Have you stopped growing up?

growing up

I’ve just started watching a fascinating programme on Channel 4 about the developmental psychology of 4, 5 and 6 year olds.

Here’s the thing. I watched it after watching an episode of the Apprentice on BBC iPlayer. The patterns of behaviour were remarkably similar! Defensiveness, entitlement, boys vs. girls, bravado….

It begs the question – how grown up are you? When did we stop growing up? How much more growing up is possible/desirable?

Adolescent Minds

It is my contention that most of us are adolescent minds and souls – struggling in an adult body and world. We also have the ability to revert back to behaving like truculent toddlers when the going gets tough.

I have also come to appreciate that there is much more to learn about ourselves than we appreciate and that deep self-awareness is the key to self-mastery, achievement, peace, happiness and growing into your full potential. It is also the key to disarming your ego and its protective mechanisms which tend to sabotage our ability to grow and grow up.

One way to look at it is, when we are born we are helpless and start life very dependent on those who look after us. As we grow up, through our ‘formative years’ (age 3-7) we start to develop a sense of self and a relationship with others. We also develop egoic protection mechanisms. Growing into adolescence we develop our sense of identity (egoic-led) and independence. This is where most of us stop/stay.

The Role of the Ego

Our egoic protection mechanisms and coping strategies tend to build walls which (i) protect us and our independence and (ii) stop us from vulnerably and authentically connecting with sharing ourselves with others. We stay locked in relative independence. Our egoic protection can make us self-centred and disempathic, contributing to a lack of emotional intelligence and the lack of ability to enjoy close relationships (without neediness). The ego also tends to make us avoid growth, avoiding learning through stretching and risking failure.

dependence independence inter-dependence

From my own point of view, despite thinking I was a reasonably well-educated and well-adjusted, it took an early mid-life crisis in my late-thirties (involving redundancy and divorce) to shake me into action. It wasn’t until the age of 39 that I started to appreciate the need for personal growth and to grow up. This took me on a personal development journey that hasn’t stopped. In fact, it has accelerated. (I am now 50). After a couple of years immersed in personal development, at 42, others told me that they witnessed me growing up as I started to harness my personal power and presence, as oppose to abdicating by playing safe and playing small. Since then, my relationship with Diane has accelerated my growth and self-awareness, keeping it real.

How Can I Grow Up More?

There are many generic techniques that can help you to become more present in your life, more self-aware, more emotionally intelligent – key elements of growing up. I tend to categorise these techniques into two broad categories – those that work with you mainly at a conscious level and those that work at a sub-conscious level. I would say that techniques such as mindfullness, life-coaching and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are mainly conscious. Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) involves both. Energy therapies such as Reiki, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and hypnotherapy work more at a sub-conscious level.

Developmental psychology is very interesting, but I do feel that it stops too soon and doesn’t recognise the importance of ongoing development and growth/growing up beyond our adolescence and adulthood. This seems to be an area which is not well addressed.

Secondly, outside of developmental psychology, psychology as a whole tends to focus too much on mental illness and abnormality, not enough on wellness; I won’t say ‘normality’, because I don’t believe there is such a thing when it comes to personality, character, temperament and behaviour (call it what you will). We are all so different. Normal is a dangerous concept that leads to people being labelled with problems, when frequently all that is required is more self-awareness and more understanding, empathy and well-informed support, parenting and teaching. We will all benefit greatly from this.

Getting back to the documentary; what was also interesting to observe from the Channel 4 series, which is called ‘The Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds, was the differences between the sexes. From several of the 4 year old girls, came a strong sense of empathy, fairness and following the rules, whereas the more extrovert of the boys wanted to win, gloat and bend the rules. The boys also struggled with expressing themselves. Sound familiar?

How Do I Become More Aware of ME?

That brings me to my third key observation, because we are all ‘wired’ so very different, with distinctly different motivations, fears and internal models of the world – few, if any psychological, clinical and behavioural studies take these differences into account – instead they aggregate and generalise, which often means, from my perspective, they frequently miss the point and the reality. This is my challenge with so many of the processes and teachings within the world of therapies and personal or spiritual development. So much of the teaching is done through the hidden filters and innate styles of the individual teacher.

Whilst it is certainly useful to consider the differences between the male and female brain, this too can be misleading. The reason being that many of behavioural and personality differences stem from our individual preferences for utilising different parts (and therefore functions) of our brain. The challenge is that in a coarse sense, our gender differences too are reflected in brain preferences i.e. men are more left brain dominant, women more right.

Here’s our two brain maps, which show our gender typical preferences, indicate how our preferences shape our personality, preferences, strengths and weaknesses; lastly they show how together, we almost have a complete working brain! Seriously through, the brain maps do explain how we compliment each other and make a great team:

Andy & Di PRISM Brain Mapping

We have found that individual differences can greatly outweigh and mask gender-based ones. This helps to explain the different patterns that we see e.g. more masculine women, more feminine men, or very masculine men and very feminine women. As ‘they’ say – it takes all sorts. This makes huge sense in the context of:

  1. Our many years of working with individuals, using both the Enneagram to understand their ego and model of the world, plus Prism Brain Mapping to look at their behavioural preferences and strengths & weaknesses linked to brain preferences.
  2. Working with men and women on their relationship with themselves.
  3. Working with couples on their relationships, where we help them to:
    1. Be themselves in the relationship
    2. Be the best of themselves
    3. Develop more flexibility in their behaviour – building out from their norm
    4. Understand and accept each other
    5. Bring out the best in each other

You can find out more about how we help our clients to develop far greater self-awareness and great relationships, plus our work with the Enneagram – here at www.connecttoyourpotential.com

self-awareness self-acceptance self-actualisation



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