Emotionally stunted? Have you heard that term? It’s not the same as Emotionally Immature, which is better known as Little Prince or Little Princess syndrome, aka Peter Pan syndrome.
Do you feel as if you (or someone you love) doesn’t show “proper” emotions? What exactly are “proper” emotions? Who decides how another person should react to every situation? Why do we even need to talk about our feelings and emotions?
That’s what I want to discuss in this blog post!
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Why We Need Emotions
Emotions provide a strong incentive to strive for rewarding situations and to work hard to prevent negative situations. They help guide and motivate us in work, relationships, enjoyment and even the hard times of life.
We learn basic emotions as infants, on through childhood and even teenage years. Our parents and family reinforce the emotions that we exhibit. We start out exhibiting emotions through natural instincts, such as hunger, discomfort and being tired.
How our parents/caregivers either react or ignore or needs and emotions over those basic needs will then reinforce or stunt our emotional growth.
As children, our most basic emotions are simply tied to our very basic needs for survival.
When we are hungry, we cry and Mother feeds us. We are then full, happy and satisfied. We bond with Mother and feel safe, secure and loved. We may not understand all those emotions at that time in our lives, but we learn to feel and associate our feelings and needs.
Therefore we enjoy those feelings and want to continue feeling that way. We need to feel that way in order to be satisfied and happy. When we don’t feel that way, then we become sad and sometimes very angry.
One can easily become emotionally stunted when their basic needs are not met adequately by Mother (or main care provider) in the early stages of infancy/childhood.
Perhaps the child is fed, but not met with as much attention or love as others. This is not always simply because the parent doesn’t love the child, it can be for other deeper reasons.
Growing up in an Emotionless Home
Let’s have a quick look at each of these situations. In the first one, the person has grown up in an emotionless home. We see this situation a lot in people who were raised by a single father. The father may have had a traumatic event (his wife died or left him and the children) and may himself be suppressing emotions. He probably has to work very hard to provide for his children. Paternal instinct is to provide for his family, so work and income become very important and often trump other parental duties, such as spending quality time with the kids. He has to “suck it up” a lot in life, and may feel he’s helping his kids grow up and mature by teaching them to “suck it up.” Without trying to speak in stereotypes, it is also fair to say that men tend to be less expressive of emotions than are women.http://www.alcoholism-addiction-psychology.com/are-you-emotionally-stunted/
Personally, I feel it’s fair to say, as a single parent when raising my own children, it was easier raising my girls than my son.
Simply because I am a woman so I didn’t want my only son being raised in a house of females to grow up being a sissy or too soft.
Illogical thinking on my part at the time? Perhaps. But without trying to stereotype my family, culture, and upbringing, I came from a small Texas farming family and community.
Boys were supposed to grow up “rough and tough”. That was hard to teach one boy in the midst of two sisters with a house full of Barbie dolls.
How did I raise my son
Oftentimes I still worry about how I raised my son emotionally. Is he too serene and complacent? Or is he actually discontented?
These are questions I may never know the true answers to about my son. It takes a lot of hurt or something really major to upset or anger him. Otherwise, we don’t see much emotion out of him. He is steady, easy-going and normally happy.
Recently I’ve seen a drastic change in my oldest grandson and how he expresses his emotions. He has become exactly like his Uncle now.
My grandson is only 10, and when I asked him a few weeks ago what he wanted for Christmas this year, he replied: “I don’t care, whatever you want to get me.” What 10-year-old doesn’t have a Christmas list a mile long by the middle of November? Especially when Granny asks him for that list?
If Not Emotionally Stunted
What else is there, if not emotionally stunted? Actually, there is any number of emotional problems out there. Maybe all of them aren’t even problems.
Earlier I mentioned “Little Prince or Princess Syndrome” aka Peter Pan Syndrome. This is usually attributed to the “Helicopter Parent”.
Whenever a parent becomes over-protective it never teaches the child that there are consequences to their choices and actions. Learning consequences is one of the most valuable lessons we have to learn in life. The earlier we learn it, the better off we will be for the remainder of our life.
Peter Pan Syndrome is the same as Emotional Immaturity. This usually equals to adult temper tantrums when they eventually are faced with unpleasant consequences to their own actions.
