Maturity of Mind and Adult Behavior

by Jayaram V

Immaturity is not confined to individuals alone. Sometimes, groups or even nations act quite immaturely, resulting in great misery and suffering to millions of people. It happened several times in the past and is still happening today, in many parts of the world, causing much misery and bloodshed to millions of people. Frankly many of our leaders and celebrity figures, the icons and role models of our society, are immature. They hide it behind a façade of pomp and power, but betray themselves often through their actions and decisions.

We see people exhibiting immature behavior in sports and competitions, public, media, many major national and international forums and institutions, legislative and government bodies and even the UN Security Council and general assembly. It is expressed in the way we react to things and situations, the movies we watch, the words we use, the lifestyle choices we make, the emotions we express and the way we manage our relationships and finances. Truly speaking, on a cosmic scale, ours is still an immature civilization and we may require a few more centuries to be able to look at ourselves and our actions with complete objectivity and maturity.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL GROWTH

Transactional Analysis
Eric Berne proposed an integrative model to explain human behavior and personality disorders, which he termed Transactional Analysis. According to his model, the human personality consists of three basic components, the parent, the child and the adult. The parent part is what every person inherits from his parents in the form of commands, rules, dos and don'ts. It is usually authoritative and preservative. The child part consists of the emotions, feelings and perceptions people experience in their childhood as a result of parental and peer control.  It is usually emotional and creative and vulnerable to parental controls and suggestions embedded in memory. The adult part is what people gather through their own experience, observation, curiosity, analysis and rational thinking. It is usually mature, rational and observant. Problems arise in communication, relationships, thinking and perceptions if either the parent or the child takes control of a person's mind and determines his or her life-script and worldview. Those whose adults are contaminated by either the parent or the child or both lead very emotionally disturbed and unstable lives weighed by guilt, low self-esteem and negative self-talk. They are difficult to reason with. Berne suggested that to establish clarity and maturity in thinking, rational and clear communication with others, live spontaneously in the present, and act according to situation, the adult must remain in charge for which one must learn to remain centered in the adult. Jayaram V

We know, more or less, what physical growth means and we know from appearance, when a person reaches adulthood. It is easy to understand and recognize physical growth, because it is visible, measurable and does not continue beyond a particular age, except in certain ways, such as gaining body weight or the changes that come with aging. Almost every normal individual attains physical maturity after a certain age. Only and rarely, a few unfortunate individuals fail to grow normally, because of a rare disease or abnormal situation.

Mental growth, however, does not proceed along the same lines as physical growth. The brain cells do stop multiplying after a certain age, but mentally we continue to grow in awareness and understanding till old age. It is difficult to say when an individual actually stops growing mentally and whether he stops growing mentally at all till the end. People also differ in their ability to grow mentally because a number of factors influence mental growth.

Some people become mentally mature and rationale very early in their lives, while some people may remain immature even after they become adults. Also mature behavior may be circumstantial. The same individual may show varying degrees of maturity on different occasions, because of many facilitating and inhibiting factors, which are difficult to explain.

Quantifying the mental growth of a person, therefore, is a real problem. It is difficult to say when and at what stage a person becomes mentally mature. By subjecting an individual to certain tests and testing situations, we may arrive at certain conclusions, but we cannot be sure how accurate our conclusions are.

We have very complex personalities, because of which it is really difficult to control our behavior all the time. However mature and diligent we are, at times we are bound to come under the influence of our emotions and act immaturely. There are many physical, mental and environmental factors, which play upon our emotions and incite our behavior. This is very human and normal. In a way it is also necessary, because we need to let out our emotions occasionally and provide a safe outlet for our pent-up frustrations and disappointments in life.

Each of us has a child inside us, formed out of our childhood experiences. It remains active, even after we become adults. Temperamentally, it is unstable, immature, emotional and also highly creative. Although it is a relic of our past, it is an essential and important component of our personalities. Even after we become adults, it continues to play a significant role in shaping our lives and behavior. Since it is filled with emotions, it requires some caring and nurturing on our part, so that we will not feel dull and depressed. It also needs to be kept under control so that we will not act irrationally or emotionally in critical situations. It is ok to let it out sometimes and experience freedom and joy, but it should not be allowed to take control of our lives and replace the adult in us.

