counseling, emotionalimmaturity, goals, happiness, psychology, self-help

Building an Emotional Backbone: A Family System Approach

Do you often feel taken advantage of by others? Is it a struggle for you to speak up for yourself? Do you find yourself saying yes when you want to say no? Do you feel the need to have other people’s approval?

Are you uncomfortable with asserting yourself? Do you get angry at how other people live their lives?

Do you find you allow yourself to be controlled by other people? Do you find yourself trying to control others? If you do, it is time to build up your emotional backbone.

I think there are many misconceptions about what an “emotional backbone” is.

Having an emotional backbone is pivotal to self-differentiation, a Bowen Family System concept. Self-differentiation is the ability to separate feelings from thoughts.

People who are poorly self-differentiated have difficulty separating their own feelings from other people’s feelings; they often look to other people to define how they think about issues, feel about people, and interpret their experiences.

A person who is self-differentiated has an emotional backbone–they do not look to their family, friends, or partner to define them. This means being able to have different values and opinions from other people in your life but be able to stay emotionally connected to them.

It is being able to lovingly detach from people who are not emotionally healthy and will inevitably impede on your growth and development. You cannot truly become self-differentiated and simultaneously participate in perpetuating dysfunctional relationship patterns.

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Developing an emotional background when raised in a dysfunctional family system is often difficult for the individual. This is where counseling can be very beneficial to becoming someone with a strong emotional backbone.

An emotional backbone is a sign of strength of character. It is an unwillingness to be used, to be taken for granted, to be mistreated, to be abused, and a firm commitment to uphold one’s beliefs and values.

Do you have a strong emotional backbone? Ask yourself the following:

1)Do you resent others?

2)Do you often complain to no avail? Do your complaints fall on deaf ears?

3)Do you avoid conflict?

4)Do you say yes when you want to say no?

5)Do you feel taken advantage of?

6)Do you feel unappreciated?

7)Do you allow your anger to build and come out in unhealthy ways?

8)Do you compromise your self-care?

9)Do you people please?

10)Do you seek the approval of others?

11)Do you allow others to mistreat you?

These are a job signs you may be struggling with developing a strong emotional backbone.

Oftentimes, I believe people confuse being louder, being stronger, saying things more angrily, speaking up without knowing how the relationship is going to be effected by your words, or speaking from the unhealthy part of oneself is having an emotional backbone. This is not what having an emotional backbone is.

Yet this is common in a dysfunctional family system which plays out in ALL our relationships not just with members of our family of origin.

This type of dysfunction often serves the status quo instead of being a catalyst for healthy change in our lives, causing the same unhealthy cycles to play out over and over again over the course of one’s life.

Switching between persecutor and victim is common in a dysfunctional relationship.  It goes round and round–certainly not my idea of having an emotional backbone. This is just people switching chairs at the same concert.

Persecutors criticize and blame the victim, can be very controlling, rigid, angry, and unpleasant.  The victim see themselves as powerless, helpless,  hopeless, and can want kid glove treatment from others.

A person with a developed emotional backbone sees themselves as able to determine the conditions of their life including what relationship patterns they will be an active participant in.

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Counterdepedents are controllers. Very much the persecutors.

Codependents are people pleasers. Very much the victims.

Neither have healthy, strong emotional backbones.

Many people who grew up in dysfunctional families find themselves in relationships with codependents and counter dependents. Codependents are people who come from the mindset of “I am not okay, you ARE okay.” Counter dependents come from the position, “I AM okay, you are NOT okay.”

This is based on transactional analysis. Below are the different approaches:

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Developing an emotional backbone requires a healthier approach, ie the “I am okay, you are okay” perspective. However, this is not likely with a person who is codependents or counter dependent.

I believe a strong, developed emotional backbone is crucial to having and maintaining healthy relationships. If you do not have an I am okay, you are okay approach you are going to perpetuate dysfunctional patterns in your relationships.

Most of us desire an emotional backbone–a strong sense of self, an ability to be less reactive, less shaken by conflicts, to be able to express our wants/need clearly, to stand firm with boundaries, to say no in a healthy way without guilty, want to reduce dysfunctional relationship patterns, to not undermine ourself, and to discover who we truly are.

