PIN your emotions
Emotional dependency is the result of being emotionally undifferentiated. The more differentiated we are, the less reactive we are to others and the better we can soothe ourselves.
We have discussed previously in various blogs how this lack of emotion differentiation leads to impulsive responding. In simple terms we cannot feel our emotions so do not recruit reflective goal directed or planning parts of the brain and instead recruit more motor based parts of the brain. In a confused emotional state we can react rather than act via self reflection.
This tendency is seen in children of alcoholics at risk for later alcoholism and in practically every addictive behaviour from alcoholism to substance addiction, to eating disorders, gambling and sex addiction.
For me it may be a brain signature of addictive behaviour, choosing now over then via a impulsive desire to relieve this negative feeling state and immediately feel better. Thus setting the cycle of addiction in action.
Your level of emotional maturity relates to your level of differentiation. The more mature you are, the more differentiated you are.
What are undifferentiated emotions? This is a state in which the individual’s emotions are so confused that their expression of them is only physical. In this state, they lack the language to describe how they feel. This is very confusing an explosion of anger is often not too far behind.
Undifferentiated emotions can be dangerous. People often resort to physical aggression or loud verbal tirades when they lack the words to separate the many emotions that precede anger.
Emotional literacy is therefore vital for anyone who wants to manage their anger.
Putting our emotions into words removes the mystery as well as the misery of not knowing what is going on inside of us.
Learning an emotional vocabulary brings clarity…One is now able to Perceive, Identify and Name (PIN) emotions that lead to the anger. This change often leads the individual to take greater responsibility for their actions
Thus it is important to be able to recognize what emotions are really happening in us so as to be less reactive with ourselves and others.
However, it seems to be there is more to this emotional immaturity that just identifying, labeling and verbalizng emotions (or processing emotions).
We also seem to struggle with dealing with emotions which threaten to overwhelm us when things do not go our way. Or we can’t get what we want, when we are frustrated etc. Sometimes our reactive behaviour is so spontaneous that we only appreciate it afterwards.
I cite from a useful blog here –
“As addicts recover from addiction they gain emotional skills they never had before.
Dimensions of Emotional maturity
- The ability to modulate emotional responses. Addicts tend to have an all or nothing emotional response. When they respond they become overly emotional and take a longer time to return to baseline. They are easily flooded with emotion to the point of impairing functioning.
- The ability to tolerate frustration. Another emotional skill learned as we grow up is the ability to tolerate a frustrating situation with a level of self control. Addicts tend to respond to frustrating situations as disasters rather than having any perspective.
- The ability to delay gratification. Emotionally immature people have trouble planning and working toward goals. The ability to give up immediate gratification is necessary for anyone to go about life in a successful way.
- The ability to control impulses. The mature self has the ability to see that feeling the urge to do something is not the same as doing it. The recovering addict has a level of control over his or her behavior and can put boundaries around what is inappropriate to say or do. This is the basis for making logical choices like whether to act on impulses or not to.
- The ability to be reliable and accountable. Addicts are often self centered and not good at dealing with the everyday requirements of life like being on time, fulfilling obligations and telling the truth. As they gain emotional maturity they gain the ability to get out of themselves and think about the impact of their actions on others and on their own lives as well.
Recovery skills promote emotional maturity
The process of recovery from addictions is in many ways a process of completing the process growing up.
The work that goes on in addiction treatment involves changes that allow for that process to occur.
Looking at the addict’s core beliefs. The addicts assumptions about himself, acquired in childhood are largely negative. Addicts feel they are basically unworthy and unlovable. They lack trust and don’t feel that others will be willing or able to help them. Looking at these negative core beliefs about oneself is a first step toward being able to question them. Addicts in recovery begin by getting honest about what they are feeling.
Connection. In recovery addicts are helped to see that they are not so alone or so different and that there are other people to connect with. This in turn allows for learning the emotional skills of accountability and honesty. They come to realize that what they do matters and has real life implications for themselves and for the people in their life.
Self reflective ability. The recovery process involves learning to stop and reflect on what is going on inside of oneself in any situation. This is amazingly absent in most practicing addicts. Impulse control and emotional regulation are impossible if the person lacks the ability to observe their inner state. It is only through developing this “observing ego” that the recovering addict can have the means to look at things more realistically, self-regulate emotional responses without resorting to drugs.
Tolerating feelings. In giving up their drug of choice, addicts begin to feel all the feelings they have been running from. Abstaining from an addictive behavior means being forced to deal with emotions like insecurity, self-hate, and loneliness. In this way the addict begins to have the means to see and label their own emotions and connect with painful memories that they may have buried. You can’t deal with a problem if you can’t allow yourself to feel it.
Feelings are only feelings. When we gain emotional maturity we accept our feelings but we are able to deal with them effectively. We have choices.
More signs of being Emotionally Immature
“immature” adults are often unable to identify or manage their emotions. They usually avoid their emotions by intellectualizing, explaining, analyzing, disagreeing, attacking, flattering, joking, apologizing, evading, going silent, becoming aloof or suspicious, rejecting, criticizing or judging. They often come across as superior, arrogant, stubborn, defiant, hostile, people-pleasing, wishy-washy, phony, resentful, intolerant, self-pitying or victimized.
In contrast, the emotionally mature adult understands that “my emotions are not me, but mine – I’m in control, not my emotions”. So they are more objective are less judgmental. They are better able to detach themselves from triggers that would normally provoke an emotional reaction. They experience states of equanimity, serenity and inner peace. Blaming others is no longer a strategy they use to make themselves feel safe.
Emotionally Immature are reactive and throw tantrums. They are fearful, scared, needy, angry, resentful, pushy, bullying, jealous or envious. They can be quiet, withdrawn, defensive, argumentative or grandiose. They can come across as overbearing, micromanaging, controlling, disrespectful, fearful, angry, negative, judgmental, critical, abusive (mentally, emotionally, psychologically, physically), dishonest, insincere, narcissistic and focused on the self and the ego.
The most visible quality of emotional maturity is the capacity to be in the moment, to be present while being non-reactive or non-judgmental.
This “being present” supports our true and authentic self to guide us. We intuit “right knowing”, “right understanding” and “right action”. We feel our emotions without “becoming” our emotions. We grasp that the “trigger” for our reactivity may be “outside me”, but the “cause” of my emotions is within me.