As a follow-up to last week’s episode regarding imago theory and therapy, I wanted to talk a little bit about what Brooke Castillo calls “emotional childhood.” It’s the stage we’re in before we arrive at “emotional adulthood,” which is balanced, rational, guided by the prefrontal cortex and the conscious mind at all times. Incidentally, it’s also the state we will revert to given negative stimuli, if we are not practicing conscious thought.

When I was teaching elementary school, I might sometimes see a student hitting another student, and when I confronted them, the response usually went to the tune of “well, they hit me first!” It seems wholly irrational, and yet I was able to exercise patience with the student and explain how our actions can hurt others. Even if the other student hit first, the reaction was wrong.

Well, separating the ego is easy when it’s not your own child! Before I undertook the journey toward truly conscious living, if my kids would act out or do something I didn’t like, I’d react with a proportionately negative response. If they threw a tantrum, I threw a tantrum too. David saw the danger in this, but — like a child myself — I would say, “well, they did it first.” This was a regression, a reversion to that less evolved emotional state.

Emotional adulthood demands that we, the adults, behave as adults — and that we offer grace and compassion to our children and to ourselves, because believe me, we’re all going to mess up. AND THAT’S OKAY. Everybody is learning, and we get to learn how to step into emotional adulthood together!

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