WHAT IS MATURITY?

Maturity does not necessarily increase with age, but with awareness and understanding, borne out of individual perceptions and personal experiences. It develops to the extent we organize our consciousness, according to our experiences and the factual information we gather, and to the extent we cleanse it of irrational thoughts, beliefs, prejudices, notions and emotions, which we accumulate due to the lazy habits of our minds.

There is no consistent correlation between physical growth and mental maturity. Sometimes a young adult may show more maturity than a grown up person. Two persons in the same age group may also have different levels of maturity. Maturity is a product of many factors such as age, awareness, intelligence, education and upbringing. Since these vary from individual to individual, people differ in their levels of maturity.

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‗maturity‘ in the following words: "deliberateness of action, mature consideration, due deliberation, fullness or perfection of natural development, ripeness, due promptness, the state of being complete, perfect, ready," and so on. This is the literary definition. In a general sense, maturity means complete physical and mental growth, or the state of adulthood. It is the ability to act rationally and realistically, rather than emotionally.

From a behavioral perspective, to be mature means:

To be realistic, to be in touch with reality and guided by facts.

To accept responsibility for self and one‘s own life.

To be willing to examine one‘s beliefs, prejudices and assumptions in the light of facts and one‘s own experiences and change one‘s thinking, awareness, behavior and understanding accordingly,

To be guided by reason rather than emotions, to be able to distinguish the difference between the two and also at the same time accommodate one‘s feelings and emotions appropriately and intelligently in one's life.

To be assertive, without being aggressive; to be friendly without being self-centered; to disagree, without being insensitive; to ask, without the fear of rejection; and to act, without fear or anxiety.

To be flexible and open-minded, instead of being rigid and judgmental; to be receptive to new experiences and new people; and to be willing to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge.

To be inquisitive and exploratory, seeking answers, gathering information before arriving at conclusions, stretching one‘s mind to explore hidden possibilities and one‘s potentialities.

To be free from mental conditioning and act spontaneously, according to the reality of the situation, without prejudice and preconceived notions, without the compulsion to be perfect or correct and without indulging in habitual actions and responses.

To be in touch with the present and enjoy the passing moment.

To know what is possible and achievable and to acknowledge that which is not.

WHO IS A MATURE PERSON?

Here is a brief description of what a mature person is. A mature person:

Is concerned with facts.

Goes by personal experience rather than beliefs.

Relies upon reason rather than emotions.

Thinks before acting.

Uses resources wisely, according to the realistic needs and demands of the situation

Weighs a situation carefully, before drawing conclusions

Lives in the present.

Is open-minded, willing to learn and explore other possibilities, view points and alternatives.

knows the limitations

Is flexible.

Is spontaneous.

Has a healthy self image and sense of self.

Takes practical decisions, according to the situation.

Knows how to deal with anxiety, fear and worries.

Believes in human dignity. Respects self and respects others.

Listens, pays attention and learns from experience.

SOME SUGGESTIONS TO PRACTICE ADULT THINKING

Maturity is accepting what is, willing to change what can be and letting go of what cannot be. It is to make peace with oneself, by agreeing to follow reason, acknowledge emotions and rely upon one‘s own experience. It is to free oneself from the compulsions of the past and the anxieties of future, by staying in the present and acting spontaneously. It is to cultivate a balanced view of life by detaching oneself from things and expectations and enjoy life as it happens. Here are some useful ways to cultivate maturity of mind.

Source: Reproduced partially from the article, "Becoming Aware of Yourself" from the book Think Success by Jayaram V. You may purchase this book from our online store or from Amazon.com

Suggestions for Further Reading

About Think Success: In 44 well written articles presented in this books, you are introduced to a treasure trove of transformational wisdom. By following the suggestions given in this book, you can achieve success and happiness and live. It is written by Jayaram V, author of several books and hundreds of essays about Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Spirituality and Self-help. This book is currently available at our Online Store (for residents of USA, Canada, UK and some other countries only).

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