What I Have Learned Lately: Signs of Maturity

Precisely 11 years and three days ago, I published a post called Signs of Maturity: What Does It Mean to Grow Up? I was new to the blogosphere then. The essay attracted some attention, but I wonder now, what might I have missed? Do I still agree with what I wrote over a decade ago? What do I think today?

Indeed, my vision of maturity has altered a bit. Please read on for some old thoughts and a few new ones on the subject:

Signs of Maturity: What Does It Mean to Grow Up?

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The photograph above is the work on Laura Hedien, with her kind permission: Arizona Sunset, S. of Tucson, Late July, 2020.

17 thoughts on “What I Have Learned Lately: Signs of Maturity

  1. I really liked reading this. I found it uplifting, challenging and inspirational, all mixed into one!
    Sobering thought, especially for me not looking back and being able to accept the body changing (though for me more through health than age, but maybe it could be seen as a practice run!).
    I couldn’t see though, if you still agree with all of your thoughts back then, or had much else to add (other than the pandemic side of things)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, LovingSummer. You are correct, I didn’t say directly what has changed, but for my explicit mention of pandemic related issues.

      In response to your question, I’ve now edited the post a little more to add an asterisk in red/orange at the end of paragraphs where I added something I consider significant. Usually, it was an addition of the whole or most of the paragraph. Hope this helps.

      I didn’t remove anything except to make the essay read more smoothly. I suppose this means I’ve widened my horizon on the subject, soften some portions of it, but not discarded most of the ideas I held in 2009. If I were to look at personal changes in my take on the world, I find it both more glorious and more disturbing than ever! I am more open to new thoughts, I judge less, I accept more, and my ego gets smaller. And, importantly, I am hopeful the political dystopia in the world will begin to alter. All the best, LovingSummer.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. gb fragmented gumdrops

    I remember reading your originally post and replying at least once (with a different pseudonym and a very different response back then). After having read your updates (in orange asterisks, along with the totality of the entire blog post), I realized that I’ve matured a little (not a lot), and that there are recent discoveries on “loneliness” that connect with your recent updates.

    Your particular updates have prompted me to think a little more on the subject of maturity and how it connects with loneliness:

    START QUOTE
    “Increasingly I believe we must spend time looking in the mirror before pointing fingers and attacking. We are not so different from those we vilify. Make friends as you mature and on into your senior years. You’ll be happier.*

    “With aging into old age we are well-advised to let go of attachments to things. If, like me, you’ve lost your hair and some pace in your once swift steps, you recognize a body in the process of transformation. You can rage against such changes, or you can hold to all the “things” you “have” with lightness, not gripping them in desperation. Mother nature will win this one. Such alteration — previously unthinkable — isn’t personal. The defacing hand of the universe gets to everyone in time.*

    “Accept, accept what is outside of your control.*

    “Letting go (not giving up) offers less suffering. Detach gradually with a spirit of equanimity. Every well-used car wears out the tire tread in time.*

    “Since this essay is being revised in a pandemic, I’d like to believe we’ve learned from this turn of events. Among the lessons would be that no life is without suffering, as the Buddhists would remind us even in peaceful, “normal” moments in the world. We all share the press of change and strain not present before disease flooded the globe.*

    “A mature individual places significance on finding connection with those who, like us, are treading the water in the sea of woe we now live in. Those lacking physical touch and managing economic distress silently beg for helping hands in those of us not in dread of the lack of food or the inability to pay the rent. An enlightened person recognizes and responds to the shared dignity and need of others now more than ever.*”
    END QUOTE

    My therapist shared with me a link to a very interesting podcast concerning loneliness and how it ties into politics, shame, our sense of self, and this new cognitive distortion so named as “motive attribution asymmetry” (a cognitive bias that refers to the ways in which people see themselves as “righteous” and those holding opposing views as “wrong”; we vilify those with opposing views because we see them as different, instead of finding some common ground and/or utilizing empathy when attempting to understand those with different views). Indeed, we are all more alike than we are different, but there’s something about loneliness that makes us believe that we are more different than we are alike. Here’s the link to the podcast: https://www.vivekmurthy.com/post/loneliness-and-social-connection-with-bren%C3%A9-brown

    How I believe loneliness ties in with maturity is the ways in which we see ourselves and we see ourselves in connection with others. One can feel lonely and still be mature, I believe. It’s the ways in which we deal with our loneliness. I believe that loneliness isn’t always the responsibility of the individual, but rather a byproduct of the failings of genuine maturity found in genuine relationships that include a level of bonding and exchanges between two people exhibiting their authentic selves, or what Winnicott would deem as their “true selves.” Exhibiting our true selves would be considered mature.

