Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Emotional Maturity & The Empath

Let me take you on a journey.

Imagine a woman, if you will. From her toddler years into adolescence she is abused. Whether this abuse is physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual is of less importance than the simple fact that she was abused. So whether she was sexually molested by an adult, verbally berated consistently by a parent, beaten on a regular basis, or locked in a closet and neglected, it is still abuse.

In her adolescent years, she begins to date and be social. The men she chooses to date tend to be authoritative and assertive on the surface, which attracts her to them. But beneath the surface they are aggressive manipulators who are often violent, in both word and deed.

She escapes from a number of these types of relationships, but is always drawn back into them with someone with a new face playing the same game. And soon, it becomes a pattern with in her life.

Then one day,when she is in her early 20s, one such man decides to end her life in a fit of fury. Somehow, though, she miraculously escapes and makes it to a women's shelter. But she is beaten down, both physically and mentally.

While in the shelter, she believes she has no one to turn to for help. She has little to no education, and even less useful skills in order to obtain work with. And she has no home, save the one she made while being dependent on the man who threatened her life. So just as she hits rock bottom, she contemplates ending her own life.

Within the same week someone comes along and offers to train her for a position. Its nothing fancy and its certainly nothing glamorous, but its a job all the same. She takes hold of that offer and begins to rebuild her life slowly. And slowly she begins to develop a sense of pride in her work, as menial as her job is. And in that moment, she begins to build a foundation, for which she never had before, upon which she can stand on her own. She has discovered hope.

Perhaps you can relate to this story. Perhaps not. For females, since it is oriented toward them, it might be easier to empathize with. For males, it might be harder to imagine yourself in such a position of utter helplessness, but it happens to men, as well as women, so it is not gender specific. Suffering knows no boundaries, like gender in the end, after all.

What does this story tell you? What do you see in it? Lets explore this in some more detail. Because I believe this is an important discussion for everyone, Empath and Non-Empath alike.

The Beginning

In the beginning of the story, and through out the adolescent years into the early 20s, this person was at an obvious disadvantage mentally. Everything that occurred later in this person's life, was a result of what happened in this woman's formative years.

The abuse that this person suffered at such a young age, changed the focus on their brain from development to survival, which is one of the most basic of instincts within the human psyche. It forced them to become sensitive to the emotions and emotional states of the people around them, particularly those that perpetrated the abuse against them. This was done, in order to survive.

Later on in life, this pattern or cycle of abuse, was sought out because it was considered, by this time, to be the normal interaction one has with other people. And its not that she went in search of being abused consciously, but once it began it was deemed acceptable because this is what she was raised with and what she considered the normal interaction between people.

From here I want to introduce you to some lists which hold some interesting information which pertain to this case. So bear with me if you do not immediately see the connections to the example above. It will all be explained in due course.

Each of the lists offered here are offered with all due respect to their respective creators. And there is a link back to their original postings in each title.

But first lets look at the definition of maturity first. Maturity: noun. 1. a being full-grown or ripe, 2. a being fully developed, complete, or ready, 3. a becoming due (Webster's New World Dictionary).

The Characteristics Of Emotional Immaturity


1. Volatile Emotions Emotional volatility is indicated by such things as explosive behavior, temper tantrums, low frustration tolerance, responses out of proportion to cause, oversensitivity, inability to take criticism, unreasonable jealousy, unwillingness to forgive, and a capricious fluctuation of moods.

2. Over-Dependence Healthy human development proceeds from dependence (I need you), to independence (I don’t need anyone), to interdependence .

Over-dependence is indicated by: a) inappropriate dependence, e.g. relying on someone when it is preferable to be self-reliant, and b) too great a degree of dependence for too long. This includes being too easily influenced, indecisive, and prone to snap judgments. Overly-dependent people fear change preferring accustomed situations and behavior to the uncertainty of change and the challenge of adjustment. Extreme conservatism may even be a symptom.

3. Stimulation Hunger This includes demanding immediate attention or gratification and being unable to wait for anything. Stimulation hungry people are incapable of deferred gratification, which means to put off present desires in order to gain a future reward. Stimulation hungry people are superficial and live thoughtlessly and impulsively. Their personal loyalty lasts only as long as the usefulness of the relationship. They have superficial values and are too concerned with trivia (their appearance, etc.). Their social and financial lives are chaotic.

