Most of the time, you go about your life making rational, mature decisions.
But sometimes you get triggered by an event or by what someone said, and you find yourself acting like a child. You may feel surprised and embarrassed. You don’t know how to fix it because it feels so automatic when you slip into these immature behaviors. Why does this happen?
Or perhaps you know someone else displaying these immature behaviors.
This blog will cover the causes of emotional immaturity in adults and help you find a healthier path forward.
What is Emotional Immaturity?
Emotional immaturity is defined by typically expressing emotion without restraint or acting disproportionately to what a situation merits. If you are regularly triggered by events or the behavior of others, you may not have a healthy capacity to manage your feelings.
The American Psychological Association defines emotional maturity as “a high and appropriate level of emotional control and expression.”
We expect people at different ages to have different levels of control over their feelings and instincts. Immaturity may be expressed by an obnoxious behavior that is inconsiderate of others. An immature person may throw fits or sabotage events if they don’t get their way. Most immature people are in codependent or toxic relationships because they don’t have healthy expectations towards others.
Why You Still Have Immature Tendencies
It’s easy to think that once we become adults, immature tendencies just naturally go away, but it’s not as simple as that. I’m sure you know that age alone isn’t a guarantee; people aren’t always healthy just because the years have passed. Bursts of anger, cutting remarks and codependent patterns are all signs that healing is still needed.
In most cases, maturity level is not determined by the number of years someone lives but by what happens during the younger years.
During each stage of your childhood, you need specific things from your parents and caregivers for your brain to develop properly. Not only did childhood experiences affect your biology, but they also impacted your understanding of the world and yourself.
If you weren’t given what you needed at any given stage, your psyche could be stuck in the past!
Trauma is another reason you may end up stunted in your growth. Traumatic experiences may be obvious (like sexual or physical abuse), or they might be harder to pinpoint (like emotional abuse or neglect). In some cases, the trauma might be entirely subjective where you were hurt or feeling anxious while your caregiver had no idea you were struggling (or meant the best and didn’t know how to help).
When you experience early trauma of any kind, you could get “stuck” in your ability to develop appropriately. No one chooses to stay in this state, but realization is the first step towards growth. Admitting you are stuck will help you start to heal and find a better path forward.
What “Being Stuck” Looks Like to Your Brain
Here is a quick example of how childhood issues could interfere with your development.
In early infancy, you needed to learn how to trust. If your caregivers were attentive, loving and met your needs, then you learned that the world is a safe place and that you would be taken care of. Your caretakers’ consistent and responsive care would lead you to naturally believe others and feel connected.
However, if your care was inconsistent, dismissive or absent at times, you experienced a sense of insecurity. Subconsciously you now view the world, others and even yourself with mistrust. You feel like you have to watch out for your own best interest because no one else will.
When children aren’t given what they need, they lack confidence and a healthy level of self-esteem.
How to Recognize Emotional Immaturity in Yourself or Others
Signs of immaturity may be hard to see when you are in the midst of it. You may feel unsure if you are struggling with immaturity yourself or in a close relationship with someone who is immature. From the outside, it is often much clearer that immaturity is a contributing factor. Here are some examples of immature behavior that should not be common for adults.
- Impulsive behavior
- Demanding attention
- Name-calling or bullying
- Shirking responsibility
- Blaming others
If you are really struggling to define whether or not you or someone you know is immature, reach out for an outside opinion. Look for someone who is mature and trustworthy with no emotional ties to the situation to give you an unbiased opinion. A professional guide or therapist can be a great help in these situations.
You will have to be totally honest if you want real answers and insight. Sometimes, the truth is hard to hear.
The Difference Between Emotional Maturity and Emotional Immaturity
For further clarity, consider the difference between emotionally mature responses and emotionally immature responses:
- Immature people are reactive, while mature people are proactive.
- Immature people act emotionally, while mature people act with emotion.
