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Exploring Emotional Intelligence and Maturity | Be Kind Coaching | Parent Coach | MegAnne Ford

Exploring Emotional Intelligence and Maturity


Emotional intelligence starts by believing there is no such thing as a bad emotion.

To start, consider a day, a week, a moment void of all emotions. Think about what we would miss out on if everything was always flat, calm, monotone, or just one note.

Emotions add depth, texture, vibrancy, and various dimensions. When I was thinking about this, I thought about scenes from Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella, contemplating how emotions enrich storytelling.

Growing up, I was told not to feel certain emotions, but the best gift of knowing better is that all emotions are not good or bad but serve a purpose and need to be acknowledged. 


Understanding Emotional Immaturity

I remember times in my life when I felt big emotions, sometimes pride or sometimes anger, and many times I was told, "Calm down, MegAnne, don't rub it in, or it is not that big of a deal." I felt like I shouldn't share my emotions, or I was wrong for sharing my emotions, or I was bad for sharing them, and because of that, I felt alone in my experience of feeling that, and I responded to those experiences in immature ways.

Immaturity is an important concept here; maturity is about skill development. When you are immature at something, it means that it's not practiced. Maybe you don't even have awareness around it, so you're immature in this zone. It has nothing to do with age or any sort of accolade; it's just about whether you've practiced it.


The Impact of Emotional Immaturity

I know for a long time, I was very emotionally immature; I had all of these experiences, and I didn't know what to do with them. Being met with adults around me, I realized, "Oh, they, too, were immature in their experience of it." They, too, never had time to cultivate an awareness of emotions, and without awareness of it, it would make sense why there was no development of it.

The adults in my life sent me messages about my lived experience; when I was feeling sad, they would try to make me happy; they would serve up joy. They would serve up, "No, no, no, this is actually what you mean. You want to be happy right now." And really, what that tells me now, as I've gone through and I can reflect back, is that my experience of sadness, of pain, of hurt, of pride, was uncomfortable for them, and so they were doing their best to get me back to what was comfortable for them, which was happiness.


The Importance of Emotional Maturity

Not only were those the messages that were sent to me, but those were also the messages that were sent to them because, as we know with the toolboxes as they passed down, those are generational cycles. And what we've learned was what we inherited, from what they learned from what they inherited. And until we can stop and pause and hold a boundary and say, "Whoa, I want different, I want better. What is it that I need to do here so that I can grow?" Then we can change.


Diving into Emotional Intelligence

In this lens of evolving our emotional wellness, there are two concepts that we're going to dig into: one is emotional intelligence, and the second is emotional maturity. When I say emotional intelligence, I'm speaking of just having an awareness, a vocabulary, and a cognitive understanding that emotions exist. It's the awareness of emotions. And when I say emotional maturity, I'm speaking to the advanced development of those emotions, not based on age, not based on merit, or accolades, but based on whether you have developed the skill of maturing in that experience.


Recommended Reading on Emotional Intelligence

Two books cited here are Daniel Goleman's "Emotional Intelligence" and Lindsey Gibson's "Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents." I feel like these two books really dig into these concepts to bring awareness, education, and then practice in developing these two skills so that we can start to normalize that all of our experiences, all of the intensities, all of the vibrations, all of the ebb and flow, they're all purposeful and relevant.

There are no longer bad or good emotions; it's how we are aware of them, and then we are skilled in navigating them. So, when we look at emotional intelligence, Jeffrey Bernstein says emotional intelligence is a key predictor of children's ability to develop suitable peer relationships, get along at home, develop a well-balanced outlook on life, and reach their academic potential at school.

Thinking about emotional intelligence is how to make sense of what comes up inside of you and how that impacts the relationships around you. So, we look at emotional intelligence, and we break it down more. We can break it down into five skills. Those are skills that are personal to you and then interpersonal with them. So, we're looking at how we are engaging in relationships and peer relationships. How am I aware of these experiences within me, and how does that impact us? The personal skills are self-awareness, self-control, and motivation, and the interpersonal skills with them are empathy and social.




The Five Pillars of Emotional Intelligence 

Pillar 1: Self-Awareness

The first pillar of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Self-awareness is truly just that: emotions are buckets, and feelings are like the water inside of the bucket. Everybody has these buckets, these experiences of joy, sadness, fear, and anger, and all of the different variants. It's part of the human experience, and feelings are their expression. Self-awareness is just the awareness that those buckets and experiences exist—nothing more.

Pillar 2: Self-Control

The second pillar of emotional intelligence is self-control or self-management. It means: what do we do with these buckets filled with water? What do we do with my joy bucket full of all of my experiences of joy? What do I do with my bucket of sadness, with my bucket of fear, with my bucket of anger? It's about managing them, releasing them, and emptying the bucket.

Pillar 3: Motivation

Pillar three is motivation. Motivation is about why we want to manage our emotions. This is where we get into internal or external motivation. External motivation is pressure coming from the outside, while intrinsic motivation is the internal drive. While both have their place, intrinsic motivation tends to win out, especially when it comes to managing emotions.

Pillar 4: Empathy

Pillar four is empathy. Empathy is understanding my experience with my buckets and my water and then understanding someone else's experience and their buckets. It's about recognizing that their experience and their triggers may be different from mine, and that's okay. It's essential not to judge their experience but to bring awareness to it.

Pillar 5: Social Skills

The fifth pillar of emotional intelligence is social skills. It's about working together and using our buckets in helpful ways. It's not about pleasing each other but about recognizing common goals and building intrinsic motivation for growth together.


Six Levels of Emotional Maturity 

As we understand the system and function of emotional intelligence, we can transition into developing emotional maturity. The American Psychological Association defines emotional maturity as a high and appropriate level of emotional control and expression. Emotional immaturity, on the other hand, is a tendency to express emotions without restraint or proportion to the situation.