4. Egocentricity Egocentricity is self-centeredness. It’s major manifestation is selfishness. It is associated with low self-esteem. Self-centered people have no regard for others, but they also have only slight regard for themselves. An egocentric person is preoccupied with his own feelings and symptoms. He demands constant attention and insists on self-gratifying sympathy, fishes for compliments, and makes unreasonable demands. He is typically overly-competitive, a poor loser, perfectionistic, and refuses to play or work if he can’t have his own way.

A self-centered person does not see himself realistically, does not take responsibility for his own mistakes or deficiencies, is unable to constructively criticize himself, and is insensitive to the feelings of others. Only emotionally mature people can experience true empathy, and empathy is a prime requirement for successful relationships.

Signs Of Emotional Immaturity

1. Taking no responsibility for what happens. If a person consistently plays "victim" about events and is unable to reflect on what he or she did to contribute to the result, it's a red light. Accountability is the sign of the opposite: mature people consider what they did - and might have otherwise done - for the result at hand. They also take responsibility for the actions.

2. Making conversations "all about me".
An emotionally immature person steers conversations to ensure he or she is the center of the topic. Immature people also interpret discussions about issues through a "personal filter" that makes the issue about them. They have difficulty separating issues from their ego or personal reactions to the topic.

3. Talk more than listen. Authentic listening requires one to learn about the views and thoughts of others. As a result of it, people deepen their understanding, compassion and empathy. An immature person does not take the time to do this. As a result, they cannot deepen their emotional awareness.

4. Quick to anger or blow a fuse. Emotionally immature people react impatiently, throw a tantrum, swear, act out or get belligerent when things don't go the way they want or expect. They do not mange frustration with the realities of life well, nor manage easily unexpected transitions in processes or routines. Rather than draw on inner tolerance or belief in oneself to manage change, the emotionally immature have a melt-down. An emotionally mature person takes an inner look, reflects, considers the best outcome desired and decides what action will most likely bring that about.

5. Makes thinking errors. Many of the behaviors of the emotionally immature come from flaws in their logic. They often misinterpret social cues, jump to conclusions that are not well thought through or get stuck by beliefs about themselves or others that make it difficult for them to see their own error in thought. It's a form of mental stubbornness. An emotionally mature person opens up to others suggestions or reasoning and considers how it might alter how to consider a topic differently.

It's common to see these behaviors in children, to which we can say "time is on their side". It becomes less easy to be patient with these behaviors when an adult does them. It is easy to disparage such a person by saying "he's juvenile" or "she's high maintenance" behind his or her back. Consider this: it takes emotional maturity to sit down with such a person and candidly suggest, instead, personal counseling or coaching. It could change a life to show someone cares.

The Characteristics Of Emotional Maturity

Characteristics Of Emotional Maturity

1. The ability to experience and understand our own deepest feelings and needs, and to be able to act on and express these feelings and needs in appropriate and constructive ways. This is opposite from "acting-out" our needs in unconscious, destructive patterns of behavior. This aspect of maturity includes the ability to experience and tolerate especially intense feelings - which inevitably occur in life - and to be able to appropriately express these feelings, or contain them until an appropriate and responsible means for expressing them is available.

2. The ability to act on and react to life circumstances with intelligence, sound judgment and wisdom. This aspect of maturity is opposite the tendency to act impulsively, without taking the opportunity to think through our actions or consider their consequences. (Wisdom: having the quality of good judgment, learning and erudition, soundness.)

3. The ability to recognize, empathize with, and respect the feelings and needs of others. This is opposite from a selfish and chronic preoccupation with our own needs, with no awareness of, or sensitivity to, the needs of others.

4. The ability to delay the immediate satisfaction of our own needs, so that we may attend to other more pressing needs or actions. This is opposite from a condition in which our immediate needs always take precedence over all other needs.

5. The ability to love - to allow another's needs, feelings, security, and survival to be absolutely paramount - just as if these were our own.

6. The ability to adapt flexibly and creatively to life's changing circumstances and conditions. This is distinct from the tendency to respond to life's challenges in rigid, outmoded behavior patterns that are no longer particularly effective or appropriate.

7. The ability to channel our energy, both positive and negative, into constructive contributions to ourselves, to others, and to our communities.