To have a strong emotional background is to become WHO you truly are–not who others want or need you to need you to be. Only when you get to this point can you give and receive REAL love.

When we try to change ourselves from the outside in, we often feel defeated when we find ourselves back in our old ruts. We find we cannot keep the change going.

It can hard to catalyze change in our life and relationships if we are not self-differentiated. A person who is NOT differentiated will struggle with change.

For instance perhaps you are a person who knows YOU NEED to start to SPEAK up for yourself. Well-meaning family and friends often tell you to start speaking up for yourself.  But for you, it has always been a struggle for you to speak your piece. The difficulty is there is likely an entrenched pattern that exists in your relationships, with relationship imbalances, thus it can be risky for you to start to assert yourself. IF you speak up, that can cause problems and difficulties, especially if you are not prepared for how to handle other people’s reactivity.

If you do not know what your next step is, if you cannot predict possible outcomes, often that one little tip “you need to speak up” is not helpful. You need to be OKAY with ANY possible outcome as controlling other people’s reactions is not realistic. Knowing we cannot control other people is just a given for a self-differentiated individual, but for a person who has not achieved this level of self-differentiation, they work hard to control other people’s reactions and the outcomes of situations.

For example, a wife goes home to her husband and says she needs some time for herself. She is always taking care of the house, the kids, working. She read she needs to “speak up for herself.” Her friends and family have been encouraging her to start “speaking up.” Her husband, on the surface, allows her the time and agrees she deserves it. The wife decides to plan a ladies night out for the first time in YEARS. But then her husband ends up calling/texting her numerous times that night when she is having said time for herself out of his own anxiety, ruining her alone time, and the wife says it just isn’t worth it and ends up giving up on getting her needs met. No more ladies nights out for her!

Standing up for yourself is not going to be effective if you have not ALREADY done the emotional legwork on developing an emotional backbone. There is A LOT more to developing an authentic emotional backbone and a lot more going on than just “speaking up for yourself.”

To build an emotional backbone, you need to be able deal with the fight between us AND us–not between us and others. Not everyone will agree with your priorities but when you have an emotional backbone you know that is their prerogative. It is not going to impact how your choose to conduct your life. You live your life according to your values and beliefs, not needing and requiring the validation of others. You know anyone worth having in your life will respect you and your values.

This is true self-differentiation. This is having an emotional backbone.

Power and growth needs to happen within me before I can expect others to take me seriously, to respect me, to hear me, things need to happen within me. Often we do not do this self work, we just expect it to happen with OTHER people and then wonder why it doesn’t.

You need to take yourself seriously before you can expect others to take you seriously. 

Healing and recovering from your own demons will begin to stop the fight between you and you.

Others often take advantage of the internal fight we experience. The reason people who are self-differentiated can remain firm and set boundaries is because they do not feel too much guilt, shame, or fear abandonment because they already HEALED those parts of themself and their childhood wounds.

Feeling guilt, shame, and fear of abandonment are all signs of an undifferentiated individual.

Too much fear of rejection means you have work to do on yourself. The need for approval from others means you have a long way to go on your journey to self-differentiation.

How can you develop and strengthen YOUR emotional backbone?

One, we have to deal with the internal before we deal with the external. We have to do the work on ourself before we can begin to develop better relationships with other people in our life. Only when we have a healthy relationship with ourself can we have healthy relationships with others.

Second, it is important to recognize that to have an emotional backbone does not occur because we learned a few simple behavioral changes or assertiveness changes. To have long-lasting success, deeper issues and systemic stuckness needs to be addressed, which is why counseling can be such a real benefit.

Through counseling, you can learn to calm yourself in highly charged emotional relationship situations. If we cannot calm ourselves, we will fall back into the ruts of the past and our emotional demons will take ourself. Emotional regulation is a must to developing an emotional backbone.

