Men Who Never Grow Up – The ‘Puer Aeturnus Complex’

by Peter Milhado PHD on July 11, 2009

Puer Aeturnus is Latin for ‘Eternal Youth’.  It is a concept from the psychology of Carl Jung and applies to those men who, even though they’re in their 30’s, 40’s or 50’s have retained the emotional characteristics of an adolescent.  Many of these men, referred to as Puers from now on, had fathers who were partially or totally absent.  Others had fathers who were weak and passive, which left the upbringing to the mother.  All Puers have an inappropriately strong tie to the mother, positive or negative.  If there is no essential differentiation from the mother, there is no masculinity.  A sense of masculinity has to be won by struggle; it is not a birthright!  This is done by taking a stand, overcoming inertia, deciding and acting more, reading and knowing more, by gaining muscle and gaining competence in the world of men (Hillman).  Puers are known for their wandering, their many relationships and sometimes Don Juanisms.  This has to do with seeking the perfect mother in every woman who will give them everything- always to be disappointed.  They are drawn to women who will admiringly reflect and not disturb their narcissistic self-image.  When the ‘in love’ stage is over and the Puer discovers that the woman is not a ‘goddess’, but quite mortal and human, the fascination with her vanishes.  The ‘goddess’ of old is now seen as a devouring and cold witch who wants to enslave him.   Events get even more complicated when the projection fits.  Many Puers are charming and attractive, but there is also a concealed sadistic streak one would hardly guess  was there until it strikes- many women will attest to that.  Charm might make a great first impression, but intimacy, commitment and involvement are needed in relationship.  The more excessive the Puer’s ‘nice guy’ and charming Persona, the more brutal and cold becomes his shadow.  At parties he stays long enough to enthrall and perhaps make a castrating remark to the man of the house before he exits.
The Puer’s main pursuit in life is ecstasy, many times at the expense of everything else.  This can be externalized in a highly symbolic fashion in fascination with flying or climbing mountains.  Many Puers hang out on ski slopes and racetracks.  Many are drawn to drinking, gambling, pornography and drugs to get that rush.

The Puer is impulsive and impatient, has a low frustration tolerance and does not reflect.  He isn’t only threatened by aging, but also by self-discipline, patience, duty, endurance and accepting limitations.  There is no time for standing still, tolerating conflict and solving problems.  He has to be on the move “where the action is”.  He does not like tasks requiring long preparations and training.  He can work, but only in a state of enthusiasm.  When he meets with routine, boredom or tediousness, which are part of every career, he usually quits and takes flight.  He can’t make a commitment in any part of his life.  Action is his fate rather than reflection. Marie Luise von Franz felt that underneath this relentless pursuit of ecstasy is either a need to return to the womb of unconditional love and bliss provided by mother or a secret longing for a religious experience.  One can find many Puers in  different religious settings in today’s spiritual supermarket.  Hillman, on the other hand, felt the Puer’s relentless wandering is a longing for the father and fathering.

Problems also arise when adapting to society.  The Puer envisions himself as a bringer of meaning, rather than one who has to adapt.  Hillman asks “The Puer may give us a sign, point the way, but will he give us a hand?”  The inflated feelings of being superior, along with arrogance and defiance lead to difficulties at work and in relationships.  Quite a few Puers don’t make it to mid-life; many of them die early in the ‘fast lane’ of drugs or impulsive adventure.  Some get lost in religious militancy or sell out to the ‘company’.  Still others flip over and surrender their individuality to clubs and organizations like the local softball team, the Elks, the Glee club or Alcoholics Anonymous.  Without consciousness, men with a Puer Aeternus complex always become victims to their impulsiveness and self-destructiveness or collective movements like pathological materialism; political extremism or religious fanaticism sweep them up.

