Episode summary


In the introduction, Dan Harris discusses the paradox of needing other people for happiness, while acknowledging that other people can also be difficult to deal with. He introduces the guest, Lindsay C. Gibson, who is an expert in toxic people or emotionally immature people (EIPs) . They discuss the basics of emotional immaturity and the characteristics of EIPs, such as egocentrism, poor empathy, and a lack of self-reflection . Gibson explains that emotional immaturity is a separate line of development and is most evident in stressful situations or emotionally intimate relationships . She also emphasizes the importance of spotting and understanding emotional immaturity in order to avoid difficult relationships and potential harm .

Disentangling from Emotionally Immature People

Gibson's book focuses on disentangling from emotionally immature people (EIPs) without necessarily cutting off all ties. Disentangling involves creating inner boundaries and developing a sense of self-possession . It is about recognizing the emotionally immature relationship system and not allowing oneself to be consumed by the other person's needs . Gibson advises being aware of the dynamic, observing the behaviors and motives of the EIP, and narrating the interactions to increase objectivity . She also suggests having a discreet goal in difficult interactions, repeating it clearly and consistently, and avoiding trying to change the other person . Gibson acknowledges that change is possible for EIPs if they have some level of self-reflection, but it is a difficult process .

The Limits of Estrangement

While estrangement can be a solution to difficult relationships, Gibson points out that it may not solve everything. Complete estrangement has its limits and may not lead to the desired outcome . It is important to have realistic expectations and not rely solely on estrangement as a solution .

Overall, Gibson provides valuable insights into emotional immaturity and offers practical advice on disentangling from emotionally immature people. By recognizing the characteristics of emotional immaturity, setting boundaries, and maintaining a sense of self, individuals can navigate difficult relationships with greater clarity and self-possession.

Disentangling from Toxic People

When trying to disentangle from toxic relationships, it's important to recognize that simply removing oneself physically from the person or situation is not enough. The patterns and beliefs that have been internalized from the relationship still persist even if the person is no longer present . Instead of focusing on cutting off contact, therapy can help individuals develop inner strength, healthy boundaries, and a sense of self while still interacting with the difficult person . The goal is to strengthen the individual's sense of individuality and self-worth, recognizing that their own needs and feelings are important .

Building Individuality and Self-Worth

Building up someone's individuality involves being treated as a psychologically real and important person . Therapy can provide the experience of being seen and recognized as an individual, which helps individuals develop a sense of self and self-esteem . Recognizing one's own worth and agency is crucial in developing a strong sense of individuality . It's important to understand that forgiveness is not always necessary or achievable, and it should not be forced or pushed as a therapeutic goal . Instead, the focus should be on working through the feelings and experiences, and accepting them as part of one's individuality .

Dealing with Emotionally Immature People

Interacting with emotionally immature people can be disorienting and cause self-doubt . It's important to recognize that the brain scramble and difficulty expressing oneself is a normal response to such interactions . To prevent brain scramble, it can be helpful to have a simple goal going into the interaction, such as expressing one's preferences and boundaries, and being prepared to repeat oneself and table the conversation if needed . It's also important to remember that understanding the roots of the emotionally immature behavior can lead to compassion, but forgiveness is not always necessary or immediate .

Episode description

Our relationships are the most important variable in our health and happiness, but they may also be the most difficult. This is especially true when those closest to us turn out to be emotionally immature people.

Lindsay C. Gibson is a clinical psychologist and bestselling author who specializes in helping people identify and deal with emotionally immature people, or EIP’s. Her first appearance on our show was one of our most popular episodes of 2022. Now she’s back to offer concrete strategies for handling the EIP’s in your life, wherever you may find them. Her new book is called Disentangling from Emotionally Immature People.

In this episode we talk about:

  • A primer on the cardinal characteristics of emotionally immature people (EIP’s), how to spot them, and why you might want to
  • What Lindsay means by “disentangling” from EIP’s, and how to do it
  • What often happens to your own sense of self when you’re in relationship (or even just in conversation) with an EIP 
  • How to interact with an EIP 
  • How to prevent brain scramble when you’re talking with someone who isn’t making any attempt to understand what you’re saying  
  • How she reacts when she comes across EIP’s in her everyday life
  • Whether it’s possible to have some immature characteristics without being an EIP
  • Handling your own emotionally immature tendencies  
  • Whether or not EIP’s can change
  • The limits of estrangement
  • Why she encourages “alternatives to forgiveness”

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