    The problem with people seeing old versus young, disabled versus abled, and high-risk versus low-risk during this pandemic is this lack of maturity depicted in the ways we are dividing one another. We don’t see similarities, but rather we see differences. People like me who are high-risk, disabled, older than the norm (middle-aged), and riddled with DID/PTSD issues are told to “just stay home.” We’re told to segregate ourselves from others. We’re told to isolate. We’re told by the more affluent, able-bodied persons to be the ones to sacrifice our freedoms so that others could have pleasure in so-called rebuilding our economy, and so that others could have pleasure in not caring about spreading the virus because they believe it is their different counterparts who are responsible to stay home because, after all, in their minds, it’s our fault that we’re high risk in the first place, and our age makes us closer to death anyway. These horrible remarks lack empathy, love, understanding, unity, and relationship These harsh stances create more loneliness, even though they posit that their staying home would cause more suicidal ideation and attempts for THEM, without any concern about the suicidal ideation and attempts that many disabled and isolated and shunned and disregarded people (some elderly, some not) have been dealing with for years upon years – prior to and during this pandemic. Their fears of suicide and mental illness and isolation are the SAME fears that we disabled and older people are feeling and facing today, because they don’t want to feel it but they want to push it off on us. I can UNDERSTAND their fears because I am SIMILAR to them with those same fears, which is why our OPPOSING VIEWS ON THE LOCUS OF RESPONSIBILITY (they think we are solely responsible versus my believe that we should all be in this together) RENDER THE SAME “hate” or “ad hominem attack” severity levels, even though our judgments differ. Herein lies the immaturity levels that only increase loneliness for both parties, whereby segregation and divisions ARE forms of systemic loneliness that exact consequences on individual persons: opposing sides are biased – “motive attribution asymmetry.”

    I might be attempting to be mature by seeing my own bias in connection with others’ biases as well, but I’m far from mature.

    I struggle with DID, which is a representation of many “false selves,” if I go by Winnicott’s theories. I don’t know if I will ever be accepted. It’s hard for me to connect with others, and I deal with shame on a daily basis, so it’s hard for others to connect with me. I’m lonely on all levels, and it is hard for me to deal with depression, suicidal ideation, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, nightmares, fears, anxieties, panic, etc. It’s therefore hard for me to work toward maturity when I feel like giving up, like no one would care if I were mature or not, if I died or not, if I remain isolated or not. People say they care, but that’s starkly different when the person lacks true bonding – the kind that is eluded to in the podcast.

    We are politically divided because we don’t see similarities among all; we see skin color, we see age, we see the in-group versus the out-group, we see rich versus poor, we see weak-bodied versus strong-bodied, we see generational gaps, we see nothing but differences. Perhaps evolutionary psychology could explain these survival mechanisms for which people create these divides, but are we truly and existentially “surviving?” I survival ever a mature response?

    I realize that my reply here is lengthy, but I felt the need to explain where I’m at and what I’m thinking. In doing so, I’m trying to “mature,” but perhaps not in the way that mainstream society sees me as maturing. I understand that knowledge does not equate to maturity; it’s what we do with such knowledge – the wisdom involved – that exacts maturity. I don’t know yet what to do with all the knowledge I’ve been privy to. I do know that I can ask questions, present my thoughts – however lengthy and distasteful they may seem to some people who prefer parsimony, and just be who I am in this moment – even if I try too hard, even if I’m switchy, even if many alters want to share what they think as well. Even if I carry shame, carry many cognitive distortions, carry many implicit and explicit biases, carry many defenses so that I can survive in a world I think is very dangerous for me/us.

    I believe that both individuals and society are responsible for the loneliness epidemic, and I believe that loneliness is connected with maturity in some way – not to say that loneliness represents a lack of maturity, but rather that loneliness and immaturity on both individual and societal levels are related in some way.

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  3. Thank you for your thoughts and for the link, gb. To respond only to one idea, a Buddhist-flavored message is to make fewer distinctions, to work lightly to improve yourself, including any effort to increase maturity. The move to an increasingly gentle process might, by itself, be a step toward maturity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gb fragmented gumdrops

      Thank you, Dr. S. I’m trying to not be so hard on myself, but that’s challenging. I’m also trying not to be so hard on others, which is a reflection of my being hard on myself. It’s hard for me to focus on one small topic alone. I’m trying, but it will take time. It’s really hard for me to be gentle, slow to speak, quick to actively listen. I’m always on guard. I understand that mindfulness techniques stem from Eastern worldviews, including Buddhism. However, for people who are so hypervigilant and who actually go overboard with mindfulness (but in a different way than that which it was intended), such as me with my many alters who are always on guard, we become overwhelmed with the burden of what others may think, what I did to cause any reactions or not out of others, what I have to do again and again to change who I am (if I do have a real/authentic self) just to please other people because I’m mindful about them. It’s hard enough to be mindful about myself in connection with others, but it just keeps feeding into this loop of fear. I fear what others will do to me. I fear so many things beyond that, too.