It needs to be emphasized that the Puer suffers from a most painful and despairing condition.  To be on a never ending journey without a home, to pursue thrills and pleasures relentlessly at the expense of everything and everyone else, to impulsively defy society and women and yet need them desperately, to pay the price that lack of intimacy and commitment demands, to hungrily want success and not attain it, all leads to acute suffering and intense loneliness.  As nature is much kinder towards excessive indulgences, impulsiveness, and unconsciousness in youth, it is not until the middle of life that the Puer’s life becomes problematic.  The quest for euphoria always alternates with it’s opposite, namely dark and sinister moods of depression, irrational fears, physical breakdown or hypochondriasis.  After pride and arrogance, always come despair and depression.  It is in midlife that we get punished by our sins, not for them.  Hillman  feels the cure of the Puer lies in decay and in consciously facing wastage, affliction and moral horror.  The Puer needs to confront his need for immediate gratification, his inflatedness, his self-destructive and strong dependencies, which he denies.

One the positive side, the Puer’s willingness to begin anew, take risks, his spontaneity, potential creativity, childlikeness can be helpful, if he can harness this energy consciously and ethically.  The Puer archetype carries the hope of the ever-present potential of beginning anew.  We do not want to clip the wings of the Puer energy, it can serve all of us.  There are other men who are totally passive and have no fire at all and one wishes that somehow a ‘Puer spark’ would ignite some form of action and wake them from their pathetic slumber.

One for all and all for one.

Dr. Peter Milhado – Copyright © 2009

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{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

Diana September 29, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Is there a female equivalent of this type?

DIANA SEE BELOW comment 4

Linda Barlow September 30, 2009 at 5:00 pm

Thank you so much for your article on the puer aeternus.
Such an accurate portrayal of the shadow-side – the cold brutal senex. I have just experienced this cruellty and am reeling somewhat, so reading what you have written has helped me greatly. I was supposed to help this person, a soul task, but I am still astonished and wounded by this side which has manifested in a way I did not expect.
I will read your other posts too as I enjoy the way you write.
Best wishes,
Linda Barlow

Peter Milhado PHD September 30, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Dear Linda Barlow
All of us have a shadow which is chthonic ,meaning we are all capable of being unrelated, reptilian and ice cold in our relationships. The unconscious Puer aeturnus has a large dose of it. Only if he reflects inward and cops to his cruelty can he change his ways. The shadow of the Senex[older man] has more to do with cynicism, judgement,applauding the past, hoarding and intolerance. Glad you dropped by…. come back

Peter Milhado PHD September 30, 2009 at 6:53 pm

YES Diana there is a female equivalent to the Puer called Puella. Linda Schierse Leanard wrote a book ‘THE WOUNDED WOMAN” , I believe. and called her “The High Flying Donna Juana’ It s a great book on women and their fathers.

Diane Miller October 8, 2009 at 8:39 am

I didn’t enjoy your article because it made me sad. What if I’ve done this to one of my children and all I meant to do was make them feel loved. How can this person be helped? Thank you for the insight. Diane

Peter Milhado PHD October 18, 2009 at 2:34 pm

hi Diane We get wounded in childhood by either getting too little or getting too much– getting neglected or getting spoiled. If you still spoil your sons you need to stop it. The fact that you love them will give them the basics to live a good life They ll just have to do some inner work when they grow up

Howard December 13, 2009 at 10:56 pm

“Action is his fate rather than reflection.” Steve McQueen, while filming “Sand Pebbles” in China, commented on his celibrity based on being a man of action, saying “speed, it gets in your blood”. He died midlife, while living in Santa Paula. He left behind a hanger of fast motorcyles, airplanes, and abused women. Steve was an Irish orphan and I felt him all through this paper.

Peter Milhado PHD December 14, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Howard — Yes Puers can be ice cold. They only heal through decay tells us james hillman. Once they become conscious of the cruelty part in the puer archetype within they have a choice ….. to cut out the horseshit ….. yet still blaze trails beneficial to all of us Peter

Kate Danielson May 1, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Thank you for this insight into the Puer Archetype. It will halp me greatly in a Jungian Therapy class I am taking. I know many of these Puers, and two of them are even married. I see now that the charm and dynamism that was so attractive at 25, is not so appealing at age 40 when children and mortgage payments are in the picture! Do you have any thoughts on how a wife might support the evolution of her puer towards the senex energy?

Eric Otto December 27, 2010 at 8:00 am

Thanks for the post.

