My husband and I were discussing one of your blogs the other day and he noticed that we don’t have very good definitions for some terms we regularly use. I’ve read the questions you get but I never thought I would ever have one of my own. We would be interested in what you have to say about “maturity.” Thank you in advance.
I get a lot of the same questions framed in different words but you’re the only people to have asked this. It’s an interesting subject that I will attempt to make clearer.
When children are born there is no inside and outside world. There are just experiences. Then they get a separate physical identity, then a separate perspective on the world, and by their teen years they’re growing their own identity. These are all significant shifts in reality so its worthwhile to understand them.
The easiest one to study is the teenager. Up until now they’ve had moods and temperaments and preferences, but not really individual philosophical identities. It’s one thing to hate your parents rules, it’s something altogether different when you realize those rules are only made of thoughts that you have subliminally agreed to repeat to yourself as though they were a reality.
But eventually and naturally the teen wants to establish their own boundaries –to become their own person. And they will start with wider boundaries. So they’ll naturally start by pushing against the only boundaries they’re aware of —the ones their parents taught them.
The vast majority of teens aren’t really ‘getting in trouble’ and they’re not ‘being foolish.’ Teens are starting to wonder what the actual definition of ‘foolish’ really is. This is likely to often be a sullen, secretive, angry, tense part of any parent-child relationship because the teen is intentionally testing limits so there is likely to be disagreement for its own sake.
On top of that psychological process, the child at those ages is also on an hormonal roller coaster. Meanwhile the older and wiser parents are watching all of it, wondering if they’re all careening toward disaster. It can all feel genuinely dramatic.
Thank goodness, the vast majority of people actually learn from those negative experiences, which leads them to go on to become who they/we will be as adults.
Each set of tests and consequences adds up to a world view that then gets tested and re-tested as people live their lives. So when we’re a teen all we care about is ourselves. We’ll let our classmates (or a subculture) essentially choose all of our clothing we’re so desperate to fit in.
But over time we come to see our friends as individuals, separate from us. And then we do the same with our parents. We realize they have dreams and best friends and forgotten plans too. We realize that they are not only our parents, they are individual people.
Seeing anyone in a more complete way creates evermore layers of empathy. Experience by experience we learn more and more, about more and more kinds of lives, and we often realize that we should not have been so judgmental.
Over time we see more and more people to be just like ourselves. Their preferences and their goals might be different from ours, but we can see that their passion for those things is equal to our own. So what is maturity? Maturity is an expansion of our empathy. It is the piling up of experience.
The more we see of the world the more we get to see behind the scenes as to why things happen. This knowledge and awareness makes more and more people’s behaviours understandable, which in turn means we can be compassionate about more people in more situations.
We spend most of our lives trying to earn more hugs. Maturity teaches us that, thanks to compassion and understanding, giving hugs feels just as good as getting hugs.
I hope that answered your question. Have an awesome day.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.