Thirdly become an expert on YOU. I don’t mean become selfish. I mean become an expert on YOUR thoughts and emotions, NOT an expert on the thoughts and emotions of OTHERS. If you are caught up in trying to figure out what other people are thinking and feeling, you are in a state of enmeshment. It is NOT your job to figure out the emotional map of others.

Oftentimes, we are far too much an expert on others and NOT an expert on ourselves.

Fourth, we need to let go of our naive and immature illusions, which allows us to grow up emotionally (although many people don’t want to do this because it is hard to grow up emotionally). Our illusions keep us WEAK and SOFTEN our emotional backbone. Being emotionally grown up means managing our feelings, not trying to manage the feelings of others.

Having an emotional backbone means being willing and able to let go of getting our needs met by other people. To let go of our illusions that others can make us happy and fulfilled.

These illusions might be: I NEED my father to love me, I NEED my mother to be proud of me, I NEED everyone to get along to be happy and whole, I NEED my husband to think I am special to be happy, I NEED my kids to not hurt my feelings so I can feel good about myself, I NEED others to stop betraying me to be happy, I NEED others to follow my advice to feel happy, I NEED my wife to love me so I can be happy…..

Do any of these sound familiar? These are some of the illusions we have that keep up from having a good and healthy emotional backbone.

Emotional grown-ups own their own stuff and leave other people to take ownership of THEIR stuff. We feel empathy but know we cannot do the self-development work for others.

Fifthly, deal with any codependency issues, emotional fusion, enmeshment, all of which will be required to develop an emotional backbone.

People with an emotional backbone are able to love and care for themselves. They are flexible and do not need to be propped up by others.

Sixth, doing self-care can help develop an emotional backbone.

Self-care is an important part of our well-being.

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Being a self-differentiated individual with an emotional backbone is the foundation of having healthy relationships with one self and others.

The truth is when you have a strong emotional backbone, you are not trying to control others. Simultaneously, you are also NOT allowing others to control you. Before you can be with someone with an emotional backbone, you need to develop your own.

Most people are unaware if they are indeed conducting their lives with a lack of self-differentiation. They are not even conscious of how fused their feelings are with other people’s.

People may mature physically, have careers, get married, have children yet STILL be an emotional child. This is what much of Murray Bowen’s research and literature posits.

Lacking an emotional backbone is often due to unresolved childhood issues, the defenses one develops in childhood, and ongoing emotional pain.

I truly believe developing an emotional backbone is the cornerstone to a happy and focused life. It is crucial for having healthy relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners.

People with an emotional backbone are rational, follow through on goals, have equality in their relationships, have final say on their decisions, respect other people’s decisions, and KNOW what they think and feeling outside of the noise and chatter from others.

If you feel you are struggling with developing an emotional backbone, counseling can be a great place to start the process.

To schedule a counseling session with me:

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

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counseling, goals, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Why We Love Putting People in a Box and Why We Should Reevaluate Our Views on Ourselves, Others, and Life In General

On this journey through life, we are different people at various points in our journey. Surely you are not the same person at 48 that you were at 18.

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Yet the people in our lives often view us as who we were when they met us. More often than not it will be a struggle for them to shift their perception of you. Once they view you a certain way, regardless of the changes and progress you make in your life, it may be a challenge for them to take you out of the “box” they put you in.

This is why if you ask five people to describe someone, you will likely get five extremely varied answers. We meet people at different points in time impacting our perception of the individual.

Even our own self-concept may be reflective of a point in time that no long holds true today. Ask yourself when is the last time you took stock of who you are TODAY not who you were years ago? Do you still view yourself as an extrovert because growing up you liked to go out and socialize but now you spend your weekends at home on the couch dreading the mere thought of going to a party? Do you consider yourself a career driven person but have not been in the workforce in five, ten, fifteen years? Do you view yourself as athletic but have not been in shape since your college years? Often we do not update our self-concept as we evolve through life.

There is no right or wrong here. But at different stages of our life, to an extent, our identity shifts. You are a different “you” as a child vs. college student vs. a young professional vs. a person balancing career and family vs. someone who is retired. Yet oftentimes we hold onto an identity that is no longer valid which can in turn create conflict within ourselves and with the outside world.

