Maturing and “growing up” so to speak are subjective experiences. However, mostly it comes from acceptance: Accepting the love and affection of parents and guardians.
However, we live in different times; times when mental problems like depression and anxiety rule the streets. There are millions of people between the ages of 20 and 40, but it has become nigh impossible to gauge their mental ages: It seems mental aging stops at the age when you stop getting the love you expect.
Parental affection is something that needs to be dynamic and adjusting, changing with the ward’s age; when that doesn’t happen, the mental development and maturity of the ward wouldn’t be holistic.
Infancy is probably the earliest stage of this trajectory. This is when the child learns to trust and love; if these lessons aren’t imparted with utmost care, compassion and attention, the child can get lost and grow up to be an uncertain, untrusting individual. The individual stops short of forming bonds with others; he/she faces problems with facing intimate relationships also as they bring a certain sense of vulnerability with them; this is because of their heavy dependence on “exposing” your true self to someone totally strange to you.
During the later stages of infancy, the child tends to gain a semblance of self-control. This is vital to later development, because, if not done properly the individual’s personality is slathered with paranoia and more than often obsessive feelings of shame and fear.
The early childhood that is from ages 3 to 6, the child shows the earliest signs of enterprise and industriousness. This is when creativity kicks in too.
This is also when they require approval (within reasonable limits, of course) from the only ones they truly recognize and trust: their parents. Excessive reprimanding/scolding/refusing/denying on the latter’s part, consequently makes the child grow into one indecisive, aimless and for all terms and purposes lost individual characterized by a severe impotence of will and an apologetic nature.
The start of schooling is the next stage of this story. This is when societal influence in the form of certain ethics and values which would later help him/her conform in life are inculcated.
Parents, if too skeptical, critical and reprimanding at this stage, would all but destroy the child’s self-confidence. The child would grow up thinking how it would not ever be good for anything. Leave alone conforming, these are the adults who end up becoming burdens to society, often taking criminal colors.
To be a functional adult, it is essential that one recognizes the child that lives within all of us and make attempts to understand and know it, without dismissing its feelings and perceptions. The child is not a non-entity who is to be trivialized.
We all have such skeletons in our closets, waiting to storm out.
A simple exercise can help: Essentially communicate with your past self, the time when you believe you were most deprived of affection.
Take two pens in both hands. Write with the pen in your right hand as an adult, and with the left as a child. Shower that lost child with the love it deserved. Life is too short; the child may have grown up but the dream isn’t gone.
There is always time.