Someone earlier was asking if this was limited to the male child but having a knack for finding Puella Eternas, it isn’t limited to men. There is same need for perfection in their significant other and never satisfaction with him or ‘her’. Lesbians have told me the same thing.

Lack commitment is a big issue and never wanting to be tied down. One told me that she didn’t care for her kid’s cats because the cats were too needy! Real empathy seems to allude them.

The upside is that they are usually more interesting than the average bear. They usually are very creative and independent even in their thinking. [A lot of my redheaded women friends I just realize fit this.] The movie Breakfast at Tiffanie’s is a good portrait of one with the lithe Katherine Hepburn character.

Paul Murray March 27, 2011 at 7:02 am

Dear Peter Milhado PHD — I share the following; Jung in his lecture about the masculine archetype puer aeternus (Lecture VIII of 13 March 1929 – citing Fream No 12) spoke about this eternal boy who is often the personification of the immature eros of a man. This immature eros was also viewed by Jung as characteristic of the masculine nature. It is the ‘little boy dream’. The puer aeternus is the persdonification of the infantile side of our character repressed because it is infantile. In the dream a door opens but no-one opened the door. A spirit might have opened it (exterioration). Nevertheless Jung feels that the door is opening in a strange sort of way and and finds the naked boy in the other room. It is the traditional represntation of eros, the naked boy. There is a feeling of satisfaction when he presses the boy against him. There are two kinds of bread in the dream a black and a white bread but the black bread is more nourishing than the white because it contains a protein in the silver skin of the grain. The little amourette has not been fed in the correct way and therefore flies off and calls from far away. At this stage one must bear in mind in trying to decypher the dream that as Jung says the true substance of the world is inexplicable. So, Eros and the problem with Eros is not sexual but has more to do with relatedness. Man often thinks of this kind of thing as a sexual problem but it is not it is more an Eros problem … a man with his logos side trying to relate to his feminine species. Eros in this dream obhviously cannot live without being fed in some way. The fact that the dreamer chooses the black luxury bread is the easier way out compared to the harder to digest pumpernickel. Eros comes in a miraculous way and disappears in the same way, in a miraculous way. The role of the boy is seen against the boy in Faust. The man has a chance for self-renewal. There are many such opportunities to listen to the call from young people. So when we have the appearance of an infantile episode in our lives there is then a need for a more adult like response. We need to look for the things that are of a maore mature nature and get on with them, and leave behind the puer aeternus. Like Icarus he drowns in the sea.

Celine May 9, 2011 at 12:54 am

The description eerily fits my partner of 12 years. He has let his career frit away, does not keep in touch with his ‘old’ friends and has now decided to break up up with me because I am ‘in the way of his freedom because I have asked him to commit (mariage, kids)’.
Is there anything I can do to convince him to seek help?
Is there any help available?

Henri D. September 4, 2011 at 8:39 am

Dear Dr. Milhado:
I just read your article and I found myself nodding at almost every word in it. I am 48 years old. I already spent the “good years” of my life in this eternal quest for “freedom” travelling and living the high life. I was lucky enough to discover I had talent for writing. I have been pursuing this career for years now but in sporadic ways, simply because my need for newness and adventurous excatsy has always predominated in my life. I know now there’s no rescue in any woman, no unconditional love, yet I still look and hope to meet “the right one” like a star gazer at a night sky looking to which planet he belongs…

Peter Milhado PHD September 15, 2011 at 5:04 pm

she s on the inside

Michael McC September 16, 2011 at 10:33 am

Peter,
Thanks a lot for sharing this. I am a 29 year old man who self-identifies with this archetype. I have done a vision fast with a group of men, even started a men’s group, all with this intent of bringing more mature masculine energy into my life. I am at a hard crossroads right now where it feels like my little boy is taking over. Having finished a masters of education and spent my 20s in yoga and philosophy, I can taste the silver spoon in my mouth and I feel like some serious grounding would be important. I can hear Robert Bly tell me to ‘find a craft’.

can you offer any good resources for men who want to integrate their inner child in a healthy way? (I assume that this is a part of healing the Puer Aeternus). Anything you can offer would be most helpful.