Our self-concepts are not always perfectly aligned with reality. Our perceptions of others are not either. While we all tend to distort reality to a certain degree, congruence occurs when self-concept is fairly well aligned with reality. 

Try to reflect on the following three questions:

  • Do you think your view of yourself is how other people view you?
  • Can you think of someone you and a friend view completely differently?
  • Do you believe most people are aware of how others perceive them?

Too many people live on auto pilot. Many of us do not reflect on our beliefs of ourselves, others, and life in general to see if they are still relevant or hold true to this day.

People use labeling as a tool to resolve the complexity of their environments. It is easier to put people in categories than take the time to analyze the complexities of the individual (complexities which we all have). It is simpler and easier to label and categorize. The same can hold true for the views we hold of ourselves.

Not only do we tend to stereotype people, but once we label someone, we fight like hell to keep them in that category. Even if the face of evidence to the contrary. This helps to mitigate our cognitive dissonance.  (Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of mental discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance).

Ironically enough as clinicians we HAVE to use diagnostic labels to interpret clients’ behavior to bill insurance companies. I am not a big fan of such protocol but it is a requirement for insurance companies to cover services. I feel people are so much more than the categories we put them in.

Yet in private practice we are able to change the diagnostic label as a client progresses through treatment. In day-to-day life, it seems our labels tend to be more rigid and fixed.

We label people: talkative, outgoing, shy, kind, rude, evil, sweet, smart, dumb, hardworking, successful, not successful, rich, poor, the list goes on and on.

More often than not I find people do not like to change their long-held views or labels. Of themselves OR others. Once they made up their mind on WHO someone is–it is what it is.

Even if they experience discomfort in the face of evidence which is contrary to their preconceived views, they will work hard to twist the truth and to justify their faulty perceptions. To reduce the discomfort, they will often use a myriad of defense mechanism (ex. denial, projection, rationalization) to mitigate any cognitive dissonance between themselves and the target of their label/judgement.

We also do the same with the view we hold of ourselves. And of life in general (we see this play out all the time in political discussions).

Not everyone, but many people seem to struggle with changing how they view a person (or oneself) once their mind has formed an opinion.

It is like our mind is a file cabinet. When we see someone we unconsciously pull the file on that person. The problem is we may have not updated our files in 5, 10, 15, 20 years or more.

For instance, one woman I know has repeatedly pointed out to me a mistake a person had made in college. The thing is the woman in question is well into her FORTIES. Thus this person is judging someone based on a mistake made over 20 years ago.  The person was using this mistake, from twenty years ago, as a reflection on this person’s present day character. In reality, this woman was a totally different person in the here and now. This type of type casting is reflective on this rigid, inflexible categorizing, people have a tendency to indulge in. Perhaps you have your own examples coming to mind.

The thing you may notice is that people like to stereotype you. They are going to do all in their power to put you in a box based on how you look, where you work, and where you live particularly at the point in time they met you. This allows them to mentally file you away alongside the thousands of other boxes consuming their mental files.

I have seen this commonly occur in families. It’s all an inside job. The only way we’re able to look at the world is through our own unique lens.

The truth is, all of us are capable real and meaningful change, but we often criticize those who display it. For some, having people “figured out” is preferable to actually figuring them out.

People do not want to take the time to reevaluate a person or their relationship to said person based on the here and now. What compels us to define ourselves and others by often narrow parameters, putting us into categories? People are busy and people are lazy. It is convenient. Labels enable people to make what they believe to be useful generalization. We then use these labels to justify our own behavior in turn.

This can in turn make us feel we know what is best for other people. This is a side effect of our short-sighted judgments. This has been done to me and I know I have done this from time to time with others.  It’s one thing if someone’s actions and behavior are directed at us personally, but when those decisions aren’t,  intervening, will bring about anger and frustration. We use our labels and generalizations to rationalize our actions towards others.

Labels have a way of dehumanizing people. It is okay to have different values. Life is a lot more complex than many of us are willing to acknowledge. 

