In the last few months, Ive read several excellent non-fiction books. All with poignant life lessons and insights within, offering life changing potential if one chooses to consider, take in, and fully absorb their messages.
One of the books in particular, "Changes that Heal" by Dr. Henry Cloud, I found especially excellent. He wrote another one "Necessary Endings" which I liked better, found much more applicable to life in general, with absolutely excellent messages and insights within. Though "Changes that Heal" offered one section in particular that resonated with me deeply. The section is titled: "When We Fail To Grown Up." Aka, what happens when people fail to grow into (emotionally) fully mature adults.
We often tend to think that once someone physically looks the part of adult, that this is it. They are now an adult. Boom, done.
Not so. Not even close. Consider all the adults you know personally (there are probably at least a few...and for some of you, there may even be many) who might be emotionally chaotic, who have all sorts of major character flaws (not minor and usual ones, which we all have. Instead, I am talking about traits7behaviors that majorly impact ones life negatively), "adults" who cannot seem to get their lives together, maybe who have frequently turbulent relationships, etc.
We all know people like this, and usually they are "adults." Meaning, they look like adults on the outside but in the article following below, you will learn that actually, they are still children emotionally.
These are people who have failed to grow up. Who, while they may embody the physical appearance and age of an adult, are not truly adults in their minds and emotions. And it shows, in the lives they lead.
In the article follow, I will be listing several traits of "adults" who are actually children in a grown up persons body.
Whats helpful about this list and article is that:
1. It can help you identify those around you who are still essentially children, both mentally and emotionally (even though they may appear to physically be an adult). And thus, this can help in your dealing with and understanding them better (whether a colleague, family member, or other).
2. If you have one, a few, or even several of these traits yourself, the only way one can grow and change is through recognition and self awareness. Therefore, seeing and admitting such within yourself, and then attempting to actively change your thinking and behavior towards growing up and taking back your sense of adulthood, personal strength, own authority of yourself and your life, and personal responsibility. This can change your life radically for the better.
With that said, here is what I read in "Changes that Heal" are what happens (and how it negatively impacts our lives) when we fail to grow up:
--Inordinate Need for Approval. People who struggle to grow up emotionally often cannot function well independently of the opinion of others (this can be from their parents, romantic partner, friends, or even people they aren't especially close with). They strive constantly to gain the approval of others. This kind of approval is different from the wish to do well and be recognized for such. That is generally a normal wish and desire. This is instead, a hungering for and hinging on the need for approval from others. And difficulty behaving in ways that involve striking out on ones own and even at times, having to disappoint people.
--Fear of Disapproval. This goes along with a need for approval. Often, people who have failed to fully grow up emotionally feel quite anxious when an authority figure is around. Their anxiety then tends to interfere with their ability to do a job well. Every time their work is evaluated, their fear is activated.
--Guilt. This is a component of the loss of parental approval. Part of growing up means separating from your parents, and this will at times mean disappointing them. This is ok, normal, and part of forging your own path. If one is living as an adult, to the beat of their own drum, its only natural and inevitable that you will at times, disappoint others when you dont act in accordance with their opinions or wishes (including your parents). This is part of having the courage to live your own life, which is integral to both your happiness as well as growing up. People who still harbor guilt over this type of thing continue to feel "under" the parental voice.
--Sexual Difficulty. People who feel one-down to authority more often than not have sexual difficulty. Why? They have not gone through the adolescent passage of disagreeing with their parents and therefore, overcoming guilt and repression. Sexuality is still a "no no" to them because psychologically, they are still children who "shouldn't think about things like that."
--Need for Permission. Many struggle with an inordinate need for permission. Often struggling with feeling as though they need clearance from someone before proceeding with decisions in their lives. They often ask, "may I say something?" In the middle of a conversation, when its unnecessary to ask for permission to speak. They hesitate to test the limits of any system or organization, always giving restrictions and rules. They haven't thrown off their parents restrictions and found their own.
--"You cant do that" Syndrome. Authority bound people tend to stifle creativity. Someone may come up with a new way of doing something and an authority bound person will react, "you cant do that," or, "it'll never work." They appear to have prison bars around anything creative or new. This is because they overidentify with their limiting and putative parent- ever giving restrictions, rules, and attempted control. They haven't thrown off their parents restrictions and found their own.
--Feelings of inferiority. Often, people with this issue have parents who have not treated them with respect in their own right as people. So invariably, they look up to others and feel "below" them. They tend to think that someone else is always better then them in some way. They rarely to never feel equal.
--Competitiveness. People who have never established equality with one or both parents tend to act out unresolved competitive issues, often with people of the same sex. They cannot stand for anyone to "win" over them, because it puts them in a "one down" position. Instead of saying or thinking, "I lost the game," they feel "I am an inferior person."
--Loss of Power. Those who haven't become an adult either repeatedly give away their power in relationships, or, feel that they are losing power. These people especially have trouble with controlling, domineering people, routinely deferring to them in what they perceive to be a lack of power or right from their own end.
--No Equal Differences. People who live in a one-up, one-down world rarely consider differences acceptable. If someone believes or thinks something different, that person is "wrong." There is no such thing as a difference of opinion, or agreeing to disagree.
--Black and White Thinking. People who can only see the world in this way, black or white, right or wrong, are stuck in their pre-adult way of thinking. They are thinking like an eleven year old. They are unable to think in terms of gray. There are no tough moral dilemmas. Everything is simple. "If the rule says it, I do it."
--Judgementalism. Judgemental people fuse with the parental, legal position and look down on others. These people deny the badness within themselves (as there is bad and negative in all of us) and instead act like they are perfect and "above" others.
--Anxiety Attacks. Anxious people fear disapproval, both internally and externally. Generalized anxiety signals something dangerous about to emerge in a persons consciousness. People who suffer anxiety attacks fear this.
