Amanda: Hi, welcome back to the podcast. I am Amanda.
Laura: I'm Laura
Kendra: And I'm Kendra.
Amanda: And today we are going to talk about a huge topic, which is emotional maturity. We're going to eventually, over the next few podcasts, talk about characteristics of being in emotional maturity. But we thought we probably ought to define it for you first. So there's a concept of emotional maturity and emotional childhood. Okay. So when we are kids, we are taught that the circumstances in our life are what make us feel certain things. We are taught, “Be nice to so and so, because otherwise you might hurt their feelings.” “If, when you said this, you hurt little Johnny's feelings, so you need to go apologize.” “When this happened to you, did it hurt your feelings?” Like, we are definitely taught by people who are in emotional childhood, that other things are what cause our feelings. Now we know, though, that we have to have our own thoughts about it to create our feelings. But most of us aren't, once we become adults, haven't stopped our patterns of thinking and feeling. When we stay in that disempowered place, that's called emotional childhood. When we move into an emotional adulthood, that is when we start taking responsibility and realizing that only we have control of how we feel. When we're in emotional childhood, we react to emotions. We act out in response to emotions or we even avoid them. And what's so fascinating is that when we're reacting to things, a lot of times we act, we have a tantrum or we pout or something very curious because it's very childlike in that way whenever we're acting out. The other thing, when we're avoiding emotions, when we are distracting from our emotions, a lot of times it's childlike behavior. We go eat ice cream. We're not going and searching out quinoa to satisfy our feelings. We're searching for comfort foods, the foods of our youth. The things that gave us a dopamine hit in our childhood. The reason why it's such a common problem is that not very many of us are acting out of emotional adulthood and it passes through generations. We teach what we know to our kids. So, most of us had parents that thought we needed to act a certain way so that they got to feel good. Right? Even now, I mean, I know better. But I still feel like, well, my kid needs to get all A's so that I can feel like a good parent. My kid needs to be successful so I can feel like I did a good job. That's still an emotional childhood. Only I can make myself feel okay. So we're taught as children that we need to behave in a certain way so that your parents can feel okay. So that your brother can feel okay. So that your friends can feel okay about you. That it somehow, that you're able to people please. Right? A lot of people have people pleasing tendencies and that's from trying so hard to make somebody feel a certain way. What we don't realize is that we only have control over our own emotions, but we also need to take responsibility for our own emotions. As kids, we don't have this capacity, right? We are taught that this is how it is, but now that we're adults, it's time to start leaning into it.
So what does an emotional adult look like? It means we take responsibility for our pain, but also our own happiness. You don't need somebody to do something in order to feel good. You get to choose those thoughts to make it. It means not expecting other people to make us happy. It means not expecting others to make us feel secure. It's appreciating that we are the only ones that can hurt our feelings and we do so with our thoughts. I had an issue with, I expected my job to have the same values that I did. Right? I showed up to the same job for 15 years and every day would be so irate that we were doing things a certain way, that the waiting room was full, that all of this sort of stuff. That gave all of my emotional control to the waiting room, to the people who made the decisions about staffing, to the people who allocated funds in that hospital. The whole time it was available to me to accept reality and realize that the only reason why those were hurting my feelings or making me upset or, you know, giving me my emotional moment, is because I thought it should have been different. I had thoughts of how things should be. Which is, as you know, super toxic. Always when should's involved, it is super toxic. But each day I would be renewed with rage once again, because things were how they are. Once I started realizing, I'm in a rage a lot. You know why? Because it's me. That's enraging myself. And so once I was like, wait a second, no one can make me feel this sort of rage, except for me. And you know what? I want to feel good. I'm tired of having these little rage episodes. Right? So once I started changing my own thoughts, like here's the deal. I work for institutions and institutions behave like institutions do and it cannot affect me until I have a thought about that. That makes me feel the rage that I'm having. That's coming more from a place of emotional adulthood than emotional childhood. And it is at the root of taking back your own power. It's so freeing.
Laura: Yeah, that is so huge. So, for me personally, this looked like pulling my own power back from the past and from things that happened to me in my childhood. My dad was wonderful in a lot of ways, but struggled with addiction and multiple different addictions. And there was abuse, a variety of types in my home. And for a long time, the trauma that I experienced became a lot of who I was. And when I came to the point where I decided I needed to not focus on that as a core aspect of my personhood anymore. And started to look with curiosity at the things he did. Instead of judgment, I started to look with curiosity myself and decided that I could have a relationship with my dad that was positive. And even, he passed about five years ago, I still have a relationship with him. The relationships that we have are in our minds and even the ones that we have from the past, whether they're good or bad, that's also in our minds. The only way that that relationship from the past is real is in my brain. And I can make it about a young boy who was traumatized himself and did the best he could with what he knew or I can make it about something else, something worse. That's gonna affect me in a negative way today. But I choose to make it about the former. I choose to look with love and forgiveness to him. And take back my own power, my own responsibility for my own happiness. While certainly when we have adverse childhood events, we know that they do affect us physically and in our brains, things change, but that does not mean it has to change forever. It does not mean that we can't reclaim our power and our health and our happiness. We absolutely can. It just, it takes releasing that victim identity that I had, that's what it took. You know, I was a child of an alcoholic. Instead, I now am Laura and I've had experiences that have changed me. But now I've allowed them to be a source of strength and a source of love and compassion and grace for other people.
