrounds or different countries. Empathy is a necessary characteristic of a counselor, teacher or a parent. So we all need to work to reach this level of maturity especially at the age that calls for such roles.
All the above, are tools that help me become a contribution to society. I am now able to handle inter-relationships much better. I am able to handle family relationships with much more ease. My friendships are deeper and more fulfilling. I am able to understand social and work situations much better. With all this, I am able to interact smoothly with people around me. I can use these skills to persuade and lead negotiations, settle disputes/fights and thus enhance the cooperation and team work in life situations around me.
Acquiring these different stages in character development is a process that continues all ones life – one can only get better with time! We need to let our heart talk, we need to hear the voice of our heart, we need to allow our heart to be open to God’s voice. We need this continuous emotional and psychological development in order to become mature Christians. Without emotional maturity, one cannot become truly Spiritually mature.
Next week we will explore Spiritual Maturity and understand why it is the most important of all.
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© 2005 Dr. Leela Francisco. All rights reserved.