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What Is Rational Maturity, and Why Do We Need It?

By Alainnah Robertson October 15, 2022 Mindset

Rational maturity begins when we accept responsibility for our lives and our thinking processes. Developing our rational maturity is a question of facing reality honestly. To do this, we have to make the effort to throw off the conventional wisdom and ideologies of the community around us.

We have to do the hard work of deciding what we think for ourselves. We have to become free thinkers, choosing what to believe and recognising that our belief system is a rational choice from many options – and our choice alone.

The Free Thinker

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a leading philosopher of the Enlightenment. He was highly unpopular with the Catholic Church because his clarion call was that people should think for themselves, not blindly believe ideologies. The leaders of the Church took this personally.

Back then, their power and fortune lay in individuals’ and societies’ being forced to think alike and follow the ideology and mythology of the Church. They deliberately forbade their adherents to think for themselves.

The Church praised faith and declared it superior to reason, whereas free thinking was one of the foundation stones of the Enlightenment. Kant suggested that the majority of people are too lazy or cowardly to make the effort to develop their thinking.

It’s so much easier and more comfortable to accept the conventional thinking of society. This antagonism between these two ways of thinking has always been there in societies and is still there today. Rational maturity lies in choosing the way of the free thinker.

What Is Rational Maturity?

Rational maturity is not to be confused with genetically determined natural intelligence. Our community develops it through the parenting we receive, the environment, and schooling. We can develop it further by choosing to educate ourselves. This process is one that can, and should, be lifelong.

Neither is rational maturity the same as rational thinking. With rational thinking, we know what we want, we use logic to set goals, and we work towards achievement. This highly useful skill is necessary for a successful life, and it’s part of rational maturity, but it’s not the whole story.

Rational maturity follows from the first step of deciding to manage our own lives. We deal with our problems. We don’t expect anyone else to deal with them for us. We use our natural intelligence and our rational thinking, but we do so at our own command, not at that of anyone else. This doesn’t mean that we cannot be team players within contexts such as our family, our workplace, or community activities; it means that we choose to join the team and work in it to the best of our ability.

Rational maturity encompasses all these aspects. It all begins with personal choice. Our locus of control moves from the outside – other people and our environment, for instance – to inside ourselves.

Rational Maturity Is an Attitude Toward Life

Rational maturity is an attitude toward life. You could also think of it as wisdom. We accept life as it is and make the best of it, and we learn from experience. This means that instead of blaming circumstances and complaining, we simply accept them as a challenge that we have to deal with.

Instead of becoming a victim in life, we see anything adverse that happens to us as an occasion for learning. We chalk it up to experience. We accept that whatever happens is a lesson that helps us to become more mature.

Then we analyse what happened. We know what that “gut feeling” from our subconscious tells us. Instead of blaming other people, we consider our own behaviour. We know we should be honest about our own involvement in any incident. We recognise that there are always at least two sides to every story, and it is better to stand outside and above, rather than mindlessly take one side or another. We learn to see the big picture.

Why Develop Our Rational Maturity?

Why would we want to develop our rational maturity? The simple answer is that, whatever happens, a life guided by choices that are your own and that you take responsibility for will always be richer and more satisfying than a life of surrendered control.

A good book to read on this subject is Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, (2021), by Steven Pinker. His view on the modern world is extremely interesting and enlightening.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you taken control of your life? Do you plan your life? Do you live life decisively? Have you developed rational maturity?

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Angela

“Rational Maturity”….I’m glad to know that there is a name for this stage of our personal development, but I wish I would have understood it earlier. Now that I have entered my 7th decade (WOW, that’s OLD), I am FINALLY understanding that the anxiety, depression, guilt, frustration, & fears I’ve been dealing with for the majority of my adult life could have been more easily managed. Medical advice, counseling, self-help books, yoga, meditation, & spirituality are all part of my slow metamorphosis into becoming a more “rational” person. What I am finally understanding is that I’ve been my own worst enemy. I’ve been negatively REACTING to every unpleasant aspect in my otherwise blessed life, when I should have been more ACCEPTING, GRATEFUL, & PATIENT without becoming submissive..
Learning to prioritize & pick my battles, letting go of past mistakes, & focusing on what’s really important has made a tremendous difference in my emotional well being and relationship with others. At this point, I aspire to continue my maturation into my 8th, 9th, & maybe 10th decade! 🙏🏼

Angela

I see that a made a math error in my post….
Since I am 71, it is the 8th decade that I am in!