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      • I am sympathetic to the challenges you face. I believe you are making a substantial effort at a big job. Peace.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Dr. S, Sorry if I sounded too moody or something. I’m dealing with a lot. I really liked your article – both times I read it, and the additions you made. Maturity is easier said than done. Maturity requires a ton of emotion regulation, especially in trying times like these. I think maturity comes easier for some than others. The number one reason why I struggle so much with my fears of grad school and beyond is maturity; my disabilities make it harder for me to grow and be more mature. It’s not fair that those who weren’t as traumatized as I was throughout life have an easier time with maturity, that is, unless they are dealing with non-traumatic mental or other disabilities. I could have been more mature had I not been as traumatized.

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      • No need to apologize. I found nothing offensive in your comment, gb.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Thank you, Dr. S. 🙂

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      • A word of encouragement. I’ve read many of your comments and have admired your intelligence, courage and tenacity. These are very difficult times to be alone. I know the physical pain of loneliness. I wish you continued strength. As it happens I just read(reread) ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. She, like you, struggled with isolation and loneliness and searched for someone with whom she could share her innermost thoughts and feelings, and feel understood. While only fourteen, she was preternaturally intelligent and mature. In these times, her writings appear uncannily relevant.
        Best wishes,

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m sure gb will be grateful. I am grateful for your comment, as well, Harvey. Stay safe. You are a good man.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        Thank you, Harvey, and thank you, too, Dr. Stein! 🙂 Both of your replies mean the world to me, even though I am moody and “switchy” at times. (“Switchy” means that I dissociate, and my dissociation comes out like different moods or different personalities, however others may perceive me.) I never read the “Diary of Anne Frank,” but now I’m curious to read more about her!

        I realize that I’m not alone in my loneliness – which sounds like an oxymoron, LOL. But there’s something about loneliness that prompts people like me to say more than I should, or desire more deeper connections more quickly because it’s unnatural for anyone to be this lonely for long periods of time – sometimes by choice (due to faulty cognition) but other times not (such as when people are sick, disabled, or dealing with dark mental illnesses that any one of those combinations could mean rejection by the masses, lack of social support, and estrangement from family and loved ones). I’ve experienced much trauma throughout my life, and adding onto that layer of pain is rejection. Such rejection reinforces the idea that I am not good enough, that I’m not worthy of being around other people. Such rejection feeds into or even creates cognitive distortions, especially when those messages are told in childhood, but also in society. It’s not always the responsibility of the lonely to “come out of their own loneliness”; there must be some sort of respondents who are willing to engage with the lonely, the different, the disabled, the sick, the elderly, the poor, the “strange.”

        I am more apt to disclose things that most people wouldn’t disclose – even behind a pseudonym. Why? Because I’m lacking that connection in my life. Studies on loneliness reveal increased psychosis and cognitive distortions, which also include elements of a lack of interpersonal effectiveness, a lack of social intelligence, a lack of trust in many people, an increase in paranoia, an increase in distrust against most people (sometimes in the form of persecution-based delusions), increased depression, increased negative self-concept, increased anxiety whenever engaging with others, etc.

        Not all people started off being lonely.

        I once had friends and close connections. I once had my entire life filled with endless dreams I could accomplish. I was not grandiose, but I was a go-getter. The person before my trauma is gone; she died with every traumatic incident that happened to her. My heart broke time and time again, and the loneliness became a byproduct of (1) my PTSD symptoms – my negative self-talk coupled with others’ stigmas about my mental illness; (2) my lowered SES and overall social status; (3) my violent and threatening surroundings that required me to isolate if I wanted to survive (not unlike some of the perceived threats during this pandemic – especially for some who are high-risk like me); and (4) my fears of being hurt again. I’ve learned to “compensate” for such loneliness by being verbose, by over-sharing, by speaking about very intimate things too fast online with people whom I could never possibly form close relationships with. I only recently found a therapist I could confide in this way, but prior to that, I had a hard time with therapists (as I was traumatized by some unethical ones in the past, which added more layers of PTSD to my growing internal onion of pain). As for my old friends, I lost them after my traumas. I changed ever since military sexual trauma. I used to be resilient against some forms of trauma from childhood, I suppose, but not after what I faced in the military. And thereafter, when I tried to make new friends, I’ve made them, but I never got too close or allowed them to get too close to me. It’s easier to be more intimate under a pseudonym on a blog than it is to be intimate with people who know my name in real life. Still, my craving for intimacy is there.

