I was in a discussion yesterday with a bunch of guys and we got onto the topic of emotional maturity. A bunch of middle-aged guys talking about emotional maturity is kind of like a bunch of ladies discussing jock straps—there is a probability that we don’t know what we’re talking about. Nonetheless, it was a great conversation because we all in different ways acknowledged that this area is a seriously neglected aspect of our development.
It isn’t that we aren’t aware of our emotions, but we aren’t always very literate in how to manage them and, given the culture’s bias toward ‘strong’ manly images, we’ve ended up more confused than mature. In my own case, I shared that there is a fine line between what passes for maturity and emotional control. Men are usually pretty good at controlling their emotions, which is why when we get out of control we end up hitting someone or starting a war or having a total meltdown and going into the hills to become a hermit … or whatever.
In my opinion and experience, control is the anthesis of emotional maturity. It is attempting to exert force over that aspect of our nature that is mostly closely related to our biological reality. Emotions are a deeply authentic part of who we are. Now I don’t for a minute believe that feelings and emotions are the same thing. Feelings are like thoughts—automatic, historical and continuous reactions to our environment. Feelings are manifestations of our egocentric interpretation of the world and constitute a big part of what traps us in repetitive patterns.
I heard someplace that there are four emotions—Love, Fear, Anger and Joy. I don’t know if this is true, but, if so, it makes sense to me. Being mature is I think being able to tell the truth about one’s emotions. It isn’t some formula for how we express them. I think one can be fairly unexpressive yet deeply emotional, and I think a lot of hysterical emotional eruptions can be a way of covering up and not experiencing the emotions at all.
I have learned that there is no ‘right’ way to behave or experience life. Each one of us must find out who we are and what we care about and choose how we will spend our time on this tiny globe called Earth. The older I get, the more serene and confident I become that everything is exactly as it should be for it all to turn out. Just about everything else is my ego trying to control or understand or in one way or another be exempt from owning up to my true nature—a nature that is most accessible to me through my emotions.