Does your emotional age match your number of years?
Emotional maturity is defined as how well you’re able to respond to situations, and behave in an adult manner when dealing with others. Being able to have a rational conversation with your significant other when you disagree instead of throwing things and ranting and raving is an example of emotional maturity – Your Dictionary. We’ve all seen the toddler in the grocery store, having a temper tantrum on the floor. Being told no is not something a two year old likes to hear. At two their world is all about ‘me.’ Patience is not in their realm of understanding. A two year old child lives in the present moment with no thought of the future. It’s like that with some adults, especially, ones who struggle with addiction. Emotional maturity is a bi-product of growing up. But when you’re an addict, or you love one, you learn to hide your feelings. When you don’t have the ability to share your feelings, you become emotionally disabled. I recently asked the question – how would I know you’re angry? – to families whose lives had been affected by addiction. Here’s what they had to say: They can tell I’m angry by the look in my eyes. My face says it all. I stop talking to them. I get quiet and my mouth twists. I avoid them. I get silent but I boil on the inside. I don’t say anything I just cry. I yell at them. No one responded simply with, ‘I say I feel angry.’ Why is it we’re so afraid of our emotions? Many of us fight to stay ‘in control.’ In other words, we don’t want our feelings to show. When we hide our feelings, our relationships suffer. Marriages break down. We all have the ability to read body language. We know when someone is struggling. And yet if you ask, chances are, the response you’ll get back is, ‘I’m fine.’ In other words back off, or don’t ask, or leave me alone. In our casual relationships, emotional intimacy isn’t an issue. With the grocery clerk, or the man down the street, it wouldn’t be appropriate to share your deepest emotions. But when it’s a close friend or family member, and you still can’t share, you have a big problem. Resentment and hurt set in, building up in a destructive nature. So many marriages break up over this lack of intimacy. If you’ve ever laid side by side in your marriage bed, lonely and hurting, shoulder to shoulder and yet a million miles apart, you’ll know what I mean. Loneliness isn’t the absence of people in your life; it’s the absence of sharing emotions when you’re in a significant relationship. Hiding and stuffing your emotions, is hard work. It takes a toll, physically. It can compromise your immune system. Feelings aren’t like a light switch. You can’t just turn them on, or off. They don’t disappear into thin air. Instead they do something far more dangerous. They can raise your blood pressure leading to heart disease, or stroke. They can also cause ulcers, and insomnia, and create weight gain, or loss, and change your behaviour. Sarcasm is a symptom of unresolved hurt and anger. Overspending, shopping, cheating, gambling, working, exercising, self-medicating and enabling, are driven by emotional turmoil. Ask yourself this. Does your emotional age and your number of years, match? Are you repeating the same mistakes over and over? Do you have the ability to face reality and deal with it? Do you struggle with control? Are you aggressive or manipulative? Do you bully or guilt others, to get your needs met? Do you gossip about others? Are you overly dependent on a person or thing? If you’re afraid to voice the way you feel, or you have a hard time asking for what you need, chances are there’s a scared little child hiding within you. How old that child will be, is dependent on the age you first started masking your emotions by using substance, or shutting down. Before I entered rehab there were times I behaved as a two year old would. I’d pout and have temper tantrums, when not getting my way. Then there were times I was thirteen, and behaved overly dramatic. When you’re trying to function as a wife and mother but you’re emotionally two or thirteen, it’s never a good thing. In rehab one of my counselors told me that emotionally, I was still a child. I took great offense to his comment, but of course, I didn’t tell him that. Instead I case built against him. I talked behind his back, while smiling to his face. Since then, I understand resentments are a coward’s way of avoiding an emotionally uncomfortable, conversation. I may have walked into that treatment center two or thirteen but when I left, I was emotionally mature. Addiction and the family’s response to it, is an emotional dis-ease. Feelings that aren’t shared or debriefed are doomed to be acted out. Growing your emotional body up to match your chronological age will require safe, emotional support. When we shut down our emotions it’s either a learned behaviour, or an act of survival. To grow up emotionally, you must reach outside your comfort zone. The benefits of maturing emotionally far outweigh the discomfort you feel, when first expressing them. Emotional awareness increases your coping ability and your chances of a successful recovery. Open communication and emotional safety is the key to all healthy relationships. If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1 888 614-2379.