Thursday, June 20, 2024

I won’t grow up: Peter Pan syndrome

A lot of college kids make the joke that they’re really a kid inside. Many of us still play video games or have a guilty pleasure, like Pokémon or a cartoon series geared towards a younger audience. In small doses, these small things allow us to unwind and play in the simplest sense.

We get to return to our childhood for a few hours and it’s comforting. But where do we draw the line?

Puer aeternus, or Peter Pan Syndrome, is an adult that does not feel able or refuses to grow up and accept their responsibilities in life.

This syndrome isn’t currently considered a mental illness, but the trend of fully-grown adults refusing to accept the future in which they must act like adults has been growing rapidly, especially in Western society.

Peter Pan Syndrome affects predominantly men and causes them to ignore problems, refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, become unable to make or keep a relationship because of the commitment that usually comes with it.

Men with Peter Pan Syndrome are socially immature, including everything from throwing tempter tantrums to refusing to graduate. Peter Pan needs someone to take care of him. So every Peter Pan needs his Wendy.

The Wendy Dilemma is another syndrome that isn’t a psychopathology yet and is found predominantly in women. The difference is that this trend had been drastically decreasing in Western cultures but is equally as co-dependent as Peter Pan Syndrome.

Women with the Wendy Dilemma feel compelled to mother their mates and treat them like immature children. These women usually adopt a maternal persona to feel protected from the possibility of rejection and abandonment.

A surplus of Peter Pans and a deficit of Wendys disrupts the balance of work and play and makes it difficult for progress.

A big part in overcoming this kind of immaturity is realizing that it’s happening, because most who suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome don’t.

Understanding that we must move forward, because there is no other way to go and taking small steps to help adjust from one mind set to another can lessen or help end this way of life.

But you also have to want to grow up from this. Some don’t.

Some find their way of life to be working, at least in the short term, and choose to try and fly away to Neverland.

It’s important to adapt and learn and grow. That’s kind of the point of life. Staying in one place won’t help anyone. There will be no lessons learned, nothing gained and very often there are time and resources wasted.

Engaging in life is the only way to live it. It’s okay to disengage sometimes. Everyone does to relax and enjoy themselves. We play all our lives; the style of it just changes. But knowing when to switch is part of growing up, and it’s probably one of the hardest things to learn.

It’s important for us to know that we’re not alone in this. We all learn our balance at different times but there will be sources to help us along. There are even sources on campus as we transition from college work to the work force, like the Career Development Center in the ACC.

This is us building the base for our lives, so why not make it a strong one?

Email Amanda Little at

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