“Why can’t people just behave like adults?”
“Why do people have counterproductive behaviours when they are upset?”
“Why can’t people just show up and do their job?”
“Why do people have to be so emotional and immature at times?”
Ever ask any questions like these about others or yourself?
I have often heard Managers and Leaders express frustration such as this, as well as wonder how to effectively empower those around us to be strong and decisive.
There is some solid science around why this kind of age regressive behaviour happens and why. It happens to all of us from time to time.
So why do we behave immaturely? It is because emotional and mental maturing does not happen spontaneously in the course of things like physical maturing does. All children given adequate nutrition will grow to adulthood. Emotional and mental maturing needs to be facilitated and guided by a competent adult; parenting or mentoring or coach.
Moreover, it happens because we are not a singular persona in our inner experience. We have parts to our ego concept; the part of yourself that went to school, the part that was a teenager, the part that was a toddler etc. They are all still there inside, like different people. And these parts separate off when they experience trauma.
Now, you will know from your own experience that not all psychological trauma comes from outside, from what others say or do to us, but what we are saying or doing about what is happening. All of us have had experiences that we have interpreted in ways that have deeply distressed us.
Here is an example: I arranged to visit my dad one morning after staying with a friend overnight. She was a single mother of 3 children. As I was leaving (to be on time to see my dad) she told me she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and didn’t know what to do – who would care for her children if she died. I stayed a while to hold space for her and messaged my dad I would be a bit late. When I arrived at dad’s home he was angry and told me to go. He was convinced I spent time with others and was late for him because he was not important to me. Can you imagine how a thought like that could traumatise the soul? In reality this was not the case. I left my friend after a short time because I love and care about my dad deeply.
Whether we have had perfect parents, teachers or mentors or not; whether we have had traumas from the outside or not; we all have done things inside our mind when we were young. Those responsible adults around us could not have seen the invisible workings of our thoughts and supported us to challenge our thinking.
Now, the interesting thing is that when some part of our self experiences a trauma like this, it is like a carriage derailing. It stays right where it is, waiting for someone or something, to get it back on track. That part has not matured a day since that thought or event, and they do not know the things you know because they are stuck back there in that moment of that thought. They have had none of the experience you have had.
To get this part back on track, what the psyche does is find something similar in the current environment to re-active the emotion of the original experience so that old thinking can be brought back on track and the old painful emotion released. THAT is why we behave immaturely when we are triggered by current events that upset or hurt us.
So what to do? We can release the old thinking and we will feel differently about the original event and the current event, but that does not make the younger part of us miraculously adult. The maturation process still needs to be facilitated.
The someone your younger selves are waiting for to help them grow and mature is no one but YOU.
How do we help these parts of ourselves? There is an ancient principle known as The Law of Correspondence; as above, so below – as without, so within. What works outside between child and adult i.e. parenting, also works within between our child, immature parts and our adult parts.
In other words, what works and does not work in parenting models works with our inner children.
Reflecting on where you fit on the spectrum of parenting styles can be helpful. Taking that one step further: know that any of us with any style at any point in time could benefit from the self-reflection
Parenting models tell us much about what empowers.
The work of Diane Baumrind in the 1960s created one commonly referenced categorization of parenting styles. The four Baumrind parenting styles have distinct names and characteristics:
- Authoritarian or Disciplinarian
- Permissive or Indulgent
The first three are known to inhibit the maturation process whereas the 4th – authoritative – is a coaching-like approach known to facilitate and aid maturation.
Authoritarian parents are disciplinarians.
- Strict discipline style – arbitrary rule without explanation
- Unidirectional communication from parent to child
- Limited nurturing
- High Expectations
Permissive or Indulgent parents let their children do what they want, and don’t challenge or offer guidance or direction. This is a common model in self-parenting models.
- Opposite of strict discipline style – no rules.
- Open but non directive communication direction
- Warm nurturing but children figure out their problems
- Minimal or no expectations – not set by these parents.
Uninvolved parents give children a lot of freedom and stay out of the way. Some do so because they aren’t interested in parenting or have uncertainty.
- No discipline style – the child mostly does what as they please
- Limited communication
- Little nurturing.
- Few or no expectations
Authoritative parents are self-disciplined, think for themselves and use reason and nurturing in their interaction. This style is known to be most beneficial for children.
- Reasoned disciplinary
- Frequent and age appropriate communication
- High nurturing
- High expectations with clear goals
Our re-parenting model
The effective Adult/Mentor/Parent approach provides: boundaries, guidance, and support in eliciting solutions, while holding a safe space while they test and explore. In this approach they do three key things, which facilitate empowerment/maturation.
In our upcoming Reparent Yourself workshop we will be explaining this model in depth and practicing applying it to a context in our lives where we might be behaving immaturely. Join us to learn more.