Emotional Maturity: Your Personal Strength

IMAGE It's Friday morning and Jane and Alice arrive at work only to hear that their supervisor needs them to work late to finish a proposal for Monday morning. This means that they will both have to cancel their evening activities.The two coworkers spend some time commiserating and complaining. Jane then gets back to work, her disappointment fading as she concentrates on getting her work done. Alice, on the other hand, is furious and feels victimized by her boss. She phones a friend to complain some more and finds it hard to focus on her work, wanting to retaliate against her boss by doing a mediocre job. In the face of disappointment, Jane showed resilience, while Alice did not. Being able to handle life's ups and downs without overreacting is a hallmark of emotional maturity, according to Dr. Martha Stark, a Boston-area psychiatrist, Harvard Medical School faculty member and author of Modes of Therapeutic Action . "You can handle things that come your way and it will have an impact upon you, but not do you in. Through it all, you'll hold on to faith in people and in yourself and a good feeling about the world. You're resilient, you recover," she says.An immature person reacts to difficulties with bitterness, resentment, despair, or anger. "The recovery is so long, and you feel victimized and disempowered and disenfranchised. You let go of your dreams and you give up somehow. Eventually you get through it, but you waste a lot of time," Stark observes.

The Mature Personality

Starks defines psychological maturity as "being able to accept the reality of people and things as they are, without needing them to be other than that." To paraphrase a Native American adage: "The art of living in peace with that which we cannot change, the courage to change that which should be changed, no matter what it takes, and the wisdom to know the difference." Along with this realistic attitude toward life, mature people also possess these healthy character traits:
  • Ability to know what you want and the capacity to make it happen
  • Self-control and thinking before you act
  • Self-reliance and the ability to take responsibility for your life and actions
  • Patience
  • The ability to sustain intimate relationships and establish positive connections with others
  • Generosity and the desire to give and be there for others
  • Integrity
  • A sense of balance and equanimity in dealing with stress
  • Perseverance
  • Decisiveness
  • Humility and the ability to admit when you are wrong

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