8. The willingness and ability to be responsible and accountable for our own circumstances and actions in life, and the ability to differentiate our responsibilities from those of others. This is distinct from blaming others and seeing ourselves primarily as the victim of other's behavior, or from maintaining a sense that we are somehow responsible for the happiness and well-being of all those around us. Responsibility arises from a stance of strength and competence; it does not include pronouncements of blame, shame, guilt, or moral inferiority/superiority, as all these are judgments added to the basic condition of responsibility.

9. The ability to relate comfortably and freely with others, to like and be liked by others, and to maintain healthy and mutually satisfying relationships. The ability to choose and develop relationships that are healthy and nurturing, and to end or limit relationships that are destructive or unhealthy.

20 Defining Characteristics Of A Mature Adult

1. Realizing that maturity is an ongoing process, not a state, and continuously striving for self improvement.
2. Able to manage personal jealousy and feelings of envy.
3. Has the ability to listen to and evaluate the viewpoints of others.
4. Maintains patience and flexibility on a daily basis.
5. Accepts the fact that you can’t always win, and learns from mistakes instead of whining about the outcome.
6. Does not overanalyze negative points, but instead looks for the positive points in the subject being analyzed.
7. Is able to differentiate between rational decision making and emotional impulse.
8. Understands that no skill or talent can overshadow the act of preparation.
9. Capable of managing temper and anger.
10. Keeps other people’s feeling in mind and limits selfishness.
11. Being able to distinguish between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.
12. Shows confidence without being overly arrogant.
13. Handles pressure with self composure.
14. Takes ownership and responsibility of personal actions.
15. Manages personal fears.
16. Able to see the various shades of grey between the extremes of black and white in every situation.
17. Accepts negative feedback as a tool for self improvement.
18. Aware of personal insecurities and self-esteem.
19. Able to separate true love from transitory infatuation.
20. Understanding that open communication is the key to progression.

The Point Of The Lists

The point of all of these lists is not to judge someone. Its not to offend someone, either. Its to show you the journey that the woman in the story, from the beginning of this discussion, has taken.

From the beginning of her life into her early 20s, she had things holding back her developmental growth emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. These things overrode the things that should have taken place within her adolescent life, such as self examination and development of an identity separate from anyone else. And instead she developed a personality that was reflective of what others thought she should be. And from this she shaped herself to accommodate people without any real thought to her own needs, wants, desires, and/or dreams, because they were secondary. And all of this stems from the occurrence, within her formative years, where the focus of the brain was transferred from development to survival because of the traumatic experiences she suffered through.

So the lists, like the story itself, speak to her journey from a more immature mentality that is unable to focus on more than survival to a more mature mentality of thriving where in one develops hopes and dreams of their own.

The Delayed Reaction

In this case, as we've noted above, there was a delayed reaction in the emotional development of this person. Things, from her formative years, stood in her way to developing a normal human psyche that goes from dependence (I need you) to independence (I need no one) to interdependence (We need each other). And instead of finding independence, which tends to happen in the adolescent years, she became mired in the dependence phase, from her formative years. Thus, the delayed reaction in her development.

The Empath

Now that you've viewed this process through someone else's story, what about you? At first it was separated from you by someone else's story, but what happens when we internalize this process? Our stories probably aren't as dramatic or as harrowing as that woman's story. Or perhaps they are. I'm not here to say they are or aren't and thats not even really the point of this discussion.

The point here is to look inward and see where you stand. Your first reaction might be to jump directly to emotional maturity and wear it as a badge. But that is self defeating, because it denigrates the journey you've walked all your life. It pushes it away, because it hits to close to home, and says 'THATS NOT ME!!'.

But what if it is? What if knowing where you stand now can help you see the path you've walked thus far and the path you have yet to walk in the future?

If this doesn't apply to you or you decide to turn away in disgust, that's alright. Its completely understandable. This is a hard discussion and not one everyone is going to look on with favor.

For Empaths, though, this is an important question because upon discovering who and what we are, we begin to search for meaning in our lives ~ for purpose. It stops being a curse wherein we continually feel as though we are drowning. And instead it becomes something we look to control and maintain in balance, so that we can have more productive lives. And when we hit that point, we are just like the woman in the story, who begins to slowly rebuild her life.

So, there is much food for thought there. Think about it. Think about yourself. Think about where you've been, where you are now, and where you are going. And most of all, think about what you want in life. Because all of them are within reach.

1 comment:

  1. Don't have words to describe this article, just mailed this to friends , Once again bow to you.