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It’s OK to feel “young at heart” as long as your emotional tool bag
doesn’t feel too empty or too disorganised at the same time

Growing Self Awareness

More Grownup system or More Un-Grown-up system?

You have the power to choose.

The more you choose the more your power grows.

1. Your emotional age is a constantly changing state within you. It can vary from that of a tiny infant to a teenager in one second. From young adult to senior citizen on the next minute. It has absolutely no connection with your age according to the clock or calendar.

There are lots of tests around which will tell you your “emotional age”. But your emotional age and mine can change ten or thirty times in an hour.  

2. It is better to avoid using chronological terms such as adult or child when looking at your emotional age. Instead I  suggest using a more useful description to distinguish un-grown up unaware system and the grown up self aware system.

3. Being able to apply your conscious awareness of your emotional age at the time you are speaking or acting is an essential function of Emotional Intelligence. At first this seems difficult (like learning to drive a car)  but with practice it soon develops and becomes more automatic.

4. Being able to consciously recognise and monitor the different emotional ages you go through in a single day in your self and other people is one of the most powerful tools you can possess. The better you are at it the more powerful and more successful you will be in life.  Many of life’s greatest problems arise from the times when we get stuck in our less than grown up system and try to live life from that position. When we are in these places we say it is usually one of our our very young (emotional age), Emotionally younger parts   or  that is “driving the bus”.

5. When you can see this and notice an emotionally younger part taking over we say you are developing your Emotional Age Awareness (EA)

6. Sadly when an emotionally younger part is driving it can be very difficult at first to notice this. Your emotional age awareness  is still developing.

That very powerful part of us (yes every one of us) described as our  “Emotionally younger parts  can and do take over and “drive our bus” quite often. At times when you and I feel the kinds of feelings or say the kinds of words below, it may help to think about what might be happening inside us.

Then we can ask ourselves questions “Who is driving?” “Who is having those feelings?” Is it the self aware grown up “me” or a “a younger part of me”?

If the situation is serious and it looks like your Emotionally younger parts   is trying to deal with it that’s the time to ask “Where is the Aware Grown Up System” or SAGE for short.

Bring your SAGE back switch your emotional age awareness on and let it take over the task, whatever it is. Explain to your Emotionally younger parts  …. “Thank you, but this is grown-ups’ work. Leave it to me. You can go now, have a rest or relax and play.”

Click on Understanding Emotional Age Awareness  for more information.


These are the most common signs that your emotional age has dropped to a level where you will be at a greater risk of losing your real power or even giving it away.

Feeling “It’s all too much!” -  Lost, alone and Vulnerable

Trying to deal with grown up problems will usually fail if at the same time you feel trapped in a place where there is of a lack or loss of the things you need to cope with life.

Typical thoughts and feelings at this emotional age:

“It’s all too much for me” “ I just can’t cope any longer”, “I just can’t work it out”. “I just can’t go on” “I am lost”. “I give up”. “I shouldn’t have to do this”. “I’m  frightened”.

At the same time you may feel a sense of loss about “essential resources”, there is just not enough time, money, energy, power, space, love, too few friends. This can be accompanied by a feeling of great tiredness.

I am so tired and exhausted I just want to cry. It’s just too hard;  I don’t want to have to do this any longer.” “I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough energy, I don’t have enough power, I don’t have enough skills, I don’t have enough space, I don’t have enough joy, I don’t have enough love, I don’t have enough friends, I don’t have enough brain power.” “I just can’t get started”.

With the sense that those essential resources are missing goes a loss of self confidence. A feeling that within us we no longer have the capacity to keep on working on our biggest problems. This is often accompanied by feeling an unrealistic or exaggerated sense of inner fear or increasing vulnerability. This is a sure sign that you have slipped back to a younger emotional age (often described as "letting your Emotionally younger parts drive the bus) and they are trying to deal with life. That means your SAGE is not driving.


Feeling defeated, no solutions, no way out

Emotionally younger parts   trying to fix grown up problems often have difficulty making choices or decisions, heightened by a sense that a solution is just not available or that the only “way out” has been blocked.

When this happens you often experience:    

¨ A feeling something like the way you feel when you have lost  something important.    

¨ An even deeper sense of devastation or just feeling totally lost, of being defeated or overwhelmed.    

¨ You ask yourself questions like “Why does this keep happening to  me?”        

Then you blame yourself for all this.

This usually leads to a deep feeling inside that whatever is wrong is “all my fault” Most Emotionally younger parts   feel this way quite often. Sometimes the fault is then projected on to another person, “If it feels like it’s all my fault then it’s all your fault!” This sets people up for an activity called Emotional Football with each person taking it in turns to blame the other. Only Emotionally younger parts   play this game.


Solutions exist Outside of Me

Most Emotionally younger parts   focus too much energy or attention on other people. Often this is a special person you wish would change or a situation where you wish the other person would help more to make things better. This is combined with a false belief that IF that person or situation did this we would feel much better.

Saying and Thinking and Doing things like this:

·Talking too much about all the things that are currently seen as ‘wrong’ with the other person or the current situation (negative inventory or flaws galore)

·Trying to persuade or even pressure people to change themselves into the type of person the Emotionally younger parts   wants them to be, wishes they were, or for them to help change the situation into the way your Emotionally younger part  wishes it to be.

·Seeking negative change for example trying to disempower the other person

·Seeking change that cannot happen or is beyond reality.

Thinking or feeling thoughts like these.

* It’s all my fault but I can’t do anything about it without someone else’s help. Whatever I need to fix my problems is “outside of me” so things can only  improve if I get the right help from someone else.   

* It is the other person’s fault. They need to change before I can.

* I wish I had the power to make my own changes but I don’t.

*  If I could only fix everyone else my life would get better too.

A good indicator of this is in the intensity or level of energy involved.  Too much energy is a sign that your Emotionally younger parts   is trying to do the work of creating change. This described as “revving the engine”.


Trying too hard to Persuade or Control with little success

Emotionally younger parts   often try to get other people to change but  because they are to young emotionally they  lack the grown up skills for this kind of work. Instead they make too much use of exaggeration,  over-dramatising, generalising misinterpreting or distortion (a child’s way of trying to get what she or he needs so badly).

Controlled by “powerful others” - What Will the Neighbours Say?

Giving in too much to pressure from outside of us about our need to conform to what others say or think are “the rules”

Giving other people power to choose what we should or should not do and to judge us. Many times these “powerful other people” are close family members, parents or siblings and of course partners. Other times they are associates with power over us, superiors where we work, doctors, psychologists, bankers.

Just as often these apparently powerful others are associates, people we have no reason to give our power away to, neighbours or even the ubiquitous “they”. For some of us these powerful others are no longer alive but still maintain power over us.  See separate page What will the neighbors say?

More signs (see this  page)


When you understand the power of emotional age versus chronological age, you are in a position to do what you do best, manage the human resources as part of your profession.

There is evidence suggesting that EQ, emotional intelligence, and not IQ is the key to success. As can be inferred from the article on the right, EQ is what allows individuals to "successfully" anticipate and respond to others' actions--which is the essence of social life  (and why, according to sociobiologists, our brains got so large).  Anyway, recognition of this self facet has given rise to the emotional literacy movement.