Many thanks to Ben and Todd, two of my absolute favorite guys! I love their advice here. Thanks also to our reader, Kami, for the excellent question!
The QUESTION from our Reader:
How do I achieve emotional maturity?
(Background: I recently ended a serious-picking-the-wedding-date-serious relationship due to my emotional immaturity. "Emotional maturity" means "ability to assess and proactively handle varying levels of stressful/difficult situations in an adult, calm, and healthy manner" (to me). My desire is emotional maturity in all aspects of life, beyond romantic entanglements. I'm looking for loving advice. Thanks!)
The ANSWER from Single Guys:
Emotional maturity is a multi-faceted trait, which in my mind goes far beyond simply handling stress well. It includes characteristics such as self-awareness, self-control, empathy and being accepting of reality (among other things). These are capacities that naturally develop over time as we grow into adulthood and beyond. So, I don't think there is an easy or simple solution for increasing emotional maturity that would apply to most people, but here are a few suggestions of activities that might help. 1) Spend some time daily reflecting on your feelings and trying to understand why you feel the way you do. 2) Record these thoughts and feelings in a journal and occasionally review what you've written. 3) Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend and ask for his/her perspective. 4) Regularly spend time giving service to others. Pretty basic, I know. But I believe practices like these can develop ones emotional maturity, just like exercise causes an adaptive response in ones body.
What you're describing as "emotional immaturity" sounds like unrestrained anxiety, fear that something will go awry, that life will not turn out as planned. And something will go awry. And plans will never come to fruition in exactly the manner predicted. Emotional maturity is the ability to have the confidence to proceed anyway. My coping strategy is to imagine the worst possible outcome for any given scenario. Then I dissect why that WPO really isn't so bad. Is it really such a big deal if she says no when I ask for her phone number? No. If I get fired, will all life as I know it come to an end? Probably not. Now that I've faced the WPO, any other outcome seems like a cake walk. If I make a wrong decision something disastrous might happen, but it probably won't. And if it does, I'll deal with it then. No use turning your car for a bend in the road you haven't reached yet.
Stayed tuned to read answers from other panel members this month . . .