Cheerio, my reader friend. Welcome to the 65th issue of Briefing Notes, a weekly newsletter that explores the well-lived midlife. I appreciate you being here. Was this email forwarded to you? Thank the awesome person then sign-up for your copy here
THE MAIN THING …
The adult in the room isn’t always the oldest person in the room. Conversely, the youngest one isn’t necessarily the most immature by default.
That’s because emotional maturity is one of those things that’s not about how long we’ve been on Earth. Just because we’re [insert age here] doesn’t mean squat.
Although we act and expect that it does.
IT HAS LITTLE TO DO WITH CHRONOLOGICAL AGE.
It is true that certain parts of the brain don’t develop fully until the mid-20s. The prefrontal cortex, among other things, is responsible for managing risk-taking behavior. And the fact that it’s pretty much under construction until around age 25 may account for why teenagers do the scary things they do.
So, that’s an element of maturity that is associated with our physiological development (and by extension, our age).
But on balance, our emotional maturity has more to do with our emotional intelligence — how we choose to respond to any given situation — rather than our age.
SO, HOW DO WE BECOME EMOTIONALLY MATURE? (asking for a friend)
Following this logic then, simply being in midlife (or past 25!) doesn’t mean we are emotionally mature.
We can be fifty-five on the outside and five and half in terms of our impulses and manners of communicating. Just the same, someone can be quite young and seem “wiser than their years”.
Some of us have had the gift of a nourishing childhood where we picked up the values and mental habits that cultivated our maturity. For many, it’s the hard slog of adult life and the well-earned lessons from experiences that shape their emotional maturity level.
In researching this topic, I realized there are tons of online quizzes that supposedly test our level of maturity — many of those seem more for entertainment purposes only. The one that I’ve included in the Interestingly section below is less a quiz and more a personal reflection tool. I found this to be more intellectually stimulating.
But School of Life proposes a simple way of gauging our maturity level. We simply ask this one deceptively simple question that goes to the heart of emotional maturity. And our response can point to our emotional ‘age’.
When someone on whom we depend emotionally lets us down, disappoints us, or leaves us hanging and uncertain, what is our characteristic way of responding?
Our response may point to the following hallmarks of immature behavior. We can grade ourselves on a scale of 1-10 according to our tendencies.
(a) sulking, i.e., simultaneously being very upset and not explaining to the person why we are upset;
(b) getting furious and extremely angry, displaying titanic rage;
(c) denying our feelings, putting up a wall of indifference, and saying we don’t care.
(How are you doing so far? I share my personal answer to this in The Last Word section below.)
These three types of responses then point us to the main markers of emotional maturity.
Being emotionally mature can have a positive impact on our relationships. But more than that, I think we need emotional maturity for ourselves — to give us a better ability to navigate the ups and downs while living our lives.
It keeps us from acting out in ways that are against our own interests and are inconsistent with the person we want to be.
Emotional maturity may not prevent disappointments and frustrations but it gives us a better chance of not being felled by them.
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- What is maturity? What is that quality of maturity that marks the adult we need in the room? Dr. Eric S. Jannazzo makes the case that we need maturity of each other and for ourselves.
- When do we know we are emotionally mature? The School of Life lists 26 very specific scenarios that suggest our level of maturity.
- The Ultimate Test of Emotional Maturity. This is the full-length article that expands on our response to that one simple question. If you scrolled down fast, it’s what I talked about in the Main Section above.😉
- 7 Tips to Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child. As parents, we are naturally attuned to our kids’ physical health. How often do we take the time to sit back and ask ourselves: how emotionally healthy are our children?
- Video: The difference between adults and grown-ups | TED Talk. Dr. Lisa Damour differentiates the ‘merely adult’ from the really grown up. This is an oldie but a goodie! And really good if you’ve got a teenager or two. You may find yourself laughing and nodding vigorously.
MULL IT OVER
“What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use that power wisely. From an acting standpoint, that’s how I approach the part.” — Christopher Reeves
TALK TO ME
Soooo, do you find yourself often the adult in the room? Hit ‘reply’ and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.
Have you got a project (a new podcast, a new website, a new product, service, artwork, what have you) that you would like to get featured here? Hit ‘reply’ and tell me about it. Let’s support each other!
REMEMBER THE TIME…
… before DVRs and we had to be home to watch TV — unless you were able to figure out how to schedule the dang VCR to record automatically, in which case 🙌🏼.
This month twenty years ago, these were the Top 10 TV shows we were running home to watch:
Cheers, 60 Minutes, Roseanne, A Different World, The Cosby Show, Murphy Brown, Empty Nest, America’s Funniest Videos, The Golden Girls, Designing Women.
I saw some Cheers, some Murphy Brown, and a few of The Golden Girls. What were you watching?
One more week until Season 7 — and the big announcement 🤭.
In the meantime, here’s a short list of some of my favorite podcasts that help me be a little bit more mature, a little bit healthier mentally, and a little closer to the person I want to be.
how am i doing?
Briefing Notes is researched, written, and edited by me alone. I love doing this work and my goal always is to earn a welcomed and anticipated spot in your inbox. If you like or find value in this newsletter, please consider buying me a coffee (or two)! I love putting together this newsletter… and your support would mean the world!
Okay. Time to fess up.
I very rarely display titanic rage. And I don’t like myself when I sulk, so I tend not to do that.
But I am quite good at denial and putting up a wall of indifference. This has been my coping mechanism for as long as I can remember.
Here’s the thing: This response mechanism may help me in the immediate instance. But it only adds up to tremendous hurt in the long run.
So, that’s the work I’ve been focused on. Bringing down the wall. Finding the words to communicate and learning to accept my vulnerability.
How about you? How did you fare?
Here’s to a productive and easeful week ahead.