Understanding Maturity: Balancing Learning, Unlearning, And Interdependence | Vietcetera
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Jun 13, 2024

Understanding Maturity: Balancing Learning, Unlearning, And Interdependence

According to Dr. Le Nguyen Phuong, many people often confuse "maturity" with "adulthood." To achieve genuine self-improvement, it is essential to balance both aspects.
Understanding Maturity: Balancing Learning, Unlearning, And Interdependence

Source: Khooa Nguyễn for Vietcetera

What does it truly mean to be mature? As society evolves, so too do our definitions of maturity and adulthood. Today’s young generation and our grandparents’ generation have vastly different perceptions of what it means to be an adult. This generational gap is shaped by varying life experiences and social norms.

For older generations, adulthood is marked by specific milestones: attending college, entering the workforce, buying a house, getting married, and having children. In contrast, for most Gen Z and millennials, adulthood manifests in the ability to accept criticism, the ability to say "no" when necessary, and self-management.

So, how exactly should we view “adulthood”? Dr. Phuong, an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Psychology, addresses this question in episode 27 of Edustation. With over 18 years of experience as a school psychologist in the United States, he also lectures in the Graduate Psychology and School Counseling Programs at California State University, Long Beach, and Chapman University. He is the author of the book series Dạy Con Trong Hoang Mang, which has been well-received by the public.

Is maturity always a process of self-improvement?

Dr. Phuong explores maturity through two psychological perspectives. The first perspective suggests that humans are born with an inherent blueprint that gradually unfolds to form their nature. The second perspective posits that humans’ personalities develop as they mature and fully develop.

Both views align with Aristotle's assessment: some traits are innate, while others are acquired through habituation over time. Not everything we learn is beneficial. For instance, a child growing up in a dysfunctional family may develop an anxious attachment style, which can negatively affect their future relationships.

"Healing" involves disrupting negative patterns and allowing positive personality traits to resurface. Maturity is not just about accumulating experiences; it also involves letting go of detrimental habits to transform oneself.

Source: Khooa Nguyễn for Vietcetera

Why do we have to grow up?

For a caterpillar, defying to become a butterfly makes it vulnerable to predators. What about humans? Can we choose to be like Peter Pan, avoiding the complexities of adulthood?

Ed.D. Le Nguyen Phuong distinguishes between delayed maturity and delayed adulthood. According to Mr. Phuong, "maturity" is a natural process that occurs as we live, perceive, learn from experiences, and adjust our behavior to fit the social context or to make ourselves comfortable to some degree.

For example, learning to control our emotions instead of throwing tantrums when things go wrong is a sign of maturity. "Adulthood," on the other hand, involves fulfilling social roles, such as working, getting married, or having children.

Thus, a person can grow older and have children and grandchildren but still lack emotional control or the ability to accept criticism, which makes them "immature parents." Conversely, a young, unmarried person can be cognitively mature and know how to behave harmoniously in various situations.

"Trusting your process" means that young people need to embrace universal human values such as kindness, wisdom, justice, and freedom. These values are often the goals of the maturity process. However, "freedom" sometimes requires fulfilling the functions of adulthood, for example, working to achieve financial freedom.

Source: Khooa Nguyễn for Vietcetera

Maturity: Achieving interdependence through balanced independence and interconnection

According to Ed.D. Le Nguyen Phuong, maturity involves not only becoming financially and emotionally interdependent but also developing the ability to connect with people and things around us to form meaningful relationships. He clarifies the difference between dependence, slavery, and interdependence, as these concepts are often confused.

"Dependence" is a phase one goes through before achieving independence. For example, we are typically financially dependent on our parents before the age of 18. "Slavery" occurs when we identify ourselves with a particular object or person, such as relying on social networks for validation. This leads to becoming slaves to our own egos, losing direction as we let our need for recognition control us.

"Interdependence," however, is a balanced state we aim for as we mature. It involves maintaining our independence while still forming connections with nature and other people. For instance, in a relationship, you should be able to enjoy your own company and find happiness independently of your partner. Achieving this state of interdependence means you are mature.

Source: Khooa Nguyễn for Vietcetera

To reach interdependence, we need self-awareness to understand the root causes of our emotions and actions. Additionally, we must keep an open mind to continuously learn and be willing to let go of outdated cognitive frameworks.