Audio Introduction

Audio Introduction Text

Hello. My name is Alison Russell.  I am writing a book on emotional maturity. Particularly on why adults behave like children. It’s called ‘Are You Chasing Rainbows? A personal and practical insight to emotional maturity and why adults sometimes behave like children'.

This audio provides some background to why I am writing the book.

I am a nursery nurse, turned retail manager, turned psychotherapist. A mother and grandmother.  Children, teenagers and men and women of all ages are experiencing more emotional health problems than ever before. Published figures for cases of depression, anxiety disorders, stress in the workplace, addiction and relationship problems, increase steadily. Prescriptions for medication rise annually, as does the use of ‘talking therapies’.

As a psychotherapist running a practice for ten years, I offered a ‘talking therapy’. A solution-focused brief therapy, using cognitive and behavioral therapeutic interventions. I became fascinated and intrigued by an emerging theme in my work. Why was I seeing so many adults who were thinking and sometimes behaving like children?

I started to reflect on my own upbringing, education, work and relationships. Why did I feel like a child sometimes, even in my seventh decade? I also regularly read papers and magazines, watch TV and listen to the radio. Why is there so much reporting and discussion of adults displaying childish behaviour?

To all intents and purposes men and woman appear adult. From birth, the majority of humans, continually grow and mature. Chronologically, we have no control, though we would like some. Physically and intellectually, we can use some control. Emotionally, we can take almost full control.

But there are the times when events prove challenging. We find that we lack self discipline. Our emotions hijack us, we can lose control and our actions result in unhelpful consequences. As a result, we lose self confidence and self respect. We can also lose the respect of other people too.

When we are not thriving in our adult lives, we often look for remedies to our unhappiness and stress in other people, or with medication, drugs and alcohol. Like children we want someone or something to make us feel better. As adults we often look for a ‘quick fix’.

I suggest that at these times, the child has taken over and is control. Someone I call ‘mini-me’. Not just any old child, but our child. The part of us that doesn’t appear to have grown up yet. Our feelings and actions are familiar to us, so we don’t fully recognise what has happened. It all feels uncomfortably normal. We know that we don’t feel very good about ourselves, but don’t understand why.
We don’t feel able to take mature responsibility for our actions. We will either feel that it is our own fault, due to some long held self beliefs acquired in childhood or that it is someone else's fault.
It could be something as relatively minor as a utility bill coming through the letter box, mislaying the front door keys or constructing some self assembly furniture or learning to use new technology. Perhaps a workplace relationship is causing feelings of anxiety or a family member is proving difficult to tolerate. We could be socialising with a group of people displaying immature behaviour or unable to cope with losing in a game. Maybe the acceptance of a major life event, such as redundancy, illness or bereavement seems impossible.

We experience a loss of personal control in the situation. There could be a tantrum, a sulk, a facial grimace. Perhaps lashing out verbally and /or physically. Something might be thrown or hit. These are acts of childish behaviour.
An observer may think or say: “Oh Grow up” “You’re acting like a child” “Stop being so babyish” “Act your age” “You’re so immature” “You’re 45 going on 5” “You’re just a big kid” “That’s juvenile behaviour.” “Your child is more adult that you are”

We may be thinking: “It’s not fair,” “It’s not my fault” “Go away and leave me alone” “I hate you” “They’ve got more than me” “They’re doing it, why can’t I?” “It’s mine!” ‘It want it, NOW!” “I’m frightened”

When people seek help, they often identify the childish behaviour without any prompting. As a psychotherapist, I have often heard all the following:
“ I feel so childish ” “I behave like a spoilt brat.” “I’m a daddy’s girl.” “I feel as if I’m still in short trousers” “I sulk” “I can be babyish” “I want to be mothered” “I’m a bit of a Peter Pan” “I behave like a stroppy teenager” “I just want my mum to love me.”

In the 1960s I trained as nursery nurse and worked in a children's home with the under fives and later on in a special care baby unit. In the South of England in the 1980s, as a nursery nurse and mother of two children, I ran a Toddler group for six years. It was an unusual group. It was solely for two year olds and the mothers were not present. I became an experienced observer and manager of the behaviour of young children.
Later I became a manager in a supermarket. I used to say jokingly that sometimes there wasn’t much difference in working with a group of adults and a group of two year olds. It was true, though I didn’t understand why.
I moved to Yorkshire and became a support worker on an acute psychiatric unit. Despite being in a good hospital, with caring staff and in pleasant surroundings, I became aware that the mental health of many patients appeared to deteriorate the longer they were on the unit. The ward was full of unhappy people, shuffling up and down corridors, sharing their misery with anyone who would listen and waiting for the next dose of medication. Despite the best intentions of the staff, most of the patients were not thriving.

I decided to re-train and studied a particular psychological approach. A holistic approach using an individual’s emotional needs. If these needs were met in a healthy way, people would thrive, if not, they would wither. The same as any life in nature.  These observations, together with the most up to date neuroscientific research, was being used in therapeutic interventions with helpful results. I was encouraged by the common sense approach and the fundamental teaching that emotional arousal prevented clear thinking. It was a revelation, although blindingly obvious. For the first time in my life, I understood aspects in my own behaviour and begun to understand behaviours in other people. It was illuminating and life changing.

On qualifying I found it difficult to remain working with old style approaches and in 2002 opened a private practice in York. Over the years, in practice, I became aware of adults stuck with beliefs, thought patterns and behaviours, that they had as a child. I saw and heard about behaviours that I recognised in children. Sometimes this was at work, sometimes in the circle of family and friends and sometimes in the wider world.
I also recognised behaviours in myself that belonged back in the 1950s, not the 21st century. A very fed-up ten-year old used to try and run my life on occasions. Sometimes a sickly seven-year old would intrude. Not anymore.
I worked with people in all types of distress. People, who, in the majority of cases, found themselves stuck in childish states and feeling out of control. As a result, they had become unhappy and frightened.
Life has moved on and so have I. In 2010, I moved house and gave up the practice to concentrate on writing and speaking.

I will finish with one of my all-time favourite quotes from Helen Keller, an American teacher. I found it on a card in a shop and thought it related to the behaviour of many of my clients.
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”

It is my hope, that the book will help people stop looking backwards for answers that don’t exist, but go forwards through open doors to new opportunities.
Book publication is planned for Autumn 2013. It will be available in paperback, as an e-book and an audio. There will be a donation of £1 a copy to ChildLine.

For further information, the website is:
© Alison Russell 2013