Yet when we think we know what’s best for someone’s else life, what we are essentially doing is failing to recognize we are all unique people with different values. Keeping people in a box helps us to feel in control. Thus instead of accepting someone as they are NOW, we fight to view them as something we are comfortable with. When we view a person as who they were ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, it can be hard to connect with them if we are not able to communicate with who they are in the here and now.

Do you see the issues that can arise with this type of thinking? Of stereotyping someone and imposing your opinion of what’s best? This type of thinking and behavior plays out often in our society including our political landscape.

Perhaps you have been there before. Someone hurts you and you decide they did it because they’re an evil or bad person. You disregard all evidence to the contrary. When someone else speaks kindly of them, you assume that person does not know the “real” them like you do. Or someone says something that threatens a belief you hold dear, so you decide they’re wrong. Maybe you view yourself a certain way and when someone says something that contradicts this view, you attack them.

We fight fiercely to hold onto our beliefs. We push hard to get people to act in a way we deem best. At the core, this is about feeling secure and comfortable.

Yet being emotionally and mentally healthy means not labeling other people and putting them in boxes that we file away. It means giving ourselves and others the freedom to change.

We are not meant to be put in boxes. As people, we are always growing, changing, and evolving (hopefully that is).

In a way if you are not growing, you are dying.

When we look around at other people, we tend to be naturally drawn to people like us. Conversely, we may be repelled by certain types of people who seem very unlike us. This is why change can feel so threatening. Again, we see this play out in the political realm. But for our own peace of mind we need to begin to see most people do not fit neatly into categories. Life is messy. Things change. People are constantly in flux. The world is constantly moving forward–whether we are on board or not.

As it relates to ourselves, progress is important to be being happy. As humans if we are not growing more often than not we are not going to feel fulfilled. Think of people who have not changed any aspect of their life in five, ten, fifteen, twenty years (maybe you are thinking of yourself). These people in all likelihood lack a vibrancy to them. The thing is growth has a sense of aliveness to it. What makes us feel alive is progress.

The time has come for us to start thinking OUTSIDE the box instead of forcing others (and ourselves) into a box. The time has come to begin making progress in our own lives and allowing others to evolve. Let us not continue to box ourselves or others in.

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To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, humility, prosocialbehavior, psychology, self-help

Practicing Humility: Why Pride is Nothing to Be Proud Of

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Humility is an under-appreciated quality in our society.

By definition:

  • humility

the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others; lack of pride

Now, I ask, by this definition, do you feel you possess humility?
Or do you find that most people you encounter possess humility?

 

Humility is an important quality to possess. Being humble is about being self-aware–being able to recognize and accept one’s limitations as an individual and human being.

When you are humble you are able to put your strength, talents, and accomplishments in perspective.  You are also able to recognize the strengths, talents, and accomplishments of OTHER PEOPLE.

Humble people are able to value the well-being of other people–thus being both other regarding AND self-regarding.

It does not take long in getting to know someone to see if these possess a sense of humility.

Humility shines through in our interactions with others and the way we conduct ourselves in the world at large.

Humility is about modesty. It is a way of behaving where you do not act as you are better than other people or more important. Modesty entails letting other people shine and being able to appreciate the good in others. A modest person does not feel the need to diminish other people. Humility is when you no longer feel the need to put yourself above others, yet you don’t put yourself below them either.

Being prideful, arrogant, cocky—are all qualities that drive people AWAY from us. People will leave their interactions with a prideful person feeling disaffirmed, unappreciated, discouraged, invalidated, and dismissed.

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Being modest, humble, and possessing humility—are all qualities that drive people TOWARDS us. People will leave their interactions with a humble person feel affirmed, appreciated, encouraged, and validated by us.

There are many misconceptions we as a culture hold about humility.

Some people feel you can’t be humble AND ambitious at the same time. Or that being humble makes you appear weak. We live in a world where ego gets attention–just look at some of our political leaders at the forefront of the daily media news cycle. Arrogance and false bravado makes headlines whereas modesty seems to fade into the background. It is not as flashy as ego driven behavior so people tend not pay as much attention to modest displays.

