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Emotional Intelligence: Maturity vs. Immaturity
What is being mature? It means seeing the big picture in every situation. Thus, I make decisions based on my long-term best interests rather than on immediate gratification or immediate avoidance of pain. Of course, sometimes the immediate gratification or avoidance of pain is consistent with my long-term best interests. For example, I wake up with an unfamiliar sharp pain in my right lower abdomen and decide to visit my doctor, which might help relieve my immediate pain and certainly is in my long-term best interests to rule out any serious health problem.
But at other times giving in to immediate gratification or immediate avoidance of pain is not in my long-term best interests. For example, I really, really want the new iPhone that just came out, so I buy it even though I won't have enough money to pay the rent next week. This is a classic example of immature behavior, which is when I make decisions based on immediate gratification or immediate avoidance of pain even though it will negatively impact my long term best interests.
Teenagers are notorious for their immaturity, and there's a reason for it. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is heavily involved in making mature decisions, does not fully develop until the mid-20s, which is why insurance companies lower rates significantly when a driver turns 25. However, adults can persistently behave in immature ways as well when the emotional need for such behaviors is strong enough. For example, Jack's strong emotional need to be right can cause him to never admit mistakes, so he can't learn from them. And, Mary's reliance on emotional eating to deal with stress can cause her to become obese. And Tom's chronic need to build up his low self-esteem through sexual conquest can sabotage his marriage.
Addiction is an extreme example of immaturity. For example, the addict will continue using crack even though he knows his probation officer will drug test him and a positive result will send him to prison.
Another example of immaturity is a woman who says, “I won't get a mammogram, because what if it turns out bad?” Thus, she is choosing to decrease her anxiety about the outcome by avoiding a mammogram rather than taking the mature path of facing her fears and being proactive in monitoring her health.
Now here's an example of maturity. A man who hates math decides to take a dreaded, but required, statistics course so he can earn a psychology degree, which will help him attain his future goal of becoming a therapist.
Another example of maturity is a woman who recently lost her mother and then realizes she's dealing with her pain by drinking too much, so she decides to join a grief support group rather than continuing to self-medicate with alcohol.
And now one final example of maturity. A woman in early recovery from heroin addiction realizes she's not fit at this time to properly care for her 6-year-old son, so she overcomes her guilt and gives temporary custody to the child's father, so she can give full attention to getting healthy for herself and her son.
As you can see, the difference between mature and immature decisions is whether or not one considers long-term consequences. So if you're struggling with a decision where part of your brain is telling you to do one thing and another part is telling you to do another, here is what you can do. Write down each option and list the likely long-term consequences of each. Then choose the option that truly represents your true long-term best interests.
Now, this might sound like a simple thing to do, but sometimes it can be difficult if a part of your brain tends to deny negative long term consequences because of a strong emotional need, which is always the case with addiction-like behaviors. So, you must try to be very honest with yourself, or you can ask a trusted friend to help you see the bigger picture. However, if you have a pattern of making bad decisions, then online therapy can help.
Below is Carl's YouTube video (4:40) of this article:
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All Text and many photos by Carl Benedict
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