Your childhood came and went, but unfortunately, even though you are now an adult, you still find yourself behaving–from time to time–as if you were still inexperienced in the ways of life. Or, to paraphrase the Bible, when you were a child you talked like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child…and now you are still talking, thinking and reasoning like that youthful version of yourself.
But never fear, David Richo, Ph.D., a psychologist with years of experience working to help his clients become more mature adults, has collected and abbreviated many of the nuggets of wisdom he acquired over the years and packaged these nuggets in book form to help you become the adult you want to be.
Some of us had idyllic childhoods, where we learned how to express our needs, wants, and desires in a constructive way. We learned how to self-soothe during trying times and we learned how to be resilient in the face of set backs. Not all of us learned these things during our youth. And those who did not learn these behaviors may find themselves struggling as adults, moving from one bad relationship to the next, doomed to repeat the traumas of our youth until we heal our old emotional wounds.
As the saying goes, what you fail to learn from you are doomed to repeat.
David Richo has written “How to Be an Adult: A Handbook on Psychological Integration” to be used as a self-help manual for adults who are trying to grow their psychological and spiritual selves to the age of their physical selves.
“How to Be an Adult” is meant to be digested slowly. Only by taking the time to work through the checklists and diagrams and to reflect on what is revealed about yourself is a person primed and apt to grow from what they will read.
As an example of a particularly helpful checklist from the book, Richo provides a checklist to gauge whether or not you have a healthy sense of boundaries in relationships, both intimate and otherwise.
How do you know that you have given up your boundaries in a relationship? Ask yourself: Are you unclear about your preferences? Do you not notice unhappiness since enduring is your concern? Are you acting our of compliance and compromise? Are you continuing to try to create intimacy with a narcissist? If the answer to these questions is “yes” then you have probably relinquished your right to your boundaries.
On the other hand, these are ways to know that you still have a strong sense of self in relationships: You have a personal standard that, albeit flexible, applies to everyone and you require others to accountable for their actions. You only do favors you freely choose to do. You decide how, to what extent, and how long you will remain committed to a relationship.
A funny, but also informative checklist compares and contrasts drama against true anger. While true feelings of anger alert us to when we are experiencing violations of our boundaries, drama is an avoidance of true feeling rather than a real expression of feelings. Drama is meant to mislead and to avoid the broaching of the real problem, an action that can lead to resolution of the underlying issues at stake. To love drama is to love negative excitement but to fear real confrontation and negotiation with those whom we have relationships. If you grew up in a household where people always yelled to get their point across but the same problems seem to bubble to the surface again and again, with no resolution in sight, you might have been raised in a household filled with drama.
Besides changing how we see ourselves, the other side of being an adult is learning to treat and respond to others. Richo, in a list of reflections, says that no one is loyal or truthful all the time. When we stop expecting other people to be perfect, when we stop expecting other people to heal our childhood wounds, when stop others to do for us what we can do for ourselves, we are on the path to adulthood.
“How to Be an Adult” is a quick read. It is a book that is meant to be picked up and put down as needed. None of us is ever done growing into our adulthood, and “How to Be an Adult” is a useful book for those who may need a guidepost on their path to true adult living and relating.