I recently had a neighbor get upset about something I was doing, and instead of calling, texting, or knocking on my door to talk about it, it seems as though he worked up a fine resentment that eventually came out sideways.
On Sunday, he threw something into my garage out of anger and then ran away, apparently? When I heard the clatter, I walked outside to see what the shit was going on.
Nobody was there.
I walked out into the street for clues and caught this joker peeking out from his driveway, so I strolled down to talk to him. He was visibly flustered and started telling me about this issue and how “all the neighbors” feel about it like it was the 538th time we’d had this talk.
I didn’t know it was a serious concern because not one person had said a single word to me about it until this point.
Now, it doesn’t matter that dude is in his sixties with grown-ass adult children of his own. Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve grown up.
I immediately recognized just how silly the situation was and knew that I would have to be the adult here. I heard what he had to say and told him, “Thanks for letting me know how you feel. I’ll think about it and get back to you.”
I stopped by his house the next day and knocked on his door (modeling the behavior I would like to see from him). He wasn’t home so I sent him a text asking if he had time to talk later. He obliged.
We had a good sit-down and smoothed the whole shit out in a few minutes. I apologized for the unintended consequences of my actions, asked how I could make things right, then expressed my sincere desire for him to speak to me directly if any issue arises in the future.
Immature Is Not a Bad Word
The word “immature” has developed derogatory connotations over time, but truthfully, it’s not a character judgment.
Maturation occurs with healthy adult attachment — nurturing, guidance, support, education, experience, modeling, etc. Things that many people didn’t adequately receive. Nobody “matures themselves.” So when someone is acting immaturely, it’s not really their fault. They weren’t given the things they needed to support healthy human development. They’re just as much a victim of their immaturity as you are!
This, too, is why telling someone to grow the fuck up is not quite as helpful as you might hope.
In Hold On to Your Kids, developmental psychologist Gordon Neufeld writes, “Human beings are either in defensive mode or in growth mode, but they cannot be in both at the same time.” Growing up in a toxic environment requires us to live in survival mode and arrests our emotional development. We eventually age out of adolescence and start looking real adulty, but many of us are still emotional ten-year-olds behind the facade.
Don’t Take It Personal
People mature in different ways (mentally, emotionally, physically, etc.) at different speeds. No one has the exact same level of maturity.
And taking someone’s immaturity as a personal attack is, in and of itself, immature. It points to a fundamental misunderstanding of human behavior and a self-centered view of the world in which everything appears to be happening TO you or AT you. All children are exactly this self-centered. But with appropriate guidance, they become healthy adults and grow out of this center-of-the-universe-ness.
I could’ve been highly offended by this neighbor throwing a shit fit in my driveway. How dare he disrespect me like that! Who does he think he is? and other such egotistical reactions. But I simply observed his dysregulated nervous system and immature behaviors, then did my utmost to respond from a place of neutrality and integrity.
Worked out just fine.
We’re All Still Maturing
You never finish growing up. It’s a lifelong process. In fact, by definition, anything that’s not growing is dead. So judging or shaming someone for still needing to grow is kind of absurd. It’s all just part of the human experience.
Now, if you’re interested in maturing and would like to know how to facilitate that, here are my top two suggestions:
1. Get out of survival mode.
It’s hard to mature when you’re just trying to make it through another day. This means you need to feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure (without self-medicating). You’ll need to know how to get your needs met in healthy ways and how to protect yourself from toxic people and situations (boundaries). Until this basic level of safety is established, it’s impossible to mature in any meaningful way. And if you haven’t the foggiest notion of how to do this, please find yourself a good therapist posthaste.
2. Surround yourself with people who are more mature than you.
Obviously, hanging out with a ragtag bunch of irresponsible assholes is not a strategy for personal development. Get yourself a mentor, role model, coach, therapist (or all of the above). Cultivate friendships with people of integrity who you admire. People who support, encourage, and inspire you. Also, remove individuals from your life who bring you down — even if they’re close relatives. Fuck those people. Life is too short to feel obligated to hang out with people who suck.
I’d like to reemphasize the importance of not self-medicating, which can be done with work, food, exercise, drugs, alcohol, money, sex, video games, social media — any number of things that you use to avoid feeling your feelings and being human. None of those things are inherently bad, but if you’re using them as survival tactics, they will also keep you stuck indefinitely.
Again, no one matures themselves. Maturation is a process that requires help from other human beings. Please, please, please ask for help when you need it…
Because not asking for help is immature as fuck.
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