|Observations Only - Two ages of man|
|May 25, 2012 Nina Betz|
A number of years ago, when my daughter was an undergrad at the University of Wyoming, she called me about a problem she was having with a new roommate. The house was large with several bedrooms, so privacy should not have been a problem; but it was. A male student asked to rent a bedroom and the three women needed another person to pay rent, so they let him move in. The problems one would expect didnít happen; instead he took over the common rooms for his own use and became angry and threatening when she tried to talk to him about sharing the space. I listened to all of this, then I asked her a question. How old is he? She thought about 21.
I explained that a personís emotional age is not the same as his chronological age. Ideally, the ages will coincide but in this situation, the man was behaving like a 13 to 15-year-old boy. My suggestion was that she interact with him as though he were 13 and not expect the behavior of a 21-year old. She began to talk to and interact with him like he was her younger brother. The problem improved almost immediately.
The wide disparity between emotional and chronological age is excused with platitudes such as, thatís just how they are, they didnít mean it, or they donít understand. Poverty, life accidents, child abuse, divorce, and general bad luck can cause a child at any age, to stop growing emotionally. Some children are able to overcome the trauma and some cannot completely recover from the shock and in a sense, become old children. The lack of empathy, a symptom of stunted emotional growth, is the root of bullying and cruelty that persists long after childhood. Substance abuse, angry outbursts and excessive self-blame are also clues to emotional immaturity. A painful, sad realization occurs when a marriage partner discovers that theyíre expected to be a parent instead of lover and friend to their mate and must shoulder the responsibility for their family.
The problem we have with people who are emotionally immature is remaining disengaged from their out-of-control arguments, temper flare-ups and manipulative attempts to get what they want. Name-calling, disrespect and the temptation to gossip and meddle in the affairs of others become serious problems. The question of how to deal with a person we canít get along with and who doesnít seem to want to get along with us, has long been a source of conversation and entertainment.
The first step is to evaluate the circumstances and to honestly examine our own behavior, and what part we may have played in a quarrel. The next step is to consider at what chronological age we would normally see this type of behavior, observe how frequently it occurs and in what context; this assessment gives us a fairly accurate idea of the approximate emotional age we are dealing with. Now without ridicule or judgment, we can understand why our 30-year-old friend or relative who sometimes acts like theyíre 15, behaves the way they do.
We can accept them as they are and stop expecting them to act their chronological age because ironically, they are acting their age. As Americans we are age conscious to a greater degree than the rest of the world. We would be better served by forgetting about chronological age and interacting with people according to their emotional age instead.
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