The below is a post that I shared on my blog quite some time ago.
Emotional Maturity or One’s Psychological Age
In most countries, one is an adult as soon as one has reached the age of 18. Right? As far as it is about the legal age of being considered adult, which means to be entirely responsible and of legal capacity that’s true. However, on the other side, we all know that there are people whose conduct of behavior when they are 20, 30, 50 or even older, has not reached the state of someone that age, as one would reasonably expect. So, we see when we talk about “maturity” we are dealing with different aspects which must be distinguished very clearly.
Different sorts of maturity
There are three different sorts of maturity in human beings, which are usually reached at various times during our development:
1. Physical maturity
2. Mental maturity
3. Emotional/psychological maturity
Physical maturity is generally entered in the early 20s and reaches its peak in the mid-20s. Mental maturity goes way beyond and is achieved somewhere between the age of 30 and 50. The different points of view relating to this topic are way too different to make general and reliable statements. Also, the individual differences are quite vast. When it comes to emotional maturity, we come to the most problematic one of them all. Psychological maturity usually is only reached when an individual enters a higher age, if ever. The most prominent part of humanity never reaches this kind of sophistication to its fullest and dies without having enfolded this natural ability of human beings entirely.
To recognize one’s emotional maturity is way more difficult than detecting others. The reason for that is that the most significant part of our immature activities and in particular our non-adult motives are not conscious to us but are buried deep in the subconscious mind. Nevertheless, there are a few signs which help us to get clarity about our psychological maturity:
Signs of emotional maturity
• The ability to distinguish between what is under our control and what is not, as well as the acceptance of the result which concludes from this distinction.
• Respect for our boundaries as well as for the ones of others.
• Concentration: Emotional maturity is also characterized by the ability to entirely concentrate on a given task for a more extended period. Related to that is the ability to fulfill unpleasant responsibilities as well as postponing rewards.
• The capacity to be the master of one’s emotions. To control the actual feeling in a given situation only works if there is no “emotional burden” left in a person. That means that there are no banked up emotions from the past which are triggered by the present situation. If for example, an individual shows an amount of rage which cannot be explained by the current situation there is always something from the past involved which gets addressed in such moments.
• Difficulties with distinguishing between right and wrong and a strong tendency to give in to relativism, in the worst case believing in a purely materialistic or even cynical-nihilistic worldview is a sign of immaturity.
• Another mark of immaturity is an existential restlessness in one’s life, an “uneasiness within a culture” as Sigmund Freud called it.
• The lack of empathy, the incapability to understand the emotional life of others and not being able to feel what others feel, points towards psychological immaturity.
• Narcissism–malignant “self-love” is another sign to be mentioned here. This should not be mixed up with a healthy dose of self-confidence, which is the exact opposite of immaturity but a sign of emotional maturity.
• Awareness of one’s personality and one’s actions show maturity. One that lives life mainly on “auto-pilot” only possesses a limited amount of freedom and is not even aware of it.
• Responsibility: Psychologically mature people accept responsibility for their actions. The search for scapegoats is a typical mark of immaturity in this area.
• To be satisfied with oneself; to be “enough.” One would permanently look outside for the fulfillment of his needs (material, respect, rewards, etc.) is like a child that needs to be nurtured by his parents.
• The ability to deal with critique. This means to distinguish between constructive and destructive ones. The first one has to be taken seriously to improve oneself the second one is a personal attack and shouldn’t make us irritated or angry.
The biggest obstacle to emotional maturity is not to know oneself
Now we come to the most serious stuff; the real hard stuff! Here we have the core of most of life's problems on the whole: Most people have no idea who they are! In early childhood, we close off a part of ourself. We call this process of alienation “education” and “socialization.” Sounds pretty harmless, or even good, but in effect, it is the worst thing that can happen to a young human being; at least, in a sense, normal society understands it. This alienation is what's commonly considered normal–even psychologists and psychiatrists don’t consider this to be a problem because, in most cases, they are befallen by the disease themselves. The alienation from oneself results in the alienation from others, from one's profession, and in the end, alienation from nature. That aspect is the biggest part of humanity in the early 21st century. Therefore it is no wonder that emotional maturity is not very common. This applies, especially, to the so-called “civilized” people; Native people, “primitive races,” on the other hand, have the highest degree of emotional maturity observable! However, the solution for the individual to reach emotional maturity consists of one big thing: to reconnect with oneself! What one needs to do this is to have compassion for oneself. Without this reconnection, every attempt to achieve psychological maturity will stay incomplete.
Should we be ashamed if we find out that our emotional maturity doesn’t match with our physical and mental maturity? Alternatively, should we blame ourselves and feel miserable? Of course not; that wouldn’t help anybody. Feelings of guilt and shame only maintain a given state of mind and make it harder or even impossible to change for the better. This starts with stopping the deception of ourselves and the reality about ourselves, our spirit, and our psyche. We have to take an honest and sincere look into the mirror. As painful as the recognition of one's emotional age may be in the beginning, it's helpful and healthy. It makes us work on ourselves to improve and grow. The old proverb that is so often true also applies here: Medicine has to taste bitter; otherwise it does not work. -Oliver Maerk, Courtesy of Freedom, Power, and Wealth (April 30, 2016)