What does it meant to be in emotional adulthood?
I bet everyone has said at one time or another, “She made me so mad!” or “He is frustrating me!”
If you’ve been around here a while, though, you know that other people don’t control our emotions. We create our own emotions with our thoughts. And acknowledging that gives us back a sense of control over own lives. Case in point:
I had invited a family of 5 children over to hang out with me while their parents did whatever they wanted for a few hours. The ages seemed just right for playing Settlers of Cataan, and I had the 6-player expansion version on my shelf!
Except, 20 minutes before they were due to arrive I discovered that it wasn’t on my shelf. I texted my children and eventually found that the one who had borrowed it and left it at their friends’ house was 100 miles away and couldn’t bring it back.
I felt disappointed. Contrary to appearances, my children don’t love this game and don’t usually want to play it with me. I was looking forward to some potentially willing participants, and now I was going to miss my chance. It was tempting to think that my child was making me disappointed by taking my game without my knowing it, but I am on to my brain. This is what I said to them,
“I feel disappointed because I think you shouldn’t have taken my game without asking me, and now I won’t be able to play it with my guests today.”
That’s it. My disappointment was not their fault. If my disappointment had been their fault, I would have felt it as soon as they took the game, or as soon as they decided to leave it with their friends for a while. But I didn’t. I only felt disappointed when I had a thought about my child taking the game out of my house. My disappointment was ALL mine.
I did take the opportunity to ask my child to ask me, or at least tell me, if they borrow anything in the future so I can plan appropriately, but I never once thought or said, “You are making me frustrated” because they weren’t. I was making me frustrated.
Being in emotional adulthood means you take responsibility for your own emotional experience.