Relationships – A Laboratory for Growing Up

laboratoryAt this busy conference time, I thought my most useful reflections could be ones I’ve repeatedly needed reminding of. A focus on other’s maturity gaps is a diversion from addressing my own. Watching how I manage myself in all my relationships provides the very best lab for seeing, understanding and attending to my own maturity gaps.

‘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 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.


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?


A key to adult maturity is to see beyond ourselves to the relationship connections we’re part of.  To see our maturity gaps we learn to see that we’re all part of a system of relationships that deeply influences each person’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. Each stage of life and its relationships provide rich opportunities to facilitate awareness of our part in patterns that either enhance of stifle growth in maturity. – From leaving home, to marriage, parenting, mid-life challenges, establishing careers, adjusting to aging.


It’s an interesting and rewarding experience to learn to see how to shift our less mature responses in relationships.  Learning to recognise when we detour to third parties, or become overly helpful or controlling, or we hand over our responsibilities to others, or we depend too much on relationship approval, or we’re too quick to distance when tension arises. Recognising such patterns enables us to make new choices that enable us to bring our best to our relationships.


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, and the way we react to them increases. 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.

‘Relationships – A Laboratory for Growing Up’Jenny Brown

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