--Impulsiveness and Inhibition. Both come from authority problems. On the one hand, some people are so angry at authority that they deny any rules or standards and live lawlessly. These people are often impulsive and do as they wish. These out-of-control adolescents have done away with authority. On the other hand, legalists are so bound up with guilt, they aren't even aware of their own impulses. They are often very shy and inhibited. Their friends often say, "let your hair down sometime, relax."
--Parenting others. Some people who have never grown up think they know what others "should" do. They are unable to realize their own limited knowledge of a persons situation, as well as the persons responsibility or ability to deal with his or her own problems.
(Important side note here: I am going to slightly disagree with the concept of "parenting others" being automatic evidence of oneself not having grown up yet emotionally. Yes, if you are talking to others in the self righteous way of "I know best and you dont" and if this is a way you frequently talk to/think towards others, then yes, this is a problem. Its condescension of the highest order, as well as arrogance and misplaced self righteousness, assuming that you often/usually know other peoples situations and lives better than they do. However. There are many exceptions to this.
Sometimes, we do see a situation more clearly with regards to someone we love, than maybe they do. For instance, numerous studies have shown that the few nearest and dearest of someone (say, their best friends and maybe a couple family members to whom they are quite close) tend to be able to judge this persons romantic relationship better than the person in the relationship can! This is a case in which yes, others sometimes do know better. They can see it more clearly because they are once removed, they aren't the ones emotionally involved. There are of course, caveats to this. This is assuming that these said loved ones are reasonable, realistic, emotionally mature, clear thinking themselves, and well meaning towards their loved one. Then yes, we might rightly assume they have a more realistic view of the relationship then the person they love who is in it may have.
Another example, if someone is using drugs, gambling, having an affair, or getting into some other dicey stuff, potentially going down a very bad path and their loved ones see clearly the disaster this person is moving towards, yet the person involved cannot see it clearly, is in denial and blinded...another example in which others very well may know better than this person does
There can and will be times when someone you love and to whom you are close, you see them behaving in ways that are either hurting themselves, or others. This is an important theme in the international bestselling psychology/love/self help book called "The Road Less Traveled" by Scott Peck. HIGHLY recommend it, by the way. This book changed a lot of the ways I think about what it means to love. Anyway, the book talks about this theme. How when you truly love someone, it is your duty to "risk the relationship" if you will, to tell them when/if/where you see them hurting either themselves or others, by a way of thinking or behaving. Being too afraid to speak up and tell the person you love this? That isn't love or respect, its cowardice. Love means that when you love someone, you want them to live their best life. You don't want to see them in pain, or watch them hurt themselves or others, so you have a duty really when and if yo use this occurring in someone you love, to speak up. Even if it may mean pissing them off in the moment. Your hope and desire is for the long term picture which you hope will actualize. Your hope in helping them see the light, where right now they may not.
Therefore, there absolutely will be times throughout your life, when either you love someone and do happen to "know better" than them at that moment, seeing clearly that maybe they are venturing down a bad path or are causing hurt to others, or are feeling hurt themselves. Or, there will also be times when people who love you will point these things out to you. When they see you making choices that they can see clearly are not likely to be in your best interest, that may hurt you or someone else
This though, is not one in the same as "parenting" others. Instead, its love...support...offering caring honesty where you see it might be needed in someone you love. This is one in the same with truly loving relationships that are emotionally close- honesty, even when it may be hard to hear. Therefore, these are two different things. "Parenting" others, as opposed to offering potential honesty, support, or potential guidance to someone you love and see might be struggling or might not be seeing clearly).
--Superiority. The opposite of inferiority, some people always find a way to see themselves as better than everyone else. It can look like narcissism or idealism, but really it is one-upmanship.
--Depression. This stems from a "bad me" self critical attitude. People who are criticized by their internal parent feel bad or guilty, which leads to depression.
--Dependency. Some people actively avoid taking responsibility for themselves and find someone to parent them. For example, it is not unusual for people to marry out of dependency and then resent their partner for "treating them like children." They tend to give executive power of their life to others.
--Idealism of Authority. The perception that someone in authority knows best or is perfect pre-supposes a one-down position, because people who have identified with the authority (and are mature adults themselves) know that the authority is a person just like them, warts and all.
Here are several distorted ways of thinking that tend of show up frequently in the minds of people who have not yet become adults emotionally:
-I am less than others.
-I am bad if they dont approve of me.
-I must please others to be liked.
-I am bad if a disagree.
-My opinions are not as good.
-I must get permission from others.
-I am bad if I fail.
-I shouldn't feel so sexual.
-Sexual feelings are bad.
-My plans will never succeed.
-If I differ, I am wrong.
-I am better than they are.
-My group is the right group.
-Our belief system or ministry is the only real one.
-I know what's best for them.
-I know better than them.
-They never fail like I do.
-They are never this afraid, or mad, or sad, or stressed, or...
-They will like me better if I am compliant.
-They will hate me for standing up to them.
In order to live a life that is your best one possible, this entails the necessary passage of both growing up physically, as well as emotionally. All of us grow into and become adults physically. Many of us do not grow into adults emotionally, instead remaining stuck or stagnant as children mentally. And the majority of people stuck as children emotionally dont even know it. Becoming aware of certain behaviors or ways of thinking in yourself which are still emotionally immature is the only way to changing it and thus, the only path toward fully maturing emotionally into an adult. This is the route and solution towards living your strongest, happiest, most fulfilling life.
In my next article, Part Two, I will detail the skills needed for (and essentially how to) for becoming an adult emotionally.
Much of the insights above were taken from this book (I highly recommend reading the whole thing. Its chock full of life changing insights, lessons, and ideas):