I just read this term this morning on a friends facebook homepage (Hi!)...
It's a fascinating twist on the concept of neoteny; the sexual maturation of an organism which is still in the larval or infant stage physically.
Emotional neoteny would then refer to beings who appear fully developed physically but still in the infant state emotionally. Late bloomers, childlike, or perhaps childish - depending on whether you're amused or irritated by them.
As an emotional "late bloomer" with a child who is emotionally childLIKE, I think I can really relate to this term (perhaps that's not a great thing to admit???).
Oddly enough, though, while I think many adults retain a lot of the pediatric emotions, especially people who have experienced trauma of some kind early in life (which impedes emotional development in that area, often leading to low self-esteem in that particular area), I had been of the belief that some people Id encountered throughout my life journey were beyond childish (in particular) responses.
I always admired people who were seemingly level headed, worked through their responses before reacting, weren't aggressive, or passive aggressive and had all-round good self-esteem.
The problem I had was, as I got to know these people I admired so much for being everything I thought I needed to be - the more I got to know them, that is - one by one they all disappointed; sooner or later, each of them over-reacted to situations I thought were "no big deal, really" either involving other people, or myself, and I felt disappointed.
Recently, as I saw this happen with a couple people I'd idolised for their emotional stability I suddenly realised I'd been extremely unfair to these people.
Many, many years ago, my mother said to me that I was highly idealistic and that was unfair to other people. With regard to her own self, she said my expectations of her as a mother were so high that she could nothing but disappoint me. She said I'd put her on a pedestal and the problem with pedestals was when people fall off them, they have such a long way to fall that it upsets everyone involved.
EVERYONE suffers from emotional neoteny to some degree or other. Some of us have a board full of buttons that need only nudging before we're over-reacting and tantruming on the floor like a two year old. Others only have a few buttons which hardly ever get pushed because they're very careful to avoid situations where those button are open and vulnerable, but when those buttons get pushed those people become as infantile in their response as anyone else.
I started out with many, many triggers for my emotional neoteny. Very slowly, I'm figuring out what they are and how to either work through my response (learn to not personalise everything said to me in a particular area) or to avoid situations which push my buttons.
The internet has provided some doozy situations where I've just not been able to meter my response to having my buttons pushed. I've pretty much stopped participating in forums except very occassionally, and then only in forums where I really don't personally know the people I'm interacting with; so I can be fairly sure they're not having a go at me personally (yes, I have a lot of work to do yet). I've recently, and for the second time, disengaged with all my personal friends on Twitter (so, if you're a personal friend and are still following me but I don't seem to be responding to anything you say, it's because I can't read it) because I find it too difficult to deal with loaded emotional situations via the 010101 system. I've deleted every blog I had besides this one.
Growing up is hard to do. I'm not sure the net helps people grow up as it seems to be a place where emotional neoteny is encouraged. Reading someone ranting is much more exciting than reading someone's rationalized and metered response. Emotions are often narrowed down to "like" and a variety of emoticons (which, let's face it, just can't possibly represent the full range of emotions people feel). The net is really very emotionally reductionist, and that's the issue toddlers face; they have a very reduced ability to fully express what they are feeling, which mostly just leads to frustration and tantrums.
And this is the world our children are encouraged to engage in. A world where everything is either LOL, PMSL, ROFL, :), :D, *like* or :(, :S, EPIC FAIL.
I think emotional neoteny might rapidly become epidemic and there will be far more people with full boards of buttons (like myself) to deal with and far fewer people with just a few carefully moderated buttons...
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