Let’s look at some signs of Emotionally Immature People.
- Emotional escalations: often cry, get mad, or outwardly appear petulant and pouting.
- Blaming: When things go wrong, they look to blame someone else.
- Lies: When there’s a situation that’s uncomfortable, they might lie to stay out of trouble.
- Name-calling: this is just childish.
- Impulsivity—or as therapists say, “poor impulse control”: instead of listening to others’ viewpoints, they impulsively interrupt them.
- Need to be the center of attention: Ever tried to have adult dinner conversations with a two-year-old at the table?
- Bullying: In many cases, it’s safer just to let a bully have what he wants. Adults, on the other hand, respect boundaries: Yours is yours and mine is mine.
- Budding narcissism: Whatever they want, they take. This narcissistic tendency may initially look like strength. But in reality, it reflects a serious weakness: being unable to see beyond the self. Psychologically strong people listen to others, hoping to understand others’ feelings, concerns and preferences. Narcissists hear only themselves and are emotionally brittle as a result.
- Immature defenses: Freud coined the term defense mechanisms for ways in which individuals protect themselves and/or get what they want. Adults use defense mechanisms like listening to others’ concerns as well as to their own. Another primitive defense is denial: “I didn’t say that!” or “I never did that!” when in fact they did say or do the thing they claim not to have done. Sound childlike to you?
- No observing ego—that is, no ability to see, acknowledge, and learn from their mistakes
Credits for the above list to Susan Heitler, Ph.D.
Revealing your emotions makes you vulnerable, (not actually true) at least that is what I learned early in life. I learned this the hard way.
My family and childhood were full of love, I never doubted how much my parents, brother, and the entire family loved and accepted me.
Everyone loved each other, it just wasn’t always demonstrated through lots of hugs and kisses. Outwardly signs of affection were awkward, especially for the men in my family.
Actually, even the women were very nurturing but not overly giving with touchy-feely hugs and kisses. With infants sure, but once you were past 5 or so you were running, playing, helping around the house and so forth. No time for all that lap-holding and coddling.
My family taught strong love, not exactly tough love but how to be kind, loving, compassionate and always be strong, unbreakable. Never let them see you sweat!
Once I slipped and became weak. Early in life, I revealed my deep true feelings to a guy. I felt he had the same feelings because he vowed that he did.
However, at my most vulnerable time, (you can read about it here) his actions did not back up his promises. I was left with a bared heart, and feeling as if I was totally out of control.
Becoming somewhat emotionally detached I learned to guard my feelings. I promised myself I’d never let myself be that vulnerable again.
Finding Emotional Balance
Healthy emotions are good! As humans, we are social beings. We need to socialize. We need companionship. We thrive in healthy relationships with family and friends.
In order to build, establish and keep those healthy relationships we must be able to communicate. That includes being able to express our feelings and emotions.
However, you have to work at finding that healthy emotional balance. To do that you have to become self-aware of your emotions. You also have to learn to respect other people’s emotions too.
Going to Extremes
While some people go “overboard” by being overly emotional about everything, others do just the opposite.
One person may get weepy because they are so dang happy and also cry because their plant died. They may also cry because they are laughing so hard they are about to pee their pants.
Perhaps their tear ducts are just overly sensitive, who knows? Obviously they don’t want to cry while they’re laughing, but they just can’t help it.
On the other hand, I went “overboard” to the opposite extreme. After allowing myself to become so vulnerable at that young age, I grew so guarded that I self-sabotaged many of my relationships afterward.
Dangers of Guarded Emotions
After vowing to never be vulnerable again, I did allow myself to love again. I married a great guy, I was even happy.
However, at the first sign of feeling as if the marriage might have some problems, I bailed. I wasn’t about to stick around and wait for him to leave me, I had to leave first. I wasn’t going to be the vulnerable one, dumped and left heart-broken again.
So-on and so-forth I’ve gone, always being the one to break off relationships throughout my life.
Emotions are good! They are necessary and need to be talked about. They help guide us and motivate us. Don’t be afraid to feel. Even fear is a much-needed emotion that helps guide us in some situations.
I hope you enjoyed this post
As always my hope with any of my posts is that my readers can find it helpful and enjoyable.
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