We all have emotions. That's what makes us human.
What else makes us human is our ability to identify our emotions. As children we don't really have this capability; we merely express them as we feel them. Loud crying usually indicates sadness or utter disappointment; stomping on or dropping to the ground acting like an turned-over cockroach usually indicates anger. And the most beautiful sound in the world, the laugh of a child, marks joy and happiness.
It's not identified though. There isn't a sense of self-awareness developed in a child that markedly identifies the emotion. You typically, don't hear a child say, "I'm feeling angry right now." If you do hear a child say that, you're impressed and say, "wow, you're very mature." The reason being that when someone is able to identify the emotion, he or she usually also knows what do with it. Stating the emotion tends to downplay the direct expression of it. It doesn't mean it goes away; it just means the emotion is controlled by the mind.
The mature person not only identifies emotion, but expresses it rightly.
Fact of the matter is some children can do this and many adults can not.
While we have the mental ability to move toward identifying our emotions and expressing them rightly, too many people still live rooted out of their emotion. Instead of controlling our emotions, we let them control us.
One key to getting to a place of emotional maturity is by looking for patterns. I should say that I am mostly writing from a place of identifying the more challenging emotions like anger, fear, resentment, bitterness, etc. I think it applies to the positive emotions as well, but I don't think we're looking to dial down the happiness or joy meters anytime soon and dialing them up tends to occur when you deal with the flip side of those emotions, which isn't really sadness, but discontentment and lack of gratitude.
Back to it. I've noticed that in my life, when I can identify patterns of emotional reactions across multiple situations that have spanned multiple years, I'm able to admit that it wasn't the situation that caused my anger, fear, bitterness or whatever, but something residing in me.
When we can get to a place of admitting that our emotional responses to life aren't due to situations, but to how we react in those situations, that is the most important first step toward maturity.
In identifying the patterns and then admitting that it is within us, we are on our way to being able to control our emotional responses in future situations. It's simple, really, at least on paper. The patterns of the past combined with understanding of who you are allows you the ability to recognize a similar situation as it arises and begin to control your emotion before it controls you.
I wish I could say that this is "adult" behavior, but we all know that isn't necessarily true. This is "mature" behavior and the two don't always go hand in hand.