Amanda: I've had clients before that had traumatic things happen in their past. And what was so beautiful was they were like, you know, I think I've processed that. I think I have honored that. But what would it look like if I laid down that label that I've set for myself that I'm somehow broken. What does my life look like if I choose to give that up? And when they decided that they just had been so committed to how broken they were. And when they started letting their brains think about how they weren't and how this was a story in their past. How it was over and how they decided to choose to no longer give that event the power that they had let it have for years and years and years. It just opened up a whole realm of possibility for how they wanted their future to look like. I mean, it is your movie, your life is your movie. And we know, you know, with the traumatic stuff that's happened in the past, that makes total sense. You've gotta make peace with it if you can. But we're not saying don't process it. You need to process it. That needs to be honored, but it's up to you when you've decided it's enough! So, also emotional childhood has effects on relationships. Kendra, do you wanna tell us a little bit about that?
Kendra: Yeah. So this is kind of what you were alluding to also, Laura, when you were giving your story about your relationship with your dad. Even though he has passed, you have chosen, even in your mind, to have the different relationship. But when we operate from an emotional childhood, we actually use a lot of blame. And so we blame others for how we're feeling or we blame others for the actions they do because in a way we're kind of trying to control their actions. Because we want the result that will make us feel better. When, in reality, we can't control other people. We can't control what they're thinking, what they're saying or what their actions are. So to really base a feeling or emotion based on what someone else chooses to do is operating from that emotional childhood. And the specific example is like when we're a child, when we throw a tantrum or when your children, actually not that we're all moms or dads. When our children throw a tantrum or act out or rebel, I mean, honestly, they're trying to control the outcome. And so in essence, they're trying to control our actions. And so one of the things that I realized in my relationship with my spouse is, you know, we had went through marriage counseling and therapy at a time in our marriage that was kind of rough. But, you know, whose marriage isn't rough? Oh the ups and downs all the time. One of the things that I realized was some of the therapist's teachings were kind of like identifying what each other's needs were. And then like, once you were aware of each other's needs, then just like work to provide those needs for your spouse. And while that's all kind of good and all, that's still operating from an emotional childhood. Because you're still trying to control your spouse because your happiness is depending on how well he meets those needs and that's not really what a partnership or a relationship or a marriage should be built on. Because that's actually gonna wear out. That's gonna cause a lot of conflict and unfortunately, not work out.
Laura: Right. Could I add something there too? Like it doesn't mean you can't make requests, right? Or put down boundaries. You can do that. But with the realization that they get to be them. Say I have a boundary, no one's gonna raise their voice at me. I have to know what I'm gonna do if someone raises their voice at me and keep that boundary. But still I can be happy or content in my own life, no matter what, no matter whether they decide to respect my boundary or not.
Amanda: The other thing that's hilarious though, about being responsible for your spouse's happiness is like most of us can't even make our own self happy. So how are we gonna make somebody else happy? Maybe we just need to focus on getting ourselves okay. Right?
Kendra: Definitely. I mean, preach it sister, because that is one of the things that I know early on, even in one of the most eye opening experiences in marriage therapy was, what are your needs? And I went, I was like, “Oh, I know 'em!” And I got my little worksheet and I started to write and my pin did not move. It did not move. I was just sitting there. Like I thought, I mean, somebody asked you that question. I'm like, “Oh, I know what I need!” This is what I need, but then my pin didn't even move.
Amanda: So how is a spouse supposed to know that? You know what I mean? That's why it's such a waste of effort to try to make somebody else happy when you're not there. It's so much easier. Like if we could work on ourselves and we both show up as whole abundant humans. Wow! That's way easier than guessing at what another person needs.
