(This page is still under revision. Thanks for bearing with this unfinished version for now)
The distinction between a child and a Real Adult is that a child knows (generally, at least) that they are a child and not an adult.
A Real Adult understands that regardless of chronological age, they will always at times be a child, so they monitor themselves about when that might be happening in a negative way (and are open to input from others that it is), and they manage themselves accordingly (e.g., pause to do Real Thinking before speaking or engaging any further, or take a 5 minute break from engaging and come back later to engage as a Real Adult).
When there is not an adequate role model of what a Real Adult looks like and how they behave and respond in real life, the child is forced to make up their own version of what it means to be “Adult”. And when there is no one around sharing the experience of being an adult from which they can learn by experience, the only “models” a child has is what they see from a distance in the behavior of supposed (or “chronological-only”) Adults. This includes representations of Adult in movies, cartoons, magazines, TV, etc.
A useful analogy is to think of the child as going into a store to shop for the right Adult “coat” for them. The only problem is, EVERYTHING hanging on the racks is far too big for them and can by definition never fit them correctly. Unfortunately, Life demands that they at least look like they are an adult at some point, so they have to put something on and wear it, no matter how bad a fit.
The trick is that in order to be able to wear the coat , it is as if the child has to stand on a stool so they won’t be tripping over it as it drags on the floor around them. And unfortunately, stools don’t come with wheels and aren’t very maneuverable . So the child has to remain rigidly on that same stool no matter what happens, or they will not “be” an Adult.
Granted, the visual image is somewhat inept, and it still conveys the rigidity of a child’s understanding about what it means to be an Adult, and about the underlying self-knowledge that they “really” are only a child wearing an Adult coat. And once they’ve done it long enough, and it’s at least worked “well enough”, they adaptively forget that it’s just a coat. And it becomes, either they Are (wearing the) Adult (coat), or the Aren’t (wearing the) Adult (coat).
A Pseudo-Adult believes that any time they are being either a child or childlike, they are not an adult. As clinical types might say, they “split”, and experience themselves internally as only one or the other. So they tend to be rigidly “adult” for fear of being seen as “childish” (vs. a healthy version of “child-like”, e.g. playful or whimsically flexible and imaginative). Not fear of being seen as a child, but their experience of how they were treated as a child. (They don’t understand that their PA is really the child/adult acting out or being reactive through an adult
The PA has a hard time distinguishing between the PA and Real adult. Until it’s pointed out to them for what it is, they believe it’s just their insecurities. Which is really what your PA really is, insecurities of how they were trained as a child.(child/adult )
In addition, they do not recognize that this is the case (because it is a form of psychological defense and therefore cannot know) until it is pointed out for them to consider and examine for themselves.
What distinguishes Real Adult from Pseudo Adult attitudes and behavior is that the Real Adult is capable of containing their emotions long enough to do real thinking and determine “what’s so” (that is, what’s real like gravity is real, and doesn’t care how you feel about it–it just “does gravity”). The Pseudo Adult on the other hand typically does not recognize when their emotions have shut down their brain’s access to Real Thinking, and that much or most of what they are saying is purely determined by unquestioned spouting of the feeling based beliefs they developed about the world as a child, and unwittingly continue to hold in their current chronologically adult world. Depending on how healthy their childhood experience (“training”) was, these feeling based beliefs
Anytime they are being an child or childish, they are not an adult.” The PA has a hard time distinguishing between the PA and Real adult until it’s pointed out to them.
Until it’s pointed out they believe it’s just their insecurities. Which is really what your PA really is, insecurities of how they were trained as a child.(child/adult )
3rd. “They tend to be a rigid adult in fear of being seen as a child.” .