Defining Psychological Maturity
Psychological maturity is the result of the natural and healthy process that individuals go through when their needs are met at various developmental levels over the life span. A person who passes successfully through a maturity stage will have grown in terms of the way they perceive themselves, relate to others, and understand/interact with the world around them. Many of my clients are shocked when they hear the average American is stuck at the psychological maturity level of an infant or child…and then, their hope is renewed when I tell them it doesn’t have to stay that way. Maturity growth is essential to a successful and thriving human experience. Lack of maturity growth has detrimental consequences on every area of life. This blog series will focus on what maturity is, what success/lack of success looks like in terms of maturity growth, and how to fill gaps in maturity development when needs weren’t met or when traumas occurred at various stages.
This first post within the psychological maturity blog series will focus on both defining and describing the process of human maturity. Erik Erikson, a 20th century developmental psychologist, outlined stages of psychosocial growth that are collectively the most well-known and widely accepted model of maturity today. In his model, “Erikson maintained that personality develops in a predetermined order through eight stages of psychological development, from infancy to adulthood. During each stage, a person experiences a psychosocial crisis which could have a positive or negative outcome for personality development” (1). His model describes the various stages of human development and is taught in most educational settings for counselors.
At the Center for Family Transformation, our therapists have grown personally and professionally through understanding Erickson’s model. However, there is another model we have benefited from even more! Dr. Jim Wilder and his Life Model colleagues have developed a neurotheological maturity model which is comprehensive and insightful. In addition, the Life Model maturity growth perspective is complementary to Erickson’s stages of development. In fact, the Life Model combined two of Erikson’s stages into one stage and simplified the language so that it is applicable across cultures and languages (4). Not only are the names and ages of Erikson’s stages simplified, but Wilder included enhanced, researched-based concepts which empower individuals to understand themselves and transform into the person they were meant to be.
The Life Model defines maturity as “reaching one’s God-given potential.” To expound on this concept, “it means maximizing our skills and talents, and using them effectively, while growing into the full capability of our individual designs” (4). Neurological development, as outlined in each Life Model stage, involves transitioning through infancy, childhood, adulthood, parenthood and eldership. Brain transformation is hierarchical, meaning that we must fully obtain the appropriate skills at each stage of development in order to completely pass to the next level of maturity (4). An interesting concept concerning this topic is that a person can physically grow older yet be stuck in a lower-level stage of maturity. Wilder and colleagues comment on this concept by saying that “as a whole, our American culture does poorly in the area of maturation, and sadly enough, the majority of our population probably operates at the infant or child level of maturity. This reality becomes evident when you look at our broken marriages, abused and neglected children, high levels of violence, and substance abuse and sexual addiction problems” (4).
When I quote Dr. Wilder’s team on the aforementioned topic, my clients enthusiastically ask what causes this developmental stuckness. “Unfinished trauma recovery and the lack of life-giving relationships (4)” are the main culprits in maturity stagnation. The resulting maturity gaps impact life satisfaction in every way. A huge dilemma is presented here because these gaps are not necessarily simple to fill. However, it is amazing that it is even possible to make up for the lack of healthy relationships and to heal past traumas! Someone can actually fill in the gaps left from a less than optimal infant and childhood experience – what hope!
Now, the forthcoming second part of this blog series will present a detailed understanding of successful and unsuccessful maturation to help readers. Part three, the final installation, will give readers a clear presentation of what it takes to fill in maturity gaps, something I desire to offer each of my clients. The human brain is the most incredible gift each of us has been given. The brain, like the body, can recover from malfunctions. We have an amazing opportunity to grow beyond the negative things that happened to us. Be sure to watch out for Part 2 in this blog series to discover what has gone well and what hasn’t gone well in your own maturity growth journey. Then, tune in for Part 3 to tell you what you can do about it!
- McLeod, Dr. Saul. (2021, May). Erik Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development. Retrieved from: https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html
- Wilder, Jim. (2021, May). Jim Wilder talking about Life Model Works’ Challenges. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0e5OK_xjym8
- Martini, Jim. (2021, May). Life Model Works: Our Dream. Retrieved from: https://lifemodelworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/LMW_Dream_Document.pdf
- Friesen, J.G., Wilder, E. J., Bierling, A. M., Koepcke, R.. Poole, M. (2013). Living from the Heart Jesus Gave You. East Peoria, IL: Shepherd’s House Inc