A friend of mine (we’ll call him Mark) once told me about a conversation he had with his female friend about a break up. Mark said to this female friend that he was having trouble walking away from his girlfriend even though the girlfriend was being really nasty. So the female friend got up and walked out of the room, telling Mark to be less of a child and more emotionally mature. The irony was that getting up and walking away when emotionally triggered was a poor showing on the girl’s part with regard to her own emotional maturity. 

Anyway, that’s enough ironic introductions and socratic babble. Let’s get into the meat of the subject. What does it really mean to be emotionally mature? 

People think that, at a certain age, you are supposed to become emotionally mature. Yet we see those who are in their 40s who seem to lack the most basic ability to handle their emotions. So, what’s happening here? Well, the truth is that age has nothing at all to do with emotional maturity beyond late adolescence. In fact, the only thing that can give you emotional maturity, after the biological maturity attained during late adolescence, is experience with handling difficult emotions. 

Now, let’s talk about another friend of mine (and we’ll call this one Fred). Fred was sort of a buffet-case of trauma and mental illnesses, during his late childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Since the age of 10, he had gone through Schizophrenia, violent convulsions, the death of his mother, addiction, suicidal depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Chronic Pain all over his body. By age 23, he became mature enough to put the Dalai Lama to shame. But it took him all that time. With all those kinds of experiences. To finally attain emotional maturity.

The thing to note here is that emotional maturity didn’t come to Fred after just one emotionally difficult experience. It didn’t come to him after just getting through schizophrenia, and it didn’t come after the death of his mother, which followed. It came after several other emotionally difficult experiences. That’s the point we’re trying to make. It takes experiences to make a mature person, and it takes more than just one difficult experience. Way more. 

So, the next time you are in a situation, attacking yourself for being immature, ask yourself if you’ve had enough experience in battling with your emotions to have attained the level of maturity that you desire.