More so, humility can feel soft at a time when problems are hard which makes the very proposition of humility feel very uncomfortable for many. To display humility, you need to be comfortable with being vulnerable–something people are often not comfortable with. This is driven largely by the misconception that humility is viewed as weakness by others.

Yet as human beings, we all have our days where our pride gets in our way. Our ego gets the best of us. We are human after all. But for many people pride drives their life and is a fixed characteristic.

pride

  1. high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherishedin the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
  2. the state or feeling of being proud.
  3. a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

Yet pride as a personality trait is not something TO be proud of. Pride is often driven by poor self-esteem and shame. A person who feels so badly about themself that they compensate by feeling superior. They look for others’ flaws as a way to conceal their own. They relish criticizing others as a defense against recognizing their own shortcomings.

Ask yourself…

Are you confident and comfortable enough in who you are to stay humble? Are you brave enough to admit you don’t have all the answers?  These are not easy questions to answer for any of us.

To possess humility you need to tame your competitive reflex.  We need to fight the urge to show ourselves better than other people. In our culture, which very much is driven by a me first mentality, this can seem like a daunting task.

You may struggle with pride if you do any of the following:

~Offer unsolicited advice to others about how to live their lives

~Feel the need to one up people when they talk

~Always feel you have a better solution, suggestion, idea

~Feel the need to debate someone who has a different opinion than you to prove them wrong

~Feel you are owed something (entitled)

~Rarely say thank you

~Can’t ask for help

~Believe it is your way or the highway

~Often compare yourself to others

~Give your opinions about EVERYTHING

~Love to point out the faults in others

~Care too much about what others think of you

~Feel compelled to demonstrate how smart you, capable you are, accomplished you are (bragging)

~Feel compelled to use your kids to prop up your ego much to their dismay

~Tell people how to raise their kids better

~Refuse to admit when you are wrong

~Tell people how to manage their careers, relationships better

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The fact is humility is a reflection on how you truly feel about yourself. The greater your sense of self-worth, the easier it is to appreciate others, to praise them, and to encourage them.

We need more of that in our world.

Humility is realizing you’re just as valuable as every other human being on the planet, no more and no less. Remember that the idea is to be grateful, think of others, and embrace the virtues of humility. An idea we can ALL benefit from.

Counseling can help you gain perspective and develop healthier ways of relating to yourself and others.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

 

 

 

anger management, counseling, emotionalimmaturity, forgiveness, loneliness, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help, Uncategorized

Emotional Dysregulation: Can You Recognize An Emotionally Immature Person?

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Can you recognize an emotionally immature person? A person whose emotional age is far behind their chronological age.

Of course, this does not include children and adolescents. Children and adolescents are not expected to have a full grasp of their emotions. Part of their development process is learning how to regulate and control their emotional responses.

Yet once we reach adulthood, you will encounter two distinct types of people: the emotionally mature and the emotionally immature. You will be able to detect quite quickly the type you are dealing with.

Emotionally mature people master control of their emotions meaning they are emotionally regulated. Emotional regulation involves maintaining thoughts, behaviors and expressions within a socially acceptable range. Therefore, you are not going to break down in tears in public or in the middle of a tense work meeting. You are not going to start screaming at other people or make a scene in public. You are not going to hurl insults and name call your coworkers or clients. You are able to appropriately respond to life stressors. Emotionally immature people never develop this ability and tend to struggle with emotional dysregulation.

Emotional dysregulation is a term used in the mental health community to refer to an emotional response that is poorly modulated, and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive responses. Possible manifestations of emotional dysregulation include angry outbursts or behavior outbursts such as crying or melting down, high levels of anxiety, being inflexible, aggression towards self or others, inability to adapt, etc.

Emotion dysregulation is associated with many psychiatric disorders such as major depression, PTSD and C-PTSD, mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder/borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse.

Emotional maturity is defined by the ability to control your emotions and take full responsibility for your life.  A large part of being emotionally mature is having the ability to handle anger, disappointment, fear, jealousy, resentment, insecurity, and a myriad of other feelings appropriately. Emotional maturity is defined when you have the ability to experience these emotions and then let them go. People who are immature seem to remain stuck in these negative emotions, unable to get past them.

