Peter Pan is a tale of a boy that, despite many years passing, never grew up. The Peter Pan Syndrome (PPS) describes an adult man, who is childlike in their relationships, has about a 10-year old ability to handle responsibilities, and has a childlike pursuit of pleasure. Having Peter Pan Syndrome is not a disease. It’s a form of reality that has been hardwired as part of one’s personality. It can affect both men and women.
J.M. Barrie was a 19th-century Scottish dramatist, best known for writing Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Never Grow Up, in 1904. This book is one of the most popular fantasies for children. The Peter Pan Syndrome is the dilemma of growing up when you really don’t want to. There really is no fix-all for this type of syndrome. In most cases it is hard-wired in neuron networks and there is nothing really that can change Peter Pan Syndrome from someone who does not agree.
You aren’t going to find this disease in a typical diagnostic psychology manual. It falls more in the pop-psychology genre. Peter Pan Syndrome was coined in a self-help book from 1983, The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up. Author Dan Kiley may have had a Peter Pan fetish. The Chicago psychologist whose books “The Peter Pan Syndrome” and “The Wendy Dilemma” made The New York Times best-seller lists during the 1980s. Wendy was another character in the Peter Pan tale.
As sexual identities broaden and redefine, Peter Pan Syndrome might apply to adult men and women that never grew up. They are adults but their thoughts, actions, and motivations are pre-puberty. Those who might have Peter Pan Syndrome may have difficulty with creating intimate relationships or close friendships. They may have difficulty getting and holding jobs or pursuing careers.
In a demanding adult society, those with Peter Pan Syndrome may be anxious and fearsome of growing up to become “them” Depending on the degree, some Peter Pan type people may seem pretty normal and smart. Peter Pan was a hero, a leader, a fighter, and strategist. People with Peter Pan Syndrome are by no means stupid. They’re sort of socially and responsibly immature.
Peter Pan syndrome might be a personality disorder but. since it is not classified by the American Psychiatric or Psychological associations, it is not empirically studied or even diagnosed.
Puer-eternus is the predecessor to Peter Pan as the divine child that never grows up. Written about by Maria Louise von Franz of the Carl Jung school of analytical psychology, Puer-eternus 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. Published in 1970, the origin could be found in Ovid Metamorphoses as attributed to a god of antiquity. Ovid speaks of the child-god named Iacchus.
Analysts believed Puer-Eternus (as a boy) had an inappropriately strong tie to the mother, positive or negative and a passive or negative father image. Prior to the acceptance of male homosexuality, analysts believed that homosexuality stemmed from this kind of a parenting relationship.
Today, Puer-Eternus or Peter Pan Syndrome seems to both apply to men and women that have never grown up. Those that may be affected by this syndrome are having difficulties in building relationships with others, thus, they can feel very lonely. Women may dress partly male and partly female of indeterminate gender appearance. Some theorists take a cognitive approach. Gender schema theory suggests that young children are influenced by society’s ideas about what it means to be a male or female in their culture. Peter Pan syndrome may be part of a rebellious notion toward androgyny – neither.
But, based on observations, these adults seem to fail to develop gender and social schemas beyond the age of 10 to 12, despite greater intellectual capacity. They are smart in many ways but lack emotional intelligence development for their older age.
As with 10 year olds, the adult is impulsive and impatient, has a low frustration tolerance, and a lack of patience, duty, endurance and difficulty accepting limitations imposed by others. Peter Pan can reason but only as a 10-year old might perceive what the world should be. While it’s good that a 10-year old offers spontaneity, potential creativity, childlike curiosity, the adult with Peter Pan Syndrome may eventually feel out of synch. The reasons will likely be diffused.
While anxieties and obsessions may arise, there are many pills that help control those symptoms. Alas, many with Peter Pan Syndrome accept this well integrated perception of living to be a problem. It doesn’t require magic dust. It is their reality. Contradiction is often a useless exercise.
A woman with Peter Pan Syndrome doesn’t think of marriage or intimacy. She might be called a Princess Pan. She aims for activity partners or casual friendships. They may be affectionate but not sexual. The female Peter Pan is usually the center of her universe, anxious about adventure and new concepts, and uncompromising. In relationships, other self-enforcing priorities supersede friendships. A Princess Pan is generally very self-centered, generally uncompromising, and probably uncommitted.
When it comes to jobs, those inclined to Peter Pan are less inclined to be able to work in ANY structured environment. They might be able to do something alone, provided that physical and social interaction are kept at a minimum.
At online dating sites, women grapple with Peter Pan Syndrome among men who don’t want to commit or behave intimately.
Apart from the benefits of immortality, normal life does pass. It’s no great thing to regret the past as you age. People with Peter Pan Syndrome may not reflect much on today and tomorrow. Perhaps, some day, they will reflect and regret those choices but, maybe, not.
Arguably, psychotherapy has been noted as possible treatment but motivation must be high. Someone with Peter Pan Syndrome must need intense motivation to grow up. That may be impossible. Children from birth develop temperaments and personality traits within a few years as the brain develops individuation. The establishment of these neural networks helps a person develop unique concepts of reality, likes and dislikes, tastes, attentions and responses to different things. One really can’t convince Peter Pan that there are benefits to growing up.
Peter Pan Syndrome is not retardation, autism, or stunted mental growth. Some of those that might have the syndrome may have achieved many high achievements and academic successes. They just sort of remain like kids. Being like a kid in an adult world of peers may be somewhat uncomfortable. Developing strong sexual and marital relationships might be impossible. People with Peter Pan Syndrome, like many kids, find it easier to find scapegoats