Introduction

Introduction – Growing Yourself Up

Who’s willing to work at growing up?

Growing maturity, based on seeing the patterns of relationship we’re part of, promotes more honesty, humility and improved health for us and for those we care about.

‘Grow up!’ How many times have you heard this, said it or thought it in times of frustration? Maybe it was said to you, or a brother or sister, by your parents. Perhaps you’ve said it in a moment of annoyance to one of your kids. Have you thought it of your colleagues at work or of your spouse? It may be that one of your siblings still struggles with the same growing-up problems as an adult that they had as teenagers; or you could be frustrated by your adult children’s reluctance to fly the nest.
Perhaps you picked up this book with the idea of giving it to one of these people who ‘really needs to get their act together’. This might come from a real sense of caring for another, but the problem is that this focus on others can leave a whopping blind spot when it comes to our own lapses in maturity. We’re often prone to thinking that if only that other person could grow up a bit we’d be able to get on with being our own mature selves.While many of us get caught up in finding fault in others when things seem to go off course, there are some who are always finding fault in themselves: ‘I’m the problem in this family’; ‘They wouldn’t be so upset if I was a better daughter/parent/spouse.’ Whether it’s judging another or harshly judging ourselves, this pathway doesn’t bring lasting growth in us. So what’s going to remove these barriers to personal growth? What is the road to adult maturity?

Maturity that grows self, rather than promotes it
The popular answer to this question is to improve yourself by magnifying your good qualities and potential. Have you noticed how approaches to building self-esteem focus on promoting our strengths and avoid looking at the gaps in our maturity? Self-promotion can easily lead to demoting others. If we don’t feel happy, it’s easy to think that others are standing in our way and causing our unhappiness. It’s all too easy to believe that if we can get people to change, or if we could avoid difficult people, perhaps we could then be free to reach our potential.
Many have discovered that this path of inflating the self at the expense of others fails to deliver lasting stability or satisfaction. Each time a new challenge is confronted, the formula of trying to change or blame other people is applied, resulting in a continuous cycle of relationship disappointments. Either we become resentful of others not improving in response to our efforts to help them, or we discard people who disappoint us in the same vein as a pair of shoes that has gone out of style or lost its comfortable fit.
If you’re more prone to blaming yourself, the common self-help formula is to correct the negative messages you give yourself and replace them with positives. This can help for a while but seems very hard to maintain in the face of deeply ingrained sensitivities to not measuring up for others.

Relationships, the best place to grow
Whether we see the problem in others or in ourselves, we’re likely to miss seeing that each of us is part of a system of relationships that deeply influences each individual’s capacity for emotional resilience. Given that our original family has such a profound sway on the development of our maturity, it follows that going back to these formative relationships is the best laboratory in which to make positive changes. Genuine maturity for life starts with learning to observe ourselves in our relationships, and appreciating that problems are not just in the individual but also in the interconnections — the relationship systems — with others.
The project of growing ourselves, our task of seeking to understand how we may be contributing to our own dissatisfactions in our interactions, is all about personal responsibility in our relationships and not about self-promotion. It’s a project that can gradually transform even the most challenging of our relationships as our awareness of the effect we have on others increases, and the way we react to them. Growing maturity, based on seeing the patterns of relationship we’re part of, promotes more honesty, humility and improved health for us and for those we care about. This book is about how to develop this awareness and put into action the lessons from it. It’s about growing ourselves up and seeing every stage of life as a rich opportunity to facilitate this. Few of us like to think that as adults we still could benefit from a bit more maturity, but when we are willing to be more real about our relating patterns and work to change ourselves, the benefits for us and our relationships can be profound.

© Growing Yourself Up

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