Men who suffer from 'Peter Pan' syndrome

One of the common archetypes for men is that of the puer, (which is Latin for boy) and pronounced poo-air. It is also known as the Peter Pan syndrome. An archetype - the idea was developed by psychologist Carl Jung -  is a universal energy pattern or symbol. 

So, what is the puer or Peter Pan archetype? He is the enthusiastic, passionate and boyish man who can be very attractive to women but who may not make a very good partner.

The Peter Pan man is engaging in his enthusiasms - he likes to aim high but also have fun. He can be humorous and romantic. But he can also be unreliable, commitment phobic and find it hard to get things done. The routine things in life can bore him. 

The puer archetype is also known as Peter Pan syndrome because Peter Pan was the boy who refused to grow up and just wanted to fly. Another example of the puer is Icarus, who wanted to fly too close to the sun but overstretched himself and when the sun melted the wax on his wings he plunged to his death.

For women it can be very frustrating being in a relationship with a puer. On the plus side they are often fun to be with because they are spontaneous and charming. But they are often nowhere to be found when the dishes need washing or the mundane but necessary things in life need doing. They may also be unwilling to settle down or to give up their dreams of writing a novel to take a job with a reliable income.

Some puers will go from woman to woman, convinced each time that this time it is true love, only to get bored and start the process again with another woman.

At the heart of the puer’s behaviour is a fundamental mistrust of women. He may not realise it but, unconsciously, he is determined not to be captured and tamed by a woman. Usually he will have had a complicated relationship with his mother, one in which he felt dominated or controlled. Often their father will have been absent or passive.

Jungian psychologist Marie Louise von Franz says the man who is identified with the puer archetype, “remains too long in adolescent psychology [and] all those characteristics that are normal in a youth of seventeen or eighteen are continued into later life, coupled in most cases with too great a dependence on the mother.”

The task for the puer is to grow up psychologically and often this growing up is triggered by a major loss or disappointment, such as a bereavement, redundancy or divorce. Dealing with the feelings around this type of event can help the puer get in touch with his deeper wounding concerning the relationship with mother and thus free himself from the compulsion to escape life.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Patrick McCurry - psychotherapist working with individuals and couples

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Written by Patrick McCurry - psychotherapist working with individuals and couples

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