How To Grow Up Emotionally

Dr. Purushothaman
January 13, 2014


Our thoughts have a powerful impact on our feelings. They go hand-in-hand in dictating human behavior. If thoughts are the spark, emotions are the flame. Thoughts are the forest, emotions are the trees. Thoughts are the war, emotions are the battle. We become what we think and we behave the way we feel. Negative emotional reactions are fear based. Our primitive limbic brain is equipped to fit primitive survival patterns, in the fight or flight mode. When we think we are in danger, adrenalin flows into our blood stream, we are prepared to protect and survive, emotional reactions take over and we either run away or fight back. It's hard to separate what comes first, all systems are alerted. Sometimes emotional over reactions take over when we are not in physical danger, but perceive danger real or imagined.
Fear is probably the most profound negative human emotion, sometimes necessary to survival, but most often irrational. Yet as human beings we are capable of several more subtle emotions. Many of them are learned and carried over from our childhoods. Identifying, recognizing, reflecting on your emotions is important. In the English language we have over 400 names for emotions, I have named 108 in my book How To Grow Up When You're Grown Up: Achieving Balance in Adulthood to help figure out what you are actually feeling.
Once you recognize your emotions you can modify them. We all have both negative and positive feelings. Everyone wants more positive ones. When you observe and focus on your negative feeling and behaviors you will be able to change them by going back to the origins. Repeated patterns of reactions and over-reactions are a clue that something is wrong. Your childish reaction was a survival mechanism when you were a kid, but it doesn't work as an adult. That reaction is triggered by some negative childhood pattern that you have used to protect yourself, just like you did as a child.
Has anyone ever said to you, "Why don't you grow up!" I bet it is usually after a childish outbreak. There are two parts to becoming emotionally grown up. One is to heal from the childhood hurts and pain, that affect how you respond emotionally today. The other is to learn better techniques for handling the emotions that arise from events in the present.
Often we are unconsciously triggered into childish reactions by some subtle signal, a tone of voice, a gesture, words the remind us of a chastisement or punishment we got by a disapproving parent., an older sibling, a teacher, or other adult. You may have been shamed or blamed unjustly for something you didn't do, or justifably for something you did do and got caught. Your reaction will be similar to what you felt when you were in that situation as a child. Perhaps you will be defensive and angry lashing out in an over reaction, way out of proportion to the trigger event. Perhaps you will be passive feel defeated, depressed and withdraw feeling helpless.
The key to growing up emotionally is to pay attention to your feelings, they will be very familiar, you have felt them many, many times. Now go back and try to find the source, peel off the layers. When you have done this change your reaction. If you got caught with your fingers in the cookie jar and got punished for it. Visualize letting yourself have the cookie and tell your mom it's okay you deserve the cookie. When you do this you will erase that old wound and turn it into a scar, the trigger will be reduced or gone.We all have a lot of these triggers. Search and destroy them. As you do so you will grow up emotionally and adapt with the appropriate skills to live an emotionally healthy and happy life as a grown-up.

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