Emotional adulthood is best understood by contrasting it to emotional childhood.
Children do not have the neurological development to understand what they think and feel, so they believe external sources are responsible for their feelings.
They react to their emotions.
They throw temper tantrums, blame, shut down, and avoid.
As they should until their brains are more developed and they can learn to take responsibility for their feelings.
When we reach adulthood, our brains are developed enough to be aware of our thoughts.
We can think about what we think about and, therefore, take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings.
The truth is external sources, such as people or circumstances, do not create our feelings.
Our thoughts about people or circumstances create our feelings.
This is why many people can experience the same circumstance and have very different thoughts and feelings about it. (The pandemic, anyone?)
This is good news.
We don’t want our feelings to be at the mercy of other people or circumstances because they are beyond our control.
What we can control is how we think, how we feel, and how we respond.
When you learn to take responsibility for your feelings and manage them in a mature way, you will be in control of being the person you want to be rather than acting like an out-of-control child and being stuck in unhealthy patterns of behavior.
From this mature place, we take action that produces the results and the life we want.
Just knowing this is possible is liberating.
For years I had no idea.
I believed my moods were at the mercy of the driver that cut me off, my misbehaving children, my irritable husband, or the economy.
How freeing to know that I get to think and feel however I want, whenever I want, and therefore, have a powerful impact on my environment.
Unfortunately, no classes are offered in high school or college on being an emotional adult, so this is a huge challenge for most of us.
However, the benefits of freedom, love, and self-control make the learning process so worthwhile.
As promised, next week, I will share a summary of the process I teach my clients.
Until then, pay attention and notice when and what you are feeling.
Awareness is the most important part of the process, as many of us have learned to ignore, avoid, and push down our very normal, very healthy, very helpful emotions.
Be curious. Be compassionate.
And be ready to become an emotional adult.