Recently, I have come to understand that my mother’s emotional well-being was my responsibility growing up. The understanding of this came from a book titled Recovering from Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson, PsyD. Symptoms I recognized included an awareness that there was no room for even mild disagreement, I was expected to comfort and emotionally support her but couldn’t count on her for the same. And knowing that my feelings and joys weren’t validated or supported, I was invisible.

Gibson explains that emotionally immature people cannot regulate their self-esteem or their emotions without help. They need others to help them with this but on their terms. From a very young age, I understood it was my job to help my parent with her emotional regulation making me responsible for her emotional stability and their happiness, or unhappiness. There was no room for listening to my own needs. And I carried this forward for the rest of my life with every relationship. Now I understand why I’ve been so exhausted.

The Keepers of “the Emotions”

What the Heck is Emotional Maturity? on

“Mature people understand you can’t be available at all times. They are sensitive to your circumstances and your limits.”  Lindsay Gibson

As many cultures still scorn their males for having feelings, women, spouses, and mothers are often the ones expected to be the keepers of “the emotions”. During Covid, I held space for both of my children as they cried on top of me, grieving their isolation from their friends and their lives. I have expected myself to facilitate the regulation, growth, and expression of my family’s emotions. But caretaking others this way is an especially overwhelming task when you’re tired because you’ve never been allowed/allowed yourself to take care of your own feelings and needs. (Wise emotionally mature mothers understand their children’s need to separate from them and give them space to do so setting up boundaries for both of their sakes. Read Mother Buffer Zone Here for more on that.)

So, what the heck is emotional maturity?

So, what the heck is emotional maturity? Emotional maturity looks like allowing yourself to feel your feelings and being responsible for them. In fact, it looks like honoring them, not hiding them. It asks that we find ways to respect, manage, and express our emotions to promote personal growth and positive relationships. Emotional security is compassion and the ability to bounce back from traumatic situations a little more easily, understanding life is happening and this will pass.

What the Heck is Emotional Maturity? on Shalavee.comEmotional maturity involves recognition and communication of one’s own feelings which in turn allows us to empathize with others. Being emotionally mature also means being able to ask for help when you are overwhelmed. And it never includes blaming, shaming, or lashing out.

Understanding all of this allows me to not only shift my behavior and create better boundaries with my parent, but model for my children emotional maturity and responsibility. I am so very done with the world of people saying they were “made to feel” a certain way. While I can be very empathetic that my words or actions have triggered feelings that are uncomfortable in you, and that this was never my intention, I will not take responsibility for your feelings. I feel sad that the man’s emotional immaturity has stolen our humanity.


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