5 Ways to Spot Emotional Immaturity – Free Ebook

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The best thing about physical maturity is that
it’s very easy to spot; we can so easily

tell when someone has another decade of growth
to go – and can therefore set our expectations,

and our levels of forbearance accordingly.
But we have no such luxury when it comes to

emotional maturity. Here we can be constantly
surprised by whom we have on our hands. The

most stunning forms of immaturity can coexist
with all the trappings of adult life and a

confident and knowledgeable manner. It may
be a long time into a love affair or working

relationship before we realise that we are
unwittingly dealing with an emotional neophyte.

It pays, therefore, to try to arrive at a
few general guidelines for how an emotionally

immature person can be spotted and if necessary
skirted very fast. Here are some of the lines

that emotionally immature people have tendencies
to come out with in conversation and that

should, at the very least, set alarms ringing:
‘I’m not so good at spending time on my

own.’ What separates the mature from the
immature is, perhaps more than anything else,

a capacity for being on their own, without
distraction, and thinking about who they are

and what they have experienced. The mature
person can allow themselves to examine and

as it were ‘feel’ their own feelings,
even when these are very difficult and hugely

unwelcome. They can stomach an encounter with
their own rage, their own envy, their own

shame. They don’t have to do what the immature
person is compelled to do: constantly find

someone or something else to prevent them
from any risk of understanding their own mind.

‘I don’t really remember much about my
childhood.’ There are very few childhoods

in which difficult things didn’t unfold.
Without anyone meaning for this to happen,

with the best intentions, children’s development
gets impeded and bruised. What counts therefore

isn’t that someone had a ‘happy’ childhood
(almost no one on the planet did entirely),

but that a person should have a calm and insightful
view of what their childhood was actually

like, in its good and bad aspects. An inability
to remember much about the past doesn’t

indicate that it was idyllic or just ‘a
long time ago…’, rather that it hasn’t

begun to be processed.
‘I’ve never really thought about that

before…’ Emotionally immature people have
great difficulties with conversations that

require them to draw on a knowledge of their
own enthusiasms, sorrows, projects and histories.

So, as one sits with them over a drink and
asks, for example, why their last relationship

broke up, or what meaningful work constitutes
for them or what they regret most from childhood,

one has an above average chance of hearing
(perhaps quite sweetly) a reply along the

lines that this is all too new and that they
have ‘never thought about this before’.

It isn’t that the emotionally immature person
is being cagey; they simply haven’t properly

inhabited, in its authentic pain and intensity,
the life they are actually leading.

‘Everything is pretty good. It’s fine,
all fine…’ It would be churlish to begrudge

anyone a good mood. Nevertheless, the emotionally
immature person isn’t often just in a good

mood, they are rigidly unable to enter a bad
one. Everything is declared fine (their parents,

job, love affair, sex life, ambitions) because
they have no resources for coping with anything

that might be more nuanced and more real,
that might entail anger, loss, confusion or

wayward desires. One comes away from a dialogue
with such a person disoriented and lonely

at the idea that any life could be quite so
cheerily one-dimensional.

‘That’s just a load of old psychobabble…’
As soon as a conversation threatens their

emotional integrity, the emotionally immature
person will shut it down with the imperious

verdict that it is a piece of over-complicated
nonsense. They appeal to an idea of robust

simplicity instead, as though the origins
of all our problems might lie in thinking

too much. It’s the sort of attitude that
might lead them to recommend that an anxious

person ‘pull themselves together’ or to
claim that a lot of mental distress comes

from not getting out enough. But of course,
none of this stems from confidence: it’s

a terrified way of blocking one’s ears and
saying ‘No’ to truths that might hurt

very much.
Emotionally immature people can be extremely

charming and at points entertaining to be
around. But as a general rule, we’d be advised

to give them a very wide berth indeed and
aim to check in on them in a decade or two.

Life is in the end far too short, far too
interesting and far too lonely to spend very

long around people who lack any interest in
trying to be, where it counts, emotional grown

ups.

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