How to Test Your Emotional Maturity – Free Ebook

One of the more puzzling aspects of the way
we’re built is that our emotional development

does not necessarily or automatically keep
pace with our physical growth. We can be fifty-five

on the outside and four and a half in terms
of our impulses and habitual manner of communicating

– just as we can be on the threshold of
adulthood physically while an emotional sage

In order to assess our own and others’ emotional

development, we can make use of a single deceptively
simple question that quickly gets to the core

of our underlying 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?
There are three methods which indicate emotionally

immature behaviour (we might grade ourselves
on a scale of 1-10 according to our propensities).

Firstly: we might sulk. That is, we simultaneously
get very upset while refusing to explain to

the person who has upset us what the problem
might be. The insult to our pride and dignity

feels too great. We are too internally fragile
to reveal that we have been knocked. We hope

against hope that another person might simply
magically understand what they have done and

fix it without us needing to speak – rather
as an infant who hasn’t yet mastered language

might a hope a parent would spontaneously
enter their minds and guess what was ailing

Secondly: we might get furious. Another response

is to get extremely, and disproportionately
angry with the disappointing person. Our fury

may look powerful, but no one who felt powerful
would have any need for such titanic rage.

Inside, we feel broken, at sea and bereft.
But our only way of reasserting control is

to mimic an aggrieved emperor or taunted tiger.
Our insults and viciousness are, in their

coded ways, admissions of terror and defencelessness.
Our pain is profoundly poignant; our manner

of dealing with it a good deal sadder.
Thirdly: we might go cold. It takes a lot

of courage to admit to someone who has hurt
us that we care, that they have a power over

us, that a key bit of our life is in their
hands. It may be a lot easier to put up a

strenuous wall of indifference. At precisely
the moment when we are most emotionally vulnerable

to a loved one’s behaviour, we insist that
we haven’t noticed a slight and wouldn’t

give a damn anyway. We may not simply be pretending:
remaining in touch with our wounds may have

become conclusively intolerable. Not feeling
anything may have replaced the enormous threat

of being fully alive.

These three responses point us in turn to
the three markers of emotional maturity:

Firstly, the Capacity to Explain. That is,
the power – simple to describe but a proper

accomplishment in practice – to explain
why we are upset to the person who has upset

us; to have faith that we can find the words,
that we are not pathetic or wretched for suffering

in a given way and that, with a bit of luck,
we will find the words to make ourselves understood

by someone whom we can remember, deep down,
even at this moment of stress, is not our

Secondly, the Capacity to stay Calm. The mature

person knows that robust self-assertion is
always an option down the line. This gives

them the confidence not to need to shout immediately,
to give others the benefit of every doubt

and not to assume the worst and then hit back
with undue force. The mature like themselves

enough not to suspect that everyone would
have a good reason to mock and slander them.

Thirdly, the Capacity to be Vulnerable The
mature know, and have made their peace with

the idea, that being close to anyone will
open them up to being hurt. They feel enough

inward strength to possess a tolerable relationship
with their own weakness. They are unembarrassed

enough by their emotional nakedness to tell
even the person who has apparently humiliated

them that they are in need of help. They trust
– ultimately – that there is nothing wrong

with their tears and that they have the right
to find someone who will know how to bear

In turn, these three traits belong to what

we can call the three cardinal virtues of
emotional maturity: Communication, Trust and

These three virtues were either gifted to

us during a warm and nourishing childhood
or else we will need to learn them arduously

as adults. This is akin to the difference
between growing up speaking a foreign language,

and having to learn it over many months as
an adult. However, the comparison at least

gives us an impression of the scale of the
challenge ahead of us. There is nothing to

be ashamed of about our possible present ignorance.
At least half of us weren’t brought up in

the land of emotional literacy. We may just
never have heard adults around us speaking

an emotionally mature dialect. So we may – despite
our age – need to go back to school and

spend 5 to 10,000 hours learning, with great
patience and faith, the beautiful and complex

grammar of the language of emotional adulthood.

our emotional barometer is a tool that can help us to more clearly explain our moods. Click the link on screen now to find out more.