Emotional childhood is when grown adults have not matured past childhood in terms of managing their emotions. This means they react to their emotions, act out, or avoid emotions rather than taking full responsibility and choosing thoughts that will create more desirable and appropriate emotions.
In short, emotional childhood is not taking responsibility for how you feel.
We call ourselves adults, but most of us are still functioning as emotional children. It’s not something we do on purpose; most of our parents still function as emotional children, perpetuating the cycle.
We are responsible for how we feel in every moment. We are in charge of how we think, and we are in charge of how we feel.
When we are functioning as emotional children, we are blaming other people for how we feel, for how we act, and for the results we get in our life.
WHY IT’S A COMMON PROBLEM
There is no class offered in college or high school that teaches us how to be emotional adults. The truth is, however, that once we have reached adulthood, our brains are developed enough to be able to understand what we’re thinking.
We’re capable of reflecting on our thoughts and therefore, we can decide what to think and what to feel in any given moment, no matter what anyone else does in our lives.
As children, we don’t have this capacity. In fact, we think that everything going on in our lives is what causes our feelings, and it is only perpetuated by how we are raised.
Adults constantly make comments to children such as, “Sally, you really hurt that little girl’s feelings. You need to say you are sorry for hurting her feelings” or, “Did it hurt your feelings when that boy said those mean words to you?”
We teach children at a young age that other people are responsible for how we feel, and it becomes so ingrained in us that we don’t even question it or recognize how disempowering it is.
While children don’t have the capacity to make this distinction, many people continue to function this way as adults. Not only is this a debilitating way to live, but it also locks you in a space of blame.
We blame the government, the economy, our bosses, other people, ex-husbands, our mothers, our fathers, and our childhood. And we blame people not only for how we feel, but for the actions we take and the results we get in our lives.
The only way to achieve emotional maturity is through self-responsibility. Emotional adulthood means:
o Taking responsibility for our pain and also for our joy.
o Not expecting other people to “make” us happy.
o Not expecting others to “make” us feel secure.
o Appreciating we are the only ones who can hurt our feelings and that we do so with our own thoughts.
Taking full responsibility for every single thing we feel, no matter what someone else does or doesn’t do, is no small feat.
For most people it’s a huge challenge, but it is worthwhile when we are able to do so. Let’s look at why. Many people feel like victims and feel they are at the mercy of other people in their lives.
For example, a single mother who is trying to raise a child with her ex-husband might believe her ex is making her feel frustrated, sad, or disappointed. She is giving her ex-husband so much power over her emotional life. Of all the people in the world, is that who she wants to give this power to?
Learning to see that she is an adult and she is responsible for everything she feels can change her perspective. Furthermore, when she blames her ex-husband for how she’s feeling, it’s usually a feeling that fuels an action she doesn’t want to be taking or may later regret.
The behaviors associated with emotional childhood often resemble the behavior of a toddler: temper tantrums, rage fits, and engaging someone else in a yelling and screaming match.
The end result is a place where we don’t feel we have control over our adult selves and we, therefore, begin acting like toddlers. When we place blame on other people or our circumstances, we act out as though we have no other choice.
For example, perhaps we overeat and blame other people for making the food available. For many people, when their eating is fueled by emotional childhood, their food choices mirror this. Many choose to eat macaroni and cheese or fast food children’s hamburgers.
When we choose not to be responsible for our feelings, we also refuse responsibility for our actions.
Emotional adulthood behaviors occur when we take responsibility for how we feel and make choices for how we want to feel. When we do this, we end up so much more empowered and get to be the people we truly want to be instead of existing in this default emotional childhood space.
Rather than acting out like a child out of control, we can allow ourselves to feel our feelings without acting out to avoid, distract, or blame others. From a clean place, we take the kind of action that produces the results we really want in our lives.
Have you noticed areas in your life where you might be living in Emotional Childhood? In what ways does living in Emotional Childhood affect your behaviors and emotions? How would life be different if you were to start living in Emotional Adulthood in those areas instead?
Next up: PART 2 – THE EFFECT ON RELATIONSHIPS
I can help you discover the ways that living in Emotional Childhood could be limiting you, and I can help you learn how to start living in Emotional Adulthood. Click here to schedule a free 25-minute coaching session and you’ll learn how you can take back control of your emotions and your life.
I’m a Life Coach, specializing in helping professionals feel rejuvenated and back in control of their lives through better sleep routines. ~ Rebekah Anderson
Click here to schedule a free 25-minute coaching session with me. I will help you get on track with your routines and your life.