Since my post about social maturity made me think a lot about why my social maturity is so limited, I spend some time learning about emotional maturity now. (My mom wonders if I’m sick, wanting to know so much about those things all of a sudden, lol.)
Anyway, I was wondering if not emotional maturity comes first and is what enables people to become more socially mature, too, so that if there’s no emotional maturity, there can be no true social maturity, no matter if I logically understand the concept or not. And my mom said that might well be true, because the emotions get processed in the amygdala inside the brain, which is a region that has connections to most other areas in the brain that are concerned with other functions, like rational thought. Which means strong emotion upsetting the amygdala might well on a biological level put other functions temporarily out of order. Kind of cool stuff, in a way.
But back to the emotional maturity. So I was finding out about this guy Erikson, who way back in the 1950s already thought out a model that includes the emotional development and which stages it might follow. So here’s a brief summary of his stages. (He put them all into a category that’s a sliding scale between opposites, so good as well as bad development gets captured, which is kind of clever, I think!)
1. Learning basic trust vs. learning basic mistrust
He said that’s what happens in the infancy when the baby either learns that it is properly and reliably attended to and develops a feeling of basic trust, or gets the crap end of the deal and learns that it won’t be considered and won’t have its needs met, developing an inner feeling of basic mistrust. Or is somewhere in between and ends up feeling ambivalent, I suppose.
2. Learning autonomy vs. learning shame
He said that when kids have more control, like from around their second birthday to their fourth, they try themselves out and either experience they have a certain power and can do stuff, developing an inner sense of being their own capable person, feeling proud and good about themselves, or they are constantly told not to do this, or punished for trying out their new skills, and made to feel ashamed about what they do, starting to feel like they can’t make it right for anyone and are bad people, developing a basic sense of shame. (My, how I can identify with that one!) Or most people will be somewhere in the middle between the two, probably.
3. Learning initiative vs. learning guilt
He said that from age 3 to 6 (roughly) kids develop their imagination and fantasy, learn to get along with others, like taking turns, or leading or following if all goes well – or if shit goes wrong and they aren’t supported in a healthy way, they learn to be afraid of failing, don’t dare or don’t know how to play with others and stay outside, always need someone else to help them and don’t have the same skills at playing and no healthy imagination. Or somewhere in between again. Sliding scale and all that.
4. Learning industry vs. learning inferiority
He said that school aged, kids either learn to be productive, to get along well with classmates and be able to follow and negotiate rules, to do more structured and less playful stuff like schoolwork or team sports, and learns self-discipline, too. If gone wrong, the kid only learns that it doesn’t suffice in those areas, that it isn’t successful in school, that others are doing it all better, feeling inferior and like it won’t ever be worth it to try harder. (Or somewhere in between again.)
5. Learning Identity vs. learning Identity Confusion
He said during adolescence, the now older children learn how to answer the “who am I?” question with a satisfying result. Self doubt and a little confusion about identity and roles, and experimenting with different things are part of the process for everyone, but if all goes well in the end there is self-certainty and anticipating achievement and feeling good about oneself and having a set of ideals. If it doesn’t go well, one might find a bad identity (like that of a troublemaker) or no identity at all, leading to self-consciousness, or still being on the lookout, toying around with possible identities, not really being able to enter adulthood and feel like a proper, defined person.
6. Learning Intimacy vs. learning Isolation
He said if all goes well, people can now enter relationships, use their positive emotional skills to be good partners and tell who would be a good partner for them. They learn how to be intimate, emotionally intimate, too, in a secure relationship. Well, and if things go south, the opposite would be true, instead of positive intimacy people would learn emotional isolation and feel detached from others. Or somewhere in between again.
There are two more stages, but they only apply in later adulthood, so I’ll leave off here. If you are curious, just Google Erik Erikson. (His mother wasn’t feeling too creative when he got named. Hehe.)
Anyway, after summarizing all that, what do I make of it?! Where are people with BPD? Where am I?
I think it’s safe for me to say that in all of those categories I’m pretty far out on the negative side. I did not grow up in a family where I could have learned basic trust, and I can feel to this day that I always err on the side of mistrust and suspicion of others motives, feeling unsafe with them, like something bad is about to happen, they will turn on me, abandon me, etc. I also was made to feel ashamed of myself a lot, I was always the one who didn’t fit in and would watch others, not playing with them. I always felt and still feel inferior to others, identity confusion describes me to a tee and I’m feeling isolated and alone totally easily! (Gosh, can I just start over, please?! Not the most uplifting thing to realize.)
Hm, but even having learned all that I don’t feel an inch less confused and puzzled about the whole thing. It’s so, so, SO tricky! What do I make of that now? I have no idea. I’ll keep thinking about it and if I have new thoughts, I’ll be back. Unless the topic frustrates me too much.
How about you? If you have any thoughts, and feel like sharing, shoot!