Do you think you’re emotionally mature? Read on to know the qualities of emotionally mature people and if you are the one.
A few years ago, we had a falling out with my grandfather.
Sadly, my grandma died fairly young. Lung cancer. 2008. After her death, my grandpa started “acting out” — or at least that’s what a parent might say.
Before he retired, my grandfather was an architect and a very successful one at that. Since grandma died, however, my grandpa has been “spending the money with both hands,” as we say in Germany. Trying to fill a void that can’t be filled, he buys cars, art, and expensive clothes. He takes fancy vacations, eats out a lot, and dates women half his age who only care about his money.
He’s also completely retreated from family activities. He bailed on my sister’s concert once — before it was her turn to sing. He never shows up at our house anymore. He’s angry, erratic, and scares everyone away, even his friends.
Now, my grandpa was always a bit difficult, but I also remember him as a generous, funny, interesting man. He always had good taste, hosted great parties, and told jokes about everything. Unfortunately, that man seems gone.
Next to my aunt, I was among the last to visit him before he stopped talking to us altogether. In the end, what shocked me the most was his utter lack of perspective. He was unable to see anyone else’s point of view, and that’s why he now spends most of his time alone.
My grandpa never grew up. He is a 4-year-old child inside the body of a 79-year-old man. What my grandpa is missing — and what my grandma used to compensate for all these years — is emotional maturity.
Unlike physical development, emotional ripeness isn’t something we pick up naturally. We have to cultivate it. When children throw a hissy fit, we show them how to calm down, manage their ego, and put their emotions in context. When an old man does the same, we shake our heads in disbelief — he should have learned to process his feelings ages ago. The truth, however, is that many people don’t, and some, like my grandfather, never do.
At nearly 80 years old, I’m not holding my breath waiting for my grandpa to come around. Hope dies last, but for now, I think the best you and I can do is to learn from his mistakes. I’m only 28, but, next to observing him, I’ve also spent the last few years studying emotions in myself and others.
Here are five qualities I continue to see in those I’d call emotionally mature.
1. They Don’t Run Away
Most of our challenges today are emotional challenges. It’s not that you faint when giving a presentation to the higher-ups or that your heart stops pumping blood when your girlfriend breaks up with you — it’s that the prospect of these events conjures a plethora of difficult emotions, and those emotions make you want to escape. Emotionally mature people resist this urge.
Instead of running away and hiding, whether that’s leaving a physical location or drowning their discomfort in distractions like alcohol or entertainment, emotionally mature people sit with their pain. They stay with the discomfort until they’re able to identify their emotions. Psychologist Nick Wignall calls this emotional tolerance, and meditation is one of its key enablers.
None of us control our impulses, but by briefly pausing as they come up, we can choose the thoughts that follow those impulses. We can assess our feelings, then act on them, rather than getting hijacked and merely reacting to them. We can accept our feelings without surrendering to them — and that’s exactly what emotionally mature people do.
2. They Are Committed To Finding Emotional Clarity
The reason emotional tolerance is the most important aspect of mastering modern life’s challenges is that without it we have no chance of even figuring out why we’re struggling.
A study looking at how well children can identify emotions compared to adults found that, surprisingly, 3- and 4-year-olds were better at recognizing sadness in people’s faces than 5-year-olds and even adults. Psychologists call the skill of labeling our own feelings correctly emotional clarity.