Elaine December 5, 2011 at 11:20 am

Thank you for this information. The features in your article perfectly describe my deceased husband, who at 47 this year, ended his life. I am saddened that his condition is known and defined and yet it eluded him and so many people around him mostly saw him as a fun loving, cool guy and have no idea what it is like actually living with such a person. May others so afflicted be enlightened and find the insights to deal with their cruel sufferings.

bill December 26, 2011 at 10:15 pm

I really appreciate the article. Its just tonight that I have discovered this concept of the Puer. I am on a quest to discover the origin, or core of some of my self-defeating behavior, and I feel so much closer to identifying the problem. Thank you!

Amber February 8, 2012 at 5:42 am

Hello doc!! I thank you for posting this for me to read while I was waiting for the book the problem with puer, also I read all of “the little prince” a childs book I will never read to my child. I just got out of a realtioinship with a puer that I had a baby with, and although he was not the typical guy I date he was so charming and everyone loved him..he was a classic text book case of puer. I had to check into therapy bc I didnt know what or why he did what he did in our relationship and my therapist diagnosed him as a puer, I read your page and it was like reading a diagnosis about him. Now I am stuck raising a baby alone and he is no where to be found. My therapist told me that I should accept that I will never be with a man like this, or he may be there but never emotionally there, unless he goes through intense therapy with a doc that knows and understands how to treat someone like this. It has helped me though to know it was a condtion that was triggered by certain things I may have said, and a huge falling out with his mother at the same time…he hates his mother. I just hope he can get help and be a part of his childs life at some point in time. He is 40….and his life fell apart in the last few years… he is so textbook….someone you ould love to talk to and study…

Elizabeth March 2, 2012 at 3:36 am

I spent 30 years with a puer aeternus.
A counsellor I have just started to see, because the family split has temporarily broken me, identified my ex as a puer aeternus.
Your article has made me weep and cry for joy as well, as this all makes perfect sense. Gosh I so wish I had an understanding of this condition years and years ago. We could have saved so much heartache.
Interestingly my mother in law, now 98, at the start of her dementia declared her “in love with my husband” very frequently, to his great embarrassment. 3 other lovely siblings he has who must find that hard.
I now really wonder what made her start the process leading to a puer aeternus. All things are so easy when you understand.
I knew something was unusual when I first set eyes on him, and I thought I could help!!! I tried I really did. What a tragedy, but we must make good of what is left.

Elizabeth March 2, 2012 at 3:42 am

I spent 30 years with a puer aeternus.
A counsellor I have just started to see, because the family split has temporarily broken me, identified my ex as a puer aeternus.
Your article has made me weep and cry for joy as well, as this all makes perfect sense. Gosh I so wish I had an understanding of this condition years and years ago. We could have saved so much heartache.
Interestingly my mother in law, now 98, at the start of her dementia declared her “in love with my husband” very frequently, to his great embarrassment. 3 other lovely siblings he has who must find that hard.
I now really wonder what made her start the process leading to a puer aeternus. All things are so easy when you understand.
I knew something was unusual when I first set eyes on him, and I thought I could help!!! I tried I really did. What a tragedy, but we must make good of what is left.
Thank you.

fruit March 5, 2012 at 7:08 am

Ps.
I do have a loyal, admiring female companion, who shares my thirst for adventure, travel, new experiences, new horizons. We are both not interested in the modern day pop culture which only serves to deaden the mind. We are not political. I feel I can be a child with her and she can be a child with me. It is important to not be serious all the time. It is important to be wild, drunk, chaotic, selfish, impatient, narcissistic, and rebellious. Beware the men who preach goodness.
For us, life is a never ending journey. We seek thrills, because real life is always a gamble. And that is what makes it special, unlike the life of a cow, who’s only goal is to feed on grass and await slaughter.
The great male children: orson wells, chris columbus, dostoyevsky, alexander the great, hugh heffner, charles bukowski, hemmingway, picasso, carravagio, joe jackson, ali, patton. I could go on. But i think your audience will get the point.

Elizabeth March 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm

would you please eradicate this and my first comment I gave you as it’s repetition just to say thank you seems silly and embarrassing. OK so what do I learn from that request? Ha Ha!