Joyce Troyer

There’s a label to put on this feeling I now have! Barrelling through my 60’s, with 70 within reach, is so freeing and empowering. No more blaming the players of the past, no more putting things off, etc, etc. Life is so much more peaceful and rewarding.

Susan

I heard an old mountain woman call it “the common sense that ain’t so common.”

Shelley

No sadly I don’t believe I have rational maturity. I still feel reactive, emotional and those often rule me. I speak before thinking it through…not out of intention just again reactive. This will sound like victim mentality but we’ve each walked in different shoes and I’m simply saying from childhood on I’ve had to live in this reactive mode. Not alot of love delved out just critical and that lead to abusive marriage. And people pleasing and people who felt they could tromp all over me. I was so scared timid and afraid of saying anything. That if I did I’d lose everyone. Well I just turned 60 and that’s exactly what happened.ni held so much in now even my childhood friend of 50.years broke off our friendship because what I thought was a 2 way friendship of life trials..as she’s going through her stuff too. We’d each talk and each listen. Always loving and caring. Or so I thot. It felt balanced. She one day snapped and said she was done with me dumping on her she just doesn’t have the words anymore her plates too full. I was completely shocked never ever if you heard us talking would you have thought she felt this way as I supported her trials and pain as well. Always with love. I simply don’t know people anymore how to relate to people or maybe they don’t relate to me. I’ve been through enough to write a book let’s just say. And it’s exhausting to be dumped over and over. My heart is hurt and can only take so much. If that’s emotional immaturity than I guess that’s me.

Susan

Shelley, perhaps since your friend is going through things, she’s just feeling overwhelmed. Be ready to talk to her again when she comes around. One thing I’ll say, though, is when I’ve had friends who talk about the same bad situation over and over, but never take steps to do anything about it, I’ve had to stop seeing them because it’s exhausting. In this day and age, there are so many opportunities to help ourselves change, there’s no reason to stay in a rut of unhappiness – self-help books, therapists, DBT counselors – help is out there.

Carol Terry

I have always been a people pleaser, but the advice I receive from my friends and my family are in direct opposition to each other. I am really stuck between a rock and a hard place. I am overwhelmed by it all.

Alainnah Robertson

Carol, you are the one who knows what is best for you. We all must please ourselves first, and do what is good for us, before we think of pleasing anyone else. Your life is yours to do what you want with it. Go for it, girl!

Alainnah Robertson

I’m so sorry to hear that you have felt so much pain in your life, Shelley. Constant negative criticism can be destructive. The Ancient Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” We all need to learn to stand back, observe our reaction to an event or person objectively, and work at not letting it hurt us. It’s easy to say, I know, but very difficult to do. Perhaps you could look at yourself, and try? The fact that you can analyze your situation as you have now, shows that you are self-aware. This is a huge step in becoming your own person, and realizing your own self-worth. You are a daughter of the Universe and as such, have a unique place in the world, that only you can fill.

Molly Anne

Hi , I totally get you!
im 58 and my daughter asked me to stop dumping negative energy her way.
I diagnosed with ADHD, depression panic attack anxiety attack at 55. Sensitivity dysregulation also.

I think I learned to just change my story and stop talking! If you’re talking you can’t listen.
said my 28 year old daughter.
but I know it came from a place of love, I didn’t take it personally till I realized I was taking it personally.
I’m trying to choose my thoughts and my books and my friends and my TV stations in my podcast I decide what goes in my mind.
I am also emotionally immature. ☺️

Esther Kamhi

I try to find joy in the life I am living , accepting that it is a life I have chosen. to create. Undoubtedly , I made a few mistakes in the past. Fortunately, I have accepted responsibility for these errors, moved on , and created a comfortable, rewarding life for myself rich in experiences and good friends. It is important to be captain of one’s own ship and choose wisely where one steers.

Mona Anderson

I agree with Esther. I’m 73 and have finally learned to forgive myself for past errors and take charge of my actions. It is so freeing to live this way. I look forward to beautiful days shared with family and friends.

The Author

Alainnah has lived on three continents, and always had a strong desire for community. She has founded various groups, including one on mindfulness and self-development. Alainnah has compiled her group study sessions in a book, Mindfulness Together. The ebook is available now on her website: alainnahrobertson.com. Printed version soon.

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