        There’s no way I can mature under such conditions. I’m in this perpetual loop of need and fear.

        And yet I have matured during different stages of my life – typically during the times when I wasn’t alone. I was able to have enough social resources to learn and grow, to triumph over everyday hassles and even those challenges that only training can help you overcome. I remember being way more mature before I regressed into this splintered mess of dissociation.

        And long before that, I was probably adultified from trauma, if not parentified as well. I would venture to bet that any adverse childhood experience would lead to adultification (not necessarily parentification, depending on how that is defined).

        Fourteen! Wow, Anne Frank does sound intelligent, and “adultified.” “Adultification” occurs when a child or person exhibits traits beyond their stages of development. Many children who have dealt with adverse childhood experiences (or ACEs; not necessarily including trauma, but trauma may be part of ACEs) grow up before their time. They learn to adapt quickly to their circumstances, whether it be due to poverty, a sick parent, a pandemic, deployed parents, or the kind of loneliness that occurs from any one of those and being left at home alone repeatedly (such as those who were once deemed as latchkey kids, who are today considered physically neglected children in this country – yet in other countries, parentification, or “alloparenting,” is the norm, as is adultification). Whenever you need to learn from adversity, you are in survival mode. Some people cower under such circumstances, whereas others learn, adapt, and overcome. Compensatory relationships are also studied among some youth in foster care and other adverse settings. Compensatory relationships include, for example, a youth mentor who “acts like a parent” to a foster child, and who may work in tandem with or co-parent with foster parents, etc. The compensation is replacing a biological parent with an alternative – someone who might be able to love, nurture, teach, guide, and care for a child when that parent or those parents are missing. Yet even with kinship care, or other forms of alternative foster care (not including adoption settings), the strength of compensation in such relationships does not make up for the loss of true parental love. It’s unclear whether or not adoption settings count, in comparison, but for foster care, those poor kids lack the same level of nurture they would have received from healthy parents.

        Whenever children like Anne Frank are isolated and dealing with various forms of loneliness (I’m assuming, since I haven’t read up on her and don’t have a clue, sadly, what her diary is about), they may learn to compensate for a lack of the kind of socialization they were used to prior to that time – that utterly traumatic time! Their compensation may show up in the form of diaries, like Anne Frank’s, or may show up in the form of being too open and/or too forthcoming in person or online, such as what I suspect I’m dealing with. Loneliness is a byproduct of some issue – whether it be adverse or traumatic (which is a form of adversity), and together, that lack of true connection (not just mere instrumental support, but the kind of emotional support that bonds people together) does something to someone’s ontological development – even in adulthood, no matter what stage you’re in. You can be mature in some areas, or perhaps mature for your age, or perhaps mature for a period of time, but it seems like regression exacts immaturity, and prolonged loneliness (absent strengths such as resilience and/or post-traumatic growth) can lead to immaturity in some senses. If a person is spiritual, which is a strength, they have God. But absent such strengths, true loneliness feels like you’re shunned by society, the world, and everything in it.

        Anne Frank sounds like she was a resilient, strong young lady who has went through adverse childhood experiences. I can’t wait to read up on her and find out what her diary refers to. Forgive me for my ignorance in this, as I’m sure that name sounds familiar to me, and is probably famous, but I’m unaware of who she is. I’m sure most people know of her story, because her name sounds really familiar to me.

        Anyway, I wanted to connect loneliness with maturity, since this pandemic does create a ton of loneliness for some, and since loneliness (as I posit) can lead to more immaturity – lest there be some protective factors in place.

        I hope my long-winded explanation makes sense. I am trying (or will try) to cut down on the length of my responses, but it’s a process, and I’m struggling with a lot.

        Thanks for your responses. It means a lot. 🙂

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      • gb fragmented gumdrops

        tldr (my first response) – Thank you, Harvey! I do feel encouraged by your response, and I’ll probably buy an Anne Frank diary to read during this time.

        And thank you, Dr. Stein. I am always pleased to hear your responses and find encouragement and/or enlightenment from them. 🙂

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      • You are absolutely welcome, gb.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. gb fragmented gumdrops

    Harvey, thank you. I am not intelligent, but I do feel encouraged by your words. You, however, seem really intelligent with your response to me. I ordered the book and will read it soon. I am struggling with a lot of mental illnesses at the moment. I apologize for being verbose and all over the place.

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