Emotional maturity is the ability to see life clearly and accurately, and to deal with it. Often we may not like how it is but we are mature enough to recognize that it is what it is. We are not in control of much in life–including circumstances and other people. For many of us, this is just a given.

Emotionally immature people cannot do this-they often expect life to be easy or comfortable all the time and if it isn’t—they look at who or what is to blame. They often try to control others and their environment since they struggle to control themselves. These are very childish people in terms of their emotional responses.

No matter who we are, we will all eventually meet, perhaps at work or our extended social circle, an impossibly immature person.  The person may look mature, and have many adult responsibilities, but emotionally, they are still a child. A person who can at times present themselves appropriately but can turn on a dime acting hurtful, rude, inappropriate, tactless,and dangerously childish whenever the need suits them.

Emotionally immature people can be extremely challenging to deal with, because their ability to interpret and react to the variety of life’s challenges is often impaired.

Emotional immature adults are known to throw “adult temper tantrums.”  Whereas adults tend to stay calm, emotionally immature adults are quick to anger and rage. They cannot control their emotions much like a toddler. They can cry uncontrollably and be unable to hold themselves together when confronted with the slightest inconvenience or the smallest amount of stress.

Now this is to not say we all do not have our moments. None of us are perfect and we all will have our off days. What I am talking about here is a pattern of behavior over time.

Emotionally immature people tend to struggle with emotional dysregulating i.e. the ability to regulate their emotion responses.

Whereas mature adults, respond not react, immature adults are impulsive and can blurt out hurtful, tactless words.  Mature adults recognize sometimes it is better to say nothing than to say something we will live to regret. We are not going to flip out on our boss because we got passed on for a promotion or tell our sister to screw off because we are upset with her. We are able to think before we speak as to not make things worse for ourselves (and others). This is because people who are psychologically mature have impulse control. Emotionally immature people never cultivated such an impulse control.

Often for one reason or another, the person never quite grew up.

Below are the telltale signs of an emotionally immature person:

  • A person who is emotionally immature will: be reactive; see himself as a victim; act out his emotions (intense or gut reactions, like explosive anger, sudden crying, etc)
  • A person who, like a two-year old will throw temper tantrums because they are entitled to get their way even to the detriment of those closest to them (they feel they have the right to attack anyone who thwarts their wants, needs, goals)
  • A person who is be self-centered and concerned with self-protection; appear to always be justifying his actions to himself or others
  • A person will be manipulative; be motivated by fear or a feeling that he “has to” do something,” as well as a need to avoid failure, discomfort, and rejection
  • A person who whines & complains frequently or literally acts like a crybaby
  • A person who must be right and is incapable of hearing differing viewpoints
  • A person who escalates things emotionally
  • A person who loves to blame and name call
  • A person who has a low frustration tolerance. They are not able to deal with every day stress. As the result, they will become excessively emotional
  • A person who speaks recklessly without thinking about potential consequences (adults resist the urge to react in order to avoid shooting out hurtful words/action–they self-soothe). Such a person believes they can blurt out whatever they think or feel even if it hurts or alienates those around them
  • A person who bullies. Adults respect boundaries.  Emotionally immature adults do not
  • A person who has immature defense mechanisms. Children tend to regard the best defense as a strong offense.  Similarly an emotionally immature adult attacks anyone who expresses a viewpoint different from what they want
  • A person who is passive-aggressive. Subtle insults, sullen behavior, stubbornness, or a deliberate failure to accomplish required tasks.

As we grow up and mature, we learn that much of life we cannot control including other people and circumstances. We recognize life is constant change. The ability to adapt and evolve is a must.

We recognize much of life is unfair.

We do not get the job we deserve. We are passed over for the promotion. We have health problems. Financial problems. People we love pass away. Friendships fade, relationships end. People we love move away. We do not have perfect parents, the perfect partner. We are not perfect partners or parents either.