Bacchus March 6, 2012 at 6:09 am

Cadmus could not accept Bacchus, and it seems that neither can you.

Zoltan March 26, 2012 at 4:32 am

Thank you, it was a very usefull post to me.
I just wonder if psychotherapy could be helpfull to a problematic midlife puer?

Savannah April 25, 2012 at 8:01 pm

WOW this is so accurate, sadly these men do exist, the lack of a father figure who never taught the boys how to be real men, how to take on responsibility….it’s like an untrained soldier being sent into the front lines of battle. They’re childish, annoying, and sometimes its downright sad. BUT it takes all types of people to make up the world. This is just one of the types of people that exists.

When puers reach midlife… other people don’t and will not respect them, their bodies will get fat, pudgy and soft, they wont recover quickly from drugs or alcohol and they will be deeply depressed because they realize that life cannot be lived out with only fun and games. They are hardest hit when their mother passes. They will forever be searching for a woman who will take care of them and to “baby” them. However what woman in her right mind would want to take care of a puer? Maybe I am an old soul but men should be the dominant one in marriages and relationships. Yeah, yeah the feminists ears are ringing as I type this. Puers cannot be dominant- they feign superiority and self confidence but the minute they are at home, and alone with nothing but their thoughts, deep down they know what they truly are-insecure, broken, and highly damaged.

They crave respect and success without actually doing any of the work required to obtain those things and then mope and become aggressive when they realize success will not just be handed to them. Puers must have a lot of regrets once they hit their late 20s, 30s and of course 40s… it’s truly sad.
But once again- it takes all kinds of people to make the world go around.

Kris July 18, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Sounds a lot like me, almost exactly.

Peter Milhado PHD July 25, 2012 at 2:01 pm

james hillman the great writer,psychologist and at least an intellectual Puer answered the question”how does a puer heal?” with a one word answer “DECAY!” i can painfully attest to that

Josh July 30, 2012 at 12:53 am

I drive a school bus. I’ve been doing it for the last year. It’s really exhausting and routine(2 months flew by), do you think it would be therapeutic for me to continue this job? Basically I’m a petulant child and I need to grow up and accept responsibility, that’s basically the definition of all Puer’s. It’s not complicated. No thrills. No frills. Give it up, that’s how you are cured.

What specifically do you mean when you say the “decay” is the cure to the Puer? I feel decrepit and I’m in the middle between twenty and thirty years of age.

Mani August 22, 2012 at 9:43 am

Oh! so depressive. I hope you mean the Puer part of the being and not the whole being.

Peter Milhado PHD August 28, 2012 at 3:15 pm

don t ever underestimate the mother complex companero

pemory October 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Dr. Milhado:

Many thanks for posting this excellent article on the puer aeternus. I was recently re-watching the film “Five Easy Pieces” and the main character is a classic puer. Tragic, yet fascinating behavior.

neil November 11, 2012 at 11:42 am

I am a conscious (some of the time) puer. I fit the bill quite well. I know my wrath and cruelty are toxic and I still wield my ax when I feel wronged. My cruelty evolves around rubbing people’s noses in their own abuse and dysfunction (when used on me), especially when they refuse to confess …. then, I might continue until they relent. I’ve had years of therapy and feel that I could talk circles around 6 of the 7 therapists I’ve seen. I know how to recover from this puer affliction…… it requires the puer to employ honesty , confession and self-awareness…. for the rest of his days. Not an easy task.

Mary H. Tarrant November 24, 2012 at 8:30 am

They are truly one eyed jacks.

Once they unveil, it is a kind of maliciousness that I had never experienced. You can’t love them enough, ever.

The man I was married to has just lost his mother and has already remarried….it just goes on and on.

It helps when you realize for all of us, you can’t run fast enough to get away from yourself.

mani December 3, 2012 at 1:53 am

Well, sometimes we do things to make ourselves not to feel. One of the emotions we run away is grief.

Daisy December 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I am 56 and just broke up with a 70 yr old puer. He refuses to get a job while he can’t get by on his social security check of $800/month.

