How to handle emotionally immature Asian Parents
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How to Handle Emotionally Immature Asian Parents

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Emotional Maturity vs. Immaturity


How does a person handle emotionally immature Asian Parents? Well, emotional immaturity, at the core of its definition, is the inability to recognize, process, and take responsibility for one’s own feelings.

Being emotionally mature is not something we grow into as we age. We don’t instantly become emotionally mature when society labels us an adult. Nor do we automatically become emotionally mature when we get our first job, get married, have a kid, or retire.

Emotional maturity is the process by which we learn to successfully navigate our entire emotional spectrum, taking responsibility for how we feel about ourselves, others, and the world around us.  This also means that when we are emotionally mature we seldomly act out on, or suppress our emotions.

Emotionally immature adults are often unable to recognize or manage their emotions. They usually avoid their emotions by intellectualizing, explaining, analyzing, disagreeing, attacking, joking, apologizing, evading, going silent, becoming aloof or suspicious, rejecting, criticizing, or judging. They often come across as superior, arrogant, stubborn, ignorant, defiant, hostile, people-pleasing, wishy-washy, phony, resentful, intolerant, self-pitying, or victimized.

Because emotionally immature adults have not explored their emotions as a child to learn and regulate their feelings, they superimpose their child-like emotions in their adult lives. Which results in them often being childish rather than child-like. They are reactive and throw tantrums. They are fearful, scared, needy, angry, resentful, pushy, bullying, jealous, or envious. They can be quiet, withdrawn, defensive, argumentative, or grandiose. They can come across as overbearing, micromanaging, controlling, disrespectful, fearful, angry, negative, judgmental, critical, abusive (mentally, emotionally, psychologically, physically), dishonest, insincere, narcissistic, and focused on the self and the ego.

In contrast, the emotionally mature adult understands their emotions do not dictate who they are. They are aware of their emotions but are also in control and are able to manage what they feel. So they are more objective and are less judgmental. They are better able to separate themselves from triggers that would normally provoke an emotional reaction. They experience states of equanimity and inner calm. They take responsibility for their emotions and are willing to self explore their feelings rather than blaming others for how they feel.

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That’s not to say that an emotionally mature individual isn’t chid-like. In fact, they are often lively, excited, adventurous, joyful, happy, and open. But they are also nurturing, supportive, firm, fair, helpful, respectful, self-responsible, non-judgmental, honest, sincere, and focused on the well-being of themselves and of others.

Emotionally immature parents:

  • Have low empathy and are emotionally insensitive
  • Have low stress tolerance
  • They throw tantrums
  • They’re emotionally hungry
  • Don’t respect differences
  • Seek entrapment
  • Demand mirroring
  • Can be uncompromising or impulsive
  • Are self-preoccupied and self involved
  • They self reference rather than self reflect
  • Like to be the center of attention
  • Possesses a role entitilement, role coercion, and role compliance

How Do We Handle Our Parents Emotions?

  1. Emotionally Detach Ourselves
    Rather then engaging in to a spiralling “you feel vs I feel” match, use your observer’s mind when you’re communicating with these parents to minimize conflicts and being suckered into their emotional reactivity. This allows you to be more logical and analytical and less emotionally invested in the conversation, allowing you to no longer be their emotional victim. By neutrally observing their self-centeredness and manipulations, you gain freedom from the need for their approval.
  2. Express Yourself Without Expectations
    Say what you need to say in a clear and concise manner without the expectations that change will happen. Understand that you can only control your response to them, you can not control their response back to you. Releasing yourself of the need to get a satisfying response will make your messages more effective as there’s no attachments for emotional gratification. You’re main goal is to only communicate your thoughts clearly and effectively without adding to the pile of criticism and blame. And understand that because these types of parents have low stress tolerance and don’t respect differences, you should lower your expectations of how they’ll respond to you.
  3. Be Result Driven, Not Relationship Driven
    Focus on the outcome you want and guide the conversation towards where you want to end up. By focusing toward the outcome you want, you avoid the frustration of having all conversations hijacked by your parent’s emotional sensitivity. If you let them set the pace, you will end up drained and resentful. Don’t be distracted by their criticisms and self absorption.
  4. DO NOT ENGAGE AND SET BOUNDARIES
    Understand that emotionally immature parent are unable to handle their inner life, therefore they’re unable to build a rational and empathetic relationship that nurtures and validates another person. For Asian parents, it may be significantly harder for them to be aware of their shortcomings let alone accept that their child is pointing these shortcomings out to them. They are unable to be flexible in their thinking and they see you as an extension of themselves. They disregard your reality of thoughts and feelings. They don’t respect your emotional rights because your thoughts should reflect theirs. They don’t have a sense strong self for a relationship to be built on. Instead of engaging with them, relate to them as mature adults would relate to a child – understand that in doing so this allows you the opportunity to create healthy boundaries for yourself free from the influence of your parents.