- Immature people are driven by habit, while mature people are governed by purpose.
- Immature people make moves out of fear, while mature people act from love and abundance.
- Immature people need motivation, while mature people are driven and choose to act.
- Immature people are self-centered, while mature people are considerate of others.
- Immature people can’t handle failure, discomfort or rejection like mature people can.
- Immature people alienate others, while mature people naturally find unity/goodwill.
- Immature people want comfort and security, while mature people want growth.
- Immature people are stuck in the past, while mature people live in the present.
Once you notice the patterns, it’s easy to discern between people who are mature or not. Immaturity isn’t always crude joking or the inability to be serious. Think about acquaintances you don’t know well in your workplace or from your graduating class—can you recall the ones who never matured? Their lives are probably filled with financial, relationship and workplace problems because of their inability to grow up.
What to Do if You are Dealing with an Emotionally Immature Person?
If you are in a relationship with an emotionally immature person, you need to address the situation. You may be dealing with an immature boss, parent, spouse, partner, sibling or friend. You can’t allow their immature behavior to take control of your energy. Here are a few healthy ways to deal with an immature person in your life:
Initiate a conversation to see if the other person is aware of the issue and open to change. Go in with an open mind, willing to listen to their perspective on the situation. This conversation is best had when you aren’t in the middle of a heated argument or frustrating experience.
Create healthy boundaries if the other person is unwilling to change unhealthy behavior. Boundaries might include how far you are willing to go to make amends or fix their problems. You may have to protect your time and money from some people who will prey on your goodwill.
Adjust your expectations within reason so that you are not surprised by their behavior. If someone is unwilling to change, you need to adjust what you expect to happen so you can measure your response. Learn their patterns so you can act based on logic and not emotion in the heat of the moment.
Seek professional help if the other person is willing to change. A professional guide can help them navigate difficult healing and find a real path forward towards maturity. You can even help them find a therapist or join my Healing Center for efficient growth.
How to Become an Emotionally Mature Adult
In The Carol Tuttle Healing Center, I created the Healing Plan for Childhood Wounding. This is one of my most popular plans and addresses the root of many issues we face as adults.
One of the sessions in this particular plan is the Visualization to Grow Yourself Up Emotionally.
This visualization will help you integrate all of the energies of your emotional self between birth and your teen years. These were the years you were the most vulnerable, learning to either accept and express your emotional self or deny and repress your emotional self.
Doing this visualization will help you reset your emotional energy to allow you to feel safe and confident in feeling and expressing what emotion is true for you.
This visualization is perfect for you if you’re experiencing:
- Fear about expressing who you are
- An urge to heal your inner child
- Moments of emotional immaturity
- A hunch that you’ve denied parts of yourself
When my Healing Center members go through this visualization, they experience feeling fully safe to be themselves as they heal their inner child. They’re able to better express themselves with wisdom and grace as they re-connect with themselves at all ages.
Here’s what Sarah shared about her experience with this course:
“The Visualization to Grow Yourself Up Emotionally is a fave. Listening again today, the reality of how I don’t have to do anything to be loved – because I was born, and the spiritual ramifications of this truth really hit me. I’d been taught any attention or affection was a reward from my parents for compliance. A paradigm I don’t have to accept or emulate because it’s simply not a truth. It’s been interesting seeing how letting this pattern go affects my relationships with my kids. It’s not perfect, but I’m gaining a better perspective, in my opinion.”
This healing plan takes you through a two-week journey to get to the roots of your challenging emotions and clear them at a deep level. If you’re not yet a member, you can start your FREE 14-day trial right now!
The Bottom Line
Emotional maturity means managing your emotions and taking full responsibility for your actions. It leads to healthy relationships and joy in your life.
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are in your maturity level today—you can become less reactive and more emotionally mature when you heal from whatever is holding you back. My Center gives you the tools you need for growth, dealing with your past hurts and learning how to move forward.