Are you afraid of aging and don’t like to take on adult responsibilities? Maybe you’re suffering from Peter Pan syndrome. Find out what it is and how it affects you.
As we grow older, humans must grow and mature both emotionally and intellectually. During this process, we realize the evolution of our identity and end up assuming certain responsibilities. There are cases in which a person ends up presenting more emotional traits of a child than of an adult. When someone presents this type of attitude, it is very probable that we are in front of a case of Peter Pan syndrome.
People who have this Peter Pan complex feel they cannot or do not want to grow up. So much so that they do not want to face life or the future with the perspective and attitudes of someone who has matured according to their physical age. This phenomenon was first coined in 1983 by American psychologist Dan Kiley in his book The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up.
What is Peter Pan Syndrome?
Peter Pan syndrome affects adults who do not want to grow up or take on the responsibilities of someone their age. Therefore, we are talking about emotional immaturity in adult men and women.
In most cases of people who suffer from a Peter Pan complex are usually men who do not want to enter adult life. So much so that they do not even want to take on responsibilities, making others take care of them. In addition, they look for support from those around them in their decision not to enter emotional maturity.
Although the Peter Pan syndrome is not a phenomenon coined by psychology it is a way of naming those people who do not want to mature. The Peter Pan complex does not point out those attitudes that much may consider childish, such as curiosity, sense of humor, or love for certain things associated with those of a child. Frequently, these characteristics are good for a person. When there is the Peter Pan syndrome, we are referring to people who do not want to assume the tasks of an adult and not to those who have certain attitudes of childhood.
When does it originate? Causes of the Peter Pan syndrome.
This syndrome, which affects men more than women, usually has its origin in childhood, when the person is building an affective environment that, in this case, is presented as insufficient.
The individual does not feel loved, and when he/she grows up, he/she becomes distressed by the lack of security and protection that he/she notices in everything that is unknown in the adult world. For this reason, they take refuge in the world they know, the world of children, the world of childish behavior and the absence of commitments, the world in which others take care of them, whatever the circumstances and conditions of the relationship. These causes usually arise because of:
- spoiled childhood.
There are many cases of Peter Pan with parents who have given everything the children wanted during their childhood. Thus, the word ‘no’ has never been used by these parents and the children have grown up in an environment where they got everything they wanted. When these children grow up they do not know the value of effort and often end up suffering from the so-called Peter Pan complex.
When a person has suffered abuse in childhood, there is a possibility that as an adult he or she may feel the need to ‘catch up’. On some occasions, it is possible to suffer the complex of Peter Pan since one has not lived a good childhood.
- Longing for nostalgia
Feeling nostalgic for our childhood is a trait shared by many people. Although it is a completely normalized emotion and people usually have these feelings, when someone is obsessed with them, they can suffer from Peter Pan syndrome.
- Economic despair
In situations where the economic conditions are worse, it can happen that the jobs are not sufficiently valued and the salaries are excessively low. So much so that most times workers may face long hours and the inability to achieve and progress towards their personal goals. When a person is constantly stagnant, it can sometimes happen that he or she regresses in time. So much so that this escapism can lead to suffering the same effect as Peter Pan’s characters.
- Lack of adult life skills
Most times, the Peter Pan syndrome ends up emerging in those people who cannot cope with all the responsibilities of adult life because of a lack of skills. Although we all can assume them, some individuals cannot cope with them because of their limited experience in assuming responsibilities. As these ‘adult’ skills are not taught, some may find that they collapse when they take over.
Although these are the main causes of suffering from a Peter Pan complex there are many occasions when we can feel some symptoms of this condition. The problem is when we cling to it completely.
What are the main symptoms?
As Kelley himself specifies in his work, the general traits that can characterize a Peter Pan person are:
Immature and narcissistic personality
Rebelliousness, dependence, anger, or inability to empathize with their peers is some emotions that usually predominate in their character. In the Peter Pan syndrome, people have the behavior of a child, i.e., they are very egomaniacal.
They do not accept aging
They even try to stop the process of physical growth and, for example, they dress in a childish way and orient their main hobbies towards those typical of the smallest. They may even undergo all kinds of rejuvenation treatments, even when they do not really require it.
Difficulties in personal relationships, both with friends and partners:
Their tendency to delegate their own responsibilities to others and to blame them when something goes wrong makes it difficult to establish any kind of stable and lasting relationship. In the couple’s sphere, this inability translates into the experience of superficial relationships in which there is no type of commitment since it would mean having to assume responsibilities and place themselves at the same level of emotional maturity as the other person. Therefore, most times, those who suffer from Peter Pan syndrome end up isolating themselves from society.
Lack of professional interest
One of the most visible symptoms of the Peter Pan syndrome is precisely the lack of interest in working. So much so that these people jump from one job to another or even try not to work and take advantage of others.
Drug and alcohol abuse
When the Peter Pan complex reaches the extreme, it is very common to find cases in which alcoholism or drug addiction is used to compensate for this obsessive nostalgia.
They do not take the blame
It is likely that a person with a Peter Pan complex will end up blaming everything on others. So much so that they never take responsibility for their mistakes.
They do not want to improve
One of the most negative traits of people who feel like Peter Pan’s character is precisely their unwillingness to evolve. In all these cases, the individual does not want to change for the better, even though they can see all the problems they are having in their life.
If you believe that you or someone around you has any of the symptoms of Peter Pan syndrome, it is vital to compensate for this situation. Most times, it can be very helpful to see a professional psychologist.
How to help someone with Peter Pan syndrome?
When someone suffers from the Peter Pan complex, you can’t point out to them that their attitude is wrong. This is often counterproductive. This is because sufferers believe they are behaving as they really should. Therefore, there are a few tips to help a person with these conditions.
- Encourage them to empathize with others.
A good way to make people with the Peter Pan complex assimilate that there is something wrong in their lives is to help them empathize with those around them. In this way, it is essential to make them see how their attitude affects their closest circle so that they transform their way of seeing the world.
- Talk about their childhood
Although it may seem counterproductive being able to talk about the problems or the vision of childhood can make the person rethink his or her attitude today. The purpose of trying to remember childhood is precisely to leave behind the obsession with it.
- Help them discover new passions
Perhaps what makes them be inside this Peter Pan syndrome is precisely that they have lost the illusion for life? Frequently, people cannot develop in all aspects because they do not know themselves and do not know what they really like. Therefore, it may be a good idea to encourage them to practice new passions or hobbies.
- See a specialist
Where the Peter Pan syndrome is very integrated into the person, it may be necessary to see a mental health specialist.
Childhood is one of the most beautiful stages of our lives. Although many of us remember it with nostalgia there are other moments that will reach the level of emotion and illusion that those lived by the childhoods on which it will have to move from then on.
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