Emotionally immature parents will drive you mentally ill if you mistake their physical age for their emotional age. These parents act like children and expect their children to treat them as parents. Acknowledging and accepting that you may have exceeded their emotional development, and their insensitivities will help you hurt a little less.

Most importantly, understand that you’re never responsible for anyone else’s behavior, happiness, or emotional state. Emotional maturity requires careful attention to and cultivation of our emotional lives, something most of us instinctively avoid but are solely responsible for.

What about you?

There’s no doubt that being raised by an emotionally immature parent has detrimental traumatic effects on a child’s growth and self-development. There’s no getting around it as these wounds of loneliness, blame, emptiness, and abandonment can cut deep and leaves painful emotional scars.

Growing up in a dysfunctional family where you don’t feel safe, seen, heard, and validated can cause any child to lose their own sense of individuality and the ability to trust their instinct.

You may be overly self-sacrificing and become resentful of how much you do for other people. You may internalize all your feelings and develop codependent on others and place other’s needs ahead of yours. So you are self taught to disconnect from your own instincts and feelings as a means to self preserve. Being taught to doubt yourself and mistrust your emotional needs becomes a problem when you need to figure out who you want to marry or what you want to do as a profession, as all of these decisions come from a sense of internal guidance.

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Opening up to this childhood pain and grief that you carry is actually natural and healthy. Allow yourself to grieve for your loss of childhood, the expectations in your parents, the wonderment of what your childhood could have been and what your parents could have been. Talk to someone. Seek therapy and heal so that you can live uncompromised adulthood, learn to regulate your own emotions, and if you have kids, your kids don’t need to heal from you.

How Do We Become More Emotionally Mature?

The most unmistakable quality of emotional maturity is the ability to be in the moment, to be present while being non-reactive or judgmental. It’s the capacity “to be the eye within a hurricane”, act with equanimity, and have an unwavering attitude of calm and peace.

Being present supports our true and authentic self to guide us. We distinguish “right knowledge”, “right understanding” and “right action”. We feel our emotions without becoming our emotions. So when we’re triggered, we watch, witness, and observe but don’t succumb to a childish reaction.

An integral part of mastering emotional maturity is being open to learning. An emotionally mature person recognizes that there are always things to learn and gain from others around them. Being open-minded to accepting and learning from your circumstances and others will allow you to grow in more ways than one.

Of course, the crucial fact of emotional maturity comes from being aware of your emotions and being honest about how you feel. It is incredibly tempting to ignore feeling a particular emotion or memory that we find uncomfortable and even painful. However, when we ignore these emotions we allow them to take control of us in different ways. Emotional maturity means acknowledging everyone is imperfect and limited to their difficult emotions such as fear, anger, and embarrassment. The most important thing is, to be honest with yourself by asking self-reflective questions to understand the reasons behind your emotions rather than allowing them to fester in different self-destructive ways.

One of the most valuable and consistent rewards that you can reap from living an emotionally mature life is emotional independence. You will gain freedom and resilience with emotional maturity as nothing compares to the self-confidence of knowing that you’re strong and mature enough not to be wavered by life’s circumstances.

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While it is not easy to admit when you’re wrong, another key sign of emotional maturity is the ability to do so. Admitting when you are wrong not only demonstrates that you take responsibility for your own actions, it also shows that you are not quick to blame others for your own mistakes. An obsession with always being right, no matter what the cost, is an indicator of emotional immaturity. Apologizing takes courage, and in recognizing our weaknesses we demonstrate our emotional intelligence.

The same goes for receiving criticism, an emotionally mature person is able to receive criticism and not take it as a personal attack. Rather, they can take the feedback on board and aim to learn from it instead.

Nothing in this world compares to the feeling you have when you know that you’re strong and mature enough to make the best out of the worst, regardless of what the future may have in store for you.

No more drama, no more wallowing in self-pity, no more losing yourself in regrets.  

Achieving emotional maturity is no easy feat. It can mean addressing some parts of ourselves which we have previously chosen to ignore, admitting to previous mistakes, and being honest about our true thoughts and feelings. However, it also means being kind to yourself and letting go of the things you regret.

We are all driven by emotions, but if you can conquer your emotions you’ll master your happiness.

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Book Suggestion:

Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson PsyD 

If you grew up with an emotionally immature, unavailable, or selfish parent, you may have lingering feelings of anger, loneliness, betrayal, or abandonment. You may recall your childhood as a time when your emotional needs were not met, when your feelings were dismissed, or when you took on adult levels of responsibility in an effort to compensate for your parent’s behavior. These wounds can be healed, and you can move forward in your life. In this breakthrough book, clinical psychologist Lindsay Gibson exposes the destructive nature of parents who are emotionally immature or unavailable. You will see how these parents create a sense of neglect, and discover ways to heal from the pain and confusion caused by your childhood. By freeing yourself from your parents’ emotional immaturity, you can recover your true nature, control how you react to them, and avoid disappointment. Finally, you’ll learn how to create positive, new relationships so you can build a better life.

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