Yet there is a sense of humility in the emotionally mature. With emotionally maturity comes the recognition that many things in life are complicated. We develop the ability to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. We humble ourselves when necessary. We also recognize most things will pass and get better. If we let them. But emotionally immature people cannot get out of their own way.

Emotionally mature people recognize the complexities of life. We will not always get what we want. We will be disappointed. We cannot always get our way. Things will not always go according to our plans. Other people will let us down. We will let ourselves down.

As a counselor, often what brings people initially into treatment is an ongoing struggle with an important relationship in their lives: spouse, child, parent, etc. Our level of maturity will determine how we manage everything in life including our relationships.

Emotional mature people are able to acknowledge others are entitled to live their lives the way they see fit, to not like us; to leave us. We understand others have the right to speak badly about us, or even to hate us. This is not to say we do not try to discuss it with the person at hand or make things better but we know that this is not always possible. As I wrote on a previous post, this is where it is important to be psychologically flexible.

Emotionally mature people recognize we are only in control of ourselves. This is where our power is. We can be agents of positive change or negative change, the choice is ours. Mature people recognize they are not entitled to anything in life. A mature individual does not lose control and give into irrational thoughts simply because they haven’t gotten their way.

As a clinician, it surprises me how many people growing up, were never taught coping skills. I have seen many people were never taught to self soothe or regulate their emotions. They never learned how to effectively handle the problems in their life or deal with stressors. Some people will not be able to cope with the difficulties of life and do not have the ability to face and overcome obstacles. These people will continue to exhibit childish behaviors.We all have our bad days but if you generally function as a grown-up, the more clear you are about what qualifies grown-up behavior, the more you will be able to stay a grown-up even when you are interacting with someone who is acting like a child.

Emotion regulation is essential for healthy functioning (Grecucci, Theuninck, Frederickson, & Job, 2015). If you experience emotion dysregulation, you should consider seeking qualified professional help.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

counseling, dating, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help

6 Signs He Is Just Not That Into You

“He’s just not THAT into you.”

I remember the Sex and the City episode which played up this very popular early 2000’s catch phrase. I know you hate this phrase. I hate it even more. I think we hate it because we recognize that it IS indeed true– even when we are living in a fantasy world about it. Denial in dating is a common phenomenon.

I hate to say it. I apologize for saying it. But if a man is not calling you, it’s not because he has bad cell service or he is really tied up at work. He is not calling (or texting) because he doesn’t like you or doesn’t like you enough to make the effort.

Below are some telling signs he is just NOT that into you:

1)You always have to reach out to him FIRST. When a man is crazy for you, he is reaching out. Often. And with passion. If you’re always the one texting, calling, or messaging him first, and he never initiates a conversation – sorry but that’s a huge sign that he’s not that into you.

2)You have not met his friends. Or family. If a man is actually into you, you’re going to meet his friends and family. He is going to want you to be a part of ALL of his world (or at least give you the choice to be).

3) He Actively Flirts With Other Women.  This one is self-explanatory. Huge deal-breaker.It is disrespectful and gross. I expect a 16-year-old boy to do this–not a 36-year-old MAN.

4)He’s Never Trying to Impress You. Men who are smitten? They try to impress you at ALL costs. If no effort is being made to wow you, this speaks volumes about the level of interest.

5)The man treats you like an option NOT a priority. If he is repeatedly blowing off plans and you see him posting on Insta later that night with his pals? BYE Felicia. You should be his number priority. Of course for a man hanging out with his friends is important but breaking plans with you for them over AND over again? Nope!

6)He does not take you on REAL dates. A bottle of wine at his apartment and House of Cards binge? That is fun from time to time. But if you are looking for something more, guard your heart if he only wants to Netflix & Chill. Nothing wrong with but then you are probably looking at just a hookup with no strings attached.

6)You feel it in your gut. Ultimately, your instincts are going to tell you the truth. Ladies, deep down we know when a man is NOT feeling us. You deserve more.

If you find you are repeatedly attracting the wrong man, it may be time to talk to someone. A professional can help you get to the bottom of why you are attracted to unavailable men.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com