Kendra: Right. And so that was pretty eye opening that I really actually didn't even know what makes me happy or what my needs were. So that was a self-discovery moment. But so many times we get into this marriage and we think like, okay, so this spouse has these needs. We have to meet these needs in order for them to be happy. So if they're happy, I'm happy. But actually that just creates a repetitive cycle of frustrations. Because I know in my marriage, my husband was able to tell me his needs. And then I felt like I was doing my best to meet them, but it was a constant cycle of non-reinforcing. So, when I met the needs, everything was like, cool, calm, collected. But then when I fell short, frustration and anger about a different situation arose, but I knew it was coming from a place of insufficient “need meeting.” Is that something? It should be. So it was like this repetitive cycle and then I just kept feeling this lack of self worth because I just kept hearing, in my mind, “you're not good enough.” You're not good enough. He never said that. He never said that to me, that I'm not good enough as a wife for him. But the problem was, I was so focused on meeting his needs and providing happiness through “need meeting” that I was never happy. And so then that bred feelings of frustration and anger, because obviously my needs were getting met. Cause I didn't even know what they were. So both endpoints were frustration and anger. As you could see, there was no moving forward. There was no growth and it was just a constant roadblock. We just kept banging our heads against the wall because it was just a constant cycle. So that just brings more frustration, obviously, then other things like situations that shouldn't be a big deal, become a big deal because they're coming from a place of insufficiency and lack and frustration and anger and all of the things. So it wasn't until I was like, what does make me happy? How do I feel happy? What are the things in my life that make me happy? Is it something I do? Is it something I feel? So I begin that self-discovery phase and then trying to then take back the ownership of the way I was feeling. Because now I know what makes me happy. Now I know the things that make me happy and I engage in those, or I seek those out now. Now I'm coming from a place of abundance and feeling emotionally full because I'm actively reaching for the things that make me happy and joyful. Now I have my control back. Now, my purpose in my marriage is not to make my husband happy, but coming to the marriage with my happiness fulfilled, my joy complete and not lacking anything. And so then I also can take responsibility for when I'm not acting out of that place of abundance. If I am frustrated and angry, because of just something that happens, a stressful day at work, or I didn't get everything done I wanted to get done, or just anything that can knock us off course a little bit. Then I will be short with my husband and take that step back and be like, “Hey, I own that. I'm being short because I'm frustrated because I didn't do this.” And then it's not really apologizing or making excuses for your behavior, but it's more like owning it. Like, “Hey, I know where I'm coming from. I apologize. I'm not acting out of a foundation of abundance right now. I'm frustrated because of that. And so I was short and I own it.” That is huge. That opens up a whole new realm of discovery. And when you start acting like that, honestly, I really feel like those seeds planted in those kinds of interactions with my husband now has a little bit started to shift him. Like, she's never said that before. That's interesting. Then process it his own way. But anyways, I'm controlling what I feel at the time and where I'm going. And now I'm not dependent on him to either make me less frustrated, less angry, more happy, more fulfilled, whatever. So, you can kind of see that honestly, when that awareness came, that was the growth that needed to happen. That was leaps and bounds even past where we made with therapy.
Amanda: Yeah, I love that you said that because one of the things that people have a big problem with is this concept of, “well, if everyone's just responsible for how they feel, then whenever you do something that maybe you regret or whatever, then that's just their problem. It's what they choose to think about it.” But you're also responsible for how you show up in the world. And my guess is you don't wanna show up in the world as somebody who is constantly doing those sorts of things. So exactly what you said, Kendra, like when we realize that we take responsibility for our own feelings, and because of that, our own actions, we are more capable of apologizing and I regret doing this. Because we are coming from that place of abundance. Yes, if somebody is feeling sad, what we do not recommend is walking up to them and being like, “well, you realize that the only reason why you're upset is your thoughts.” Highly discourage that. Let's just keep the focus on you for now. Okay. When they're ready, by your example, they can become curious as to what's changed about you. Always.
Laura: Don’t coach people without their consent.
Kendra: Obtain consent. That's always good to do before the procedure.
Amanda: That is highly recommended. But just, we just want you to consider, like, where are you blaming others for how you feel? Where are you, in your life, giving your own power away? And just start becoming curious. Wait a second. Maybe I could take responsibility for that. Maybe it is within me. What I'm thinking about this situation and what if I just work on myself for now with my own happiness, figuring out what that even looks like. So that's kind of our introduction on what emotional maturity is compared to emotional childhood. And then the next few podcasts we will visit specific examples of what that looks like in your life.
Laura: Yeah. And emotional adulthood is something that we are all constantly striving for. It's not a place that you necessarily arrive.
Amanda: Yeah. If you had parents who were emotional adults and lots of people in your life that were emotional adults. Good, but most of us didn't. And so this is going to be an unlearning process and that is okay. But we're going in the right direction.
Kendra: Yeah. And once you start or once you become aware of how we've laid it out today, what is the first step that you could take? Start to think about like, okay, how did that make me feel and how can I stop blaming? Or, how can I stop feeling the victim? What is the first step for you to start exploring how you can get your power back? How can you take that first step towards managing yourself and not being so dependent on others to provide the joy or the happiness or the contentment. So it does require work. We can't linger in this emotional childhood to move into emotional adulthood. We do have to take some responsibility and that's work. But what we do know is that it is so worth it. And once you take the first step, you're gonna be glad that you did. So let us encourage you today. Let us help you just take that first step. Let us just ignite some curious questions in you and see where we go from there. So, until next time, you are whole, you are a gift to medicine and the work you do matters.