To break this down further, let's explore Kevin Everett Fitzmaurice's six levels of emotional maturity. These levels can be used interchangeably, and awareness of where you are allows for deeper practice and growth.

1. Responsibility

At level one of emotional maturity, individuals realize that they can no longer view their emotional states as the responsibility of external forces. They learn to take ownership of their emotions and express them responsibly, avoiding dis-ownership phrases and instead acknowledging their feelings.

Example: Instead of saying, "You make me so angry," a person at this level of emotional maturity might express, "I feel angry because the Legos weren't picked up. Let's work together to resolve this."


2. Honesty

Emotional honesty involves the willingness to know and own one's feelings without defensiveness. It's about being honest with oneself and others, even when it's challenging. By dropping defenses and being vulnerable, individuals deepen their emotional practice.

Example: When asked how they're doing, someone practicing emotional honesty might respond, "Things have been challenging lately, but I'm working through it with the support of my loved ones and professional help."


3. Openness

Openness in emotional maturity means being open to releasing emotions rather than holding onto them. It's about allowing emotions to flow freely instead of suppressing or hiding them. This openness fosters growth and resolution.

Example: Rather than suppressing their frustration, an individual who values openness might say, "I'm feeling upset about this situation, and I need to talk about it to find a resolution."


4. Assertiveness

Assertiveness is about confidently claiming one's emotions and experiences. It involves speaking up for oneself and expressing emotions authentically, even when others may misunderstand or disagree. It's a sign of emotional maturity to assertively communicate one's feelings.

Example: If someone invalidates their feelings, an assertive person might assert, "No, you have it wrong. I'm feeling sad, and I need you to acknowledge and respect that."


5. Understanding

Understanding emotional maturity means recognizing that more than one truth can exist simultaneously. It's about acknowledging that people's actions may not fully represent who they are. This level of maturity allows individuals to navigate complexities with empathy and clarity.

Example: Despite disagreeing with someone's actions, an understanding individual recognizes that there may be underlying reasons for their behavior and approaches the situation with empathy.


6. Detachment

Detachment is the deepening of emotional practice, where individuals understand that their experiences do not define them. It involves feeling emotions without identifying with them and navigating them without causing harm to oneself or others. Detachment fosters resilience and self-awareness.

Example: Instead of letting emotions consume them during a conflict, a person practicing detachment acknowledges their feelings without letting them dictate their actions, allowing for a more rational and constructive response.


Emotional Maturity and Intelligence 

So, just to refresh, the five pillars of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-control, motivation, empathy, and social skills. The six levels of emotional maturity are responsibility, honesty, openness, assertiveness, understanding, and detachment.

As we start to develop our emotional intelligence and our emotional maturity, we can begin to embrace all of our experiences, experience all of the scenes of our life, and enjoy all of the moments. We can start to see all of the perspectives, going back all the way to the beginning, with Anna from Disney's "Frozen" wanting to build a snowman. We can see all of the different sides, all of the complexity of just that one scene.

We can start to see all of the different sides and all of the different experiences in the argument between Belle and the Beast. We can start to see the levels of maturity and the levels of awareness, and finally, we can start to see the depth and vibrancy within the story of Cinderella and the Glass Slipper. We can start to see everyone's perspectives, even the stepsisters' jealousy eliciting the tripping.

We can start to understand it by saying, "Oh, I get it. Your bucket of jealousy was filled, and you didn't know what to do with it, so you tripped him." And, of course, the more that we develop these skills, the more that we can hold them with the children in our care because, you know, who's quick to feel things? Children. But you know who's not as emotionally mature? Children.

They are on the journey of developing it. What a powerful privilege and honor to be the person in the space where someone else is developing those skills with you.

As you develop these skills and awareness, you can start to watch and develop these skills with them. And I think that's one of my favorite things. It's allowed me to deepen it, especially as an early childcare teacher and now as a Parent Coach. Having this awareness, having this lens, and being able to do this work with other people's children are powerful.

It's powerful.

So in closing, let's consider:

Are you aware to reflect back on all the different emotions you experience throughout the day or even moments?

So if I were to ask, "What were all the different experiences you had yesterday?" would you be able to reflect on that and say, "Oh, well, you know what? I felt really great at breakfast, and then I felt a little bit nervous going down to the pool, but I felt excited when my friend joined me, and then I felt disappointed because the pool was dirty, so I had to wait. But then I came back in and felt excited to play a game."

Can you start to recall all of the different expressions? Can you do that in a moment? Can you do that for a day? Can you do that for a week? Can you do that over the course of a long period of time?

How comfortable are you in holding your own discomfort and others' discomfort? Or do we quickly put it down?

Are we like, "Nope, I don't even want to acknowledge the bucket's existence"? And if so, that's okay. We can start to acknowledge the bucket's existence. And if it's unpracticed, then it would make sense why it's uncomfortable.

Anything new, when we start to begin it, something can be uncomfortable. Then we start to practice it, and then we start to become more comfortable with it.

Where can you deepen your emotional intelligence and your emotional maturity? In what ways can we start to bring more awareness of all of the vibrancy in our lives and then deepen and mature those skills?


If you're seeking a safe and nurturing environment to practice and cultivate these essential emotional skills, I warmly invite you to start the 5-day GetCLEAR Challenge. It's an opportunity to take the first step on a transformative journey where you can explore, learn, and grow in the company of supportive peers and expert guidance. Together, we'll navigate the intricate landscape of emotional intelligence and maturity, fostering a deeper understanding of ourselves and others. Join me and take the first step towards building a more resilient, compassionate, and fulfilling life.

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