When I met him, he told me that he had lost everything with Madoff. Later, I saw that his name was not on “the (published) list”, and he stated THAT was because he was part of a large group. I did not grill him and ask for the group’s name.

He has been writing a historical novel (even though “broke” because it is “something I MUST to do”) for the past four years, and says he cannot divide his time and attention away from the novel and its related research, despite needing more income. He said that no one is hiring 70 year-olds, anyway.

He had a credit card that the bank rescinded, since he owes close to 100K. He has moved and left no forwarding address, will not answer his cell phone unless the call is from an identified caller, and thinks he can get away with this.

His sister got him a joint credit card, and after 3 months of his inability to reimburse her, took the card away. All he has is a debit card now, and a brain.

On Jan 1, 2013, he will not have a place to live because the friend who has let him stay rent-free for 3 years has sold his house and is moving away. He knew this was coming for 6 months.

He inflicts guilt on me that if I love him, I should let him move in with me and let him pay whatever he can. His writing is top priority and he won’t stop, even for part time work, till its finished. He promises to eventually look for work. I refuse to let him move in till he’s employed, and he walks out on me.

I won’t enable him, and said that from day one. He has refused to believe it till now, and prefers to leaving me to other alternatives. He says, had the tables been turned, he would have done the same for me.

Peter Milhado PHD December 27, 2012 at 3:36 pm

oh laaawd

mani January 9, 2013 at 11:13 am

Is anxiety part of the puer make-up? After all they have no deeper connection with their true selves. Are they very critical? And acutely angry?

Chris January 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Thank you for this article. I’m just finding it and it really opened my eyes. I’m a 24 year old male and I feel I fit this. I was raised by my mother, my father having left when I was 4. Today is actually my birthday and I’m extremely depressed. I’d always envisioned I’d be a millionaire or a soldier fighting a great war. I’m neither, mostly because my inability to really choose anything. My life has been constantly trying to prove I’m better than everyone, prove that I’m a man. I know I’m still young, but I see my friends getting married and having children. They’re in careers. I haven’t even completed college. I just can’t seem to stand still on any one subject and the same can be said for my professional work life and, to a point, my love life.

I think I’m ready to grow up, though. Thank you.

Andy February 15, 2013 at 11:47 am

Thank you for the article. Concerning strategies to handle the puer-complex Marie-Louise Franz quoted Jung in her book and he said the only thing is work.

From my point of view the hardest thing for a puer is to face reality and not to dwell in the wonderful land of maybes and possibilities but therefor you need a lot of self-discipline.

Anyway i believe that one can integrate the puer-aspect and then it is just another step in the direction of the self.
(maybe behind the puer-complex lies the struggle with the anima but it is just a guess)

greets from germany

Prof February 15, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Sure seems like a lot of generalizations. At some point, any man is going to self-identify with at least some of this “diagnosis.” Seems more pertinent to say that we all exhibit some level of these characteristics, but it is how we choose to travel down the path of development and self-fulfillment that determines our achievements and maturity. Besides, what is truly “wrong” with finding one’s own path?

I lost it at the “fascination with flying or climbing mountains” part. So like, all adventurers and pilots are eternal children? And men who get off to porn and like to gamble? I think we’re taking on quite a significant subset of the global male population here. Like a few billion guys.

Let me say what I think is even more dangerous: pseudo-intellectual psychiatrists who try to put labels on human consciousness, which is in a constant state of evolution and transformation.

Removing the “inner child” from any person, male or female, is inherently dangerous and foolish. For it is our sense of curiosity, our need for learning, our desire to expand our minds and spirits, that allows us to evolve and grow.

But to say that, I guess, well, you’ll find a label for me too.

Etel March 17, 2013 at 3:16 am

Hi Dr Milhado,
i have a relationship with puer more than 2 years.He is 32 old,without any experience in relationships (for obvious reasons)before me…The situation is difficult and after sharing with my therapist -i am sure-he has a personal disorder.Luckily i had found the book “The problem of the puer auternus ” -Marie-Louise von Franz..and your blog.My boyfriend is typical Puer Auternus -all the descriptions fits 100%,no doubt.From all what i got we closest people to the puer should leave him to decay,right??? But if i love him want to be with him and need to help,i should leave him suffering,cause he doesn’t want to go to therapy and doesn’t conscious 100% that he has a problem and should solve it as soon as possible,not for me,not for us but for him.He feels something is wrong,but wants to try to overcome it alone.But i can see he is “trying to negotiate his pain by smothering it and driving it deeper into his chest” All my friends suggest me to take him off,and to recover…but. OK ,in a word -can i help somehow -please explain but not in one word.Thank you!

Peter Milhado PHD March 24, 2013 at 3:48 pm

i believe u suffer from chronic ambivalence chronic amvivalence leads to chronic depression get some help

Donaldbane April 11, 2013 at 5:49 pm

20 minutes ago I saw a reference online to “Puer aeturnus” and was intrigued and researched. Now that I have read this article I am gob-smacked!! It describes me exactly. I was trying to explain myself to someone only the other day and I used some of the above almost word for word!!
I’m 62 years old and I guess that helps me recognize and accept what an asshole/amazing guy I have been in the past. I keep very much to myself these days and so others are not so often injured.
Its a relief, in a way, to now know that I am a ‘recognized’ type.

Lisa Doherty` April 12, 2013 at 7:53 pm

I too have had this incredible experience which left me devastated and in therapy. It’s good to put a name to what I experienced, it helps.

Tommy April 18, 2013 at 9:57 am

Dear Dr. Milhado.

Thank you for a very insightful look into myself. I have to say though, I sort of already know this – but it’s always fun to read about my mirrored soul in a well written article such as yours.

I live in Sweden, and grew up in Scandinavia without a father, I was “almost” adopted by my grandparents who had severe problems of their own, frequenting in/out of crisis-centers to get help – I tried to stay sane in an insane world without the leadership of a functioning marriage.

I don’t blame my family though, but it took YEARS on my own to grow out of the Puer Aeturnus Complex, I didn’t even knew I had it at the time, but the numerous failed relationships with either girls or friends and job relations (I could hardly hold on to a job longer than 2 years at a time) sort of became self explanatory over time.

Since I already knew that I was sort of an adult child, I never wanted to marry a woman, I knew I could not live up to my expectations to a woman either so I would not put anyone up for that kind of treatment.

What did help me though – was the hard school of fort knox aka real life on my own. Eventually you’ll get tired of “playing games” and behaving like an kidult and feel there is something missing in your life. I got a small inheritance and bought a house of my own and that changed my entire life. All of a sudden I could not afford toys, all of a sudden I knew if I screwed up here, I’d end up an old man in a lonely 1 room apartment probably provided by the government or at worst – become homeless.

This image – this nightmare…repeated itself over and over again inside my mind and when I bought my house, I swore to myself I’m going to fight like mad to keep it mine, never again take up a loan, pay down every outstanding loan I had, fulfill every duty left to fulfill and always follow up on my promises.

3 years later – it worked. I’m now debt free, live in my very own house and my interest have changed completely.

I still have a lot of toys, video games etc. but I rarely ever touch them, I have NO interest in these things anymore. For the first time in my life – I’m ready to move on, 45 nevertheless… better late than never I guess.

Again, thanks for the article, very refreshing.

M. Allen April 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I grew up without a father and I was raised by my mother. I am 37 now and I have been in counselling for seven years.

I first went into counselling not really knowing why. I was depressed, anxious and I could not hold a job. Even after seven years of counselling, I still have difficulty with work, responsibilities, and intimacy. But, I continue to seek treatment, because I know that social isolation and constant failure is not the norm, at least not in my opinion.

Thanks for posting this article. It provided some insight for me.

Peter Milhado PHD April 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm

the only legitimate question to ask yourself is ” what is about my past my values and my behavior that contributes to \the loneliness I m in’

Peter Milhado PHD April 27, 2013 at 2:43 pm

go have some fun

Peter Milhado PHD April 27, 2013 at 2:48 pm

go out and play and STAY CONSCIOUS

Peter Milhado PHD April 27, 2013 at 3:24 pm

RUN

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