Life in an inhospitable future

Because you’re going to need shelter — and people don’t give their homes away. They barricade themselves in.

So, sooner or later, exhausted and desperate, you may have to make the decision to give up and die — or, to make somebody else give up and die because they won’t accept you in their home voluntarily.

And what, in your comfortable urban life, has ever prepared you for that decision?

From episode 1 of James Burke’s 1978 TV series “Connections”, entitled: “The Trigger Effect“.

Emergence of the climate baby dilemma

But then, somewhere between the UN’s 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that outlined the difference between a world at 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius of warming—which was etched into people’s minds as saying we only have twelve years to avert climate catastrophe—and the global youth climate strikes of the following year, reproductive anxiety due to the climate crisis had become mainstream.

Wray, Britt. Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis. Alfred A. Knopf Canada; 2022. p. 8


Emotional maturity and self-reflection

Emotionally mature, responsive people have an emotional engagement instinct that works smoothly. They like to connect, and they naturally give and receive comfort under stressful conditions. They are sympathetic and know how crucial friendly support can be.

They reflect on their actions and try to change. Emotionally mature people are capable of taking a look at themselves and reflecting on their behavior. They may not use psychological terms, but they clearly understand how people affect each other emotionally. They take you seriously if you tell them about a behaviour of theirs that makes you uncomfortable. They’re willing to absorb this kind of feedback because they enjoy the increased emotional intimacy that such clear communication brings. This shows interest in and curiosity about other peoples’ perceptions along with a desire to learn about and improve themselves. Willingness to take action as a result of self-reflection is also important. It isn’t enough to just say the right things or apologize. If you’re clear about what bothers you, they’ll remain aware of the issue and demonstrate follow-through in their attempts to change.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 11, 25:00 – 26:20

Awareness others don’t automatically share our wants

Emotionally mature people will respect your individuality. They never assume that if you love them you’ll want the same things they do. Instead, they take your feelings and boundaries into account in any interaction. This may sound like a lot of work, but it isn’t. Emotionally mature people automatically tune in to how others are feeling. Real empathy makes consideration of other people second nature. An important gesture of courtesy and good boundaries in relationships is not to tell partners or friends what they should feel or think. Another is respecting that others have the final say on what their motivations are. In contrast, immature people who are looking for control or enmeshment may psychoanalyze you to their own advantage: telling you what you really meant, or how you need to change your thinking. This is a sign that they disrespect your boundaries.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 11, 7:54 – 8:33

Boundaries and the assertion of will

Even in minor encounters, you can adjust how much you give so you won’t be exhausted by trying to fulfill others’ needs. I recommend using the maturity awareness mindset to observe how your parents react when you ask them to respect your boundaries. Notice whether they try to make you feel ashamed and guilty — as if they have a right to do whatever they want, regardless of how it affects you.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 10, 18:04 – 18:31

Driven parents

Out of sync with their child’s moment-to-moment experience, they don’t adapt themselves to their child’s needs. Instead, they push their child toward what they think he or she should be doing. As a result, the children of driven parents always feel they should be doing more, or be doing something other than whatever they are doing.

John’s story: Although John was 21, he spent a lot of time with his parents and didn’t feel any ownership of his life. Describing how he felt around his mother, he said: “I’m constantly on her RADAR.” John felt so pressured by his parents’ hopes for him that he had lost all confidence in his own ideas for his future. As he put it: “I worry so much about what they expect from me, I have no idea what I want! I’m just trying to keep my parents happy and off my case.” This was especially true on family vacations, when John felt that his father got really angry if John wasn’t having a good enough time. John’s parents were so over-involved in his life that he was afraid to set any goals, since that seemed to make them even pushier about what he needed to do next. They were killing his initiative by always urging him to do a bit more or try a little harder. At a conscious level they wanted the best for John, but they were tone-deaf when it came to respecting and fostering his autonomy..

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 5, 15:51 – 17:18

Distinguishing self-centred opportunism from premeditated manipulation

Emotionally immature people may seem to be emotional manipulators, but actually they’re just very opportunistic tacticians pressing for whatever feels best at the time. They have no investment in being consistent so they say whatever gives them an edge in the moment. They may be capable of strategic thinking in their work or in other pursuits, but when it comes to emotional situations they go for the immediate advantage. Lying is a perfect example of a momentary win that feels good but is destructive to a relationship in the long run.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. ch. 4, 33:14 – 34:02

Adult tantrums as means of influencing outcomes

They communicate by emotional contagion. Because emotionally immature people have little awareness of feelings and a limited vocabulary for emotional experiences they usually act out their emotional needs instead of talking about them. They use a method of communication known as emotional contagion, which gets other people to feel what they’re feeling. Emotional contagion is also how babies and little children communicate their needs. They cry and fuss until their caretakers figure out what’s wrong and fix it. Emotional contagion from an upset baby to a concerned adult is galvanizing, motivating a caretaker to do anything necessary to calm the child. Emotionally immature adults communicate feelings in this same primitive way. As parents, when they’re distressed they upset their children and everyone around them, typically with the result that others are willing to do anything to make them feel better. In this role reversal, the child catches the contagion of the parent’s distress and feels responsible for making the parent feel better. However, if the upset parent isn’t trying to understand his or her own feelings, nothing ever gets resolved. Instead, the upsetting feelings just get spread around to others, so that everyone reacts without understanding what is truly the matter.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. Tantor Audio, 2016. ch. 4, 9:19 – 10:41

Emotional immaturity and subjective judgment

They are subjective, not objective. Emotionally immature people assess situations in a subjective way, not objectively. They don’t do much dispassionate analysis. When they interpret situations, how they are feeling is more important than what is actually happening. What is true doesn’t matter nearly as much as what feels true. Trying to get a subjectively-oriented person to be objective about anything is an exercise in futility. Facts, logic, history — all fall on deaf ears where the emotionally immature are concerned.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents. Tantor Audio, 2016. ch. 3, 11:38 – 12:18

Gibson on emotional immaturity

This sounds like me:

In the sections that follow, I’ll briefly describe various characteristics of emotionally immature people.

They are rigid and single-minded. As long as there’s a clear path to follow, emotionally immature people can do very well, sometimes reaching high levels of success and prestige. But when it comes to relationships or emotional decisions, their immaturity becomes evident. They are either rigid or impulsive and try to cope with reality by narrowing it down to something manageable. Once they form an opinion, their minds are closed. There is one right answer, and they can become very defensive and humorless when people have other ideas.

They have low stress tolerance. Emotionally immature people don’t deal with stress well. Their responses are reactive and stereotyped. Instead of assessing the situation and anticipating the future, they use coping mechanisms that deny, distort, or replace reality. They have trouble admitting mistakes, and instead discount the facts and blame others. Regulating emotions is difficult for them, and they often overreact. Once they get upset, it’s hard for them to calm down, and they expect other people to soothe them by doing what they want. They often seek comfort in intoxicants or medication.

They do what feels best. Young children are ruled by feelings, whereas adults consider possible consequences. As we mature, we learn that what feels good isn’t always the best thing to do. Among emotionally immature people, however, the childhood instinct to do what feels good never really changes. They make decisions on the basis of what feels best in the moment and often follow the path of least resistance.

Gibson, Lindsay C. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents. Tantor Audio, 2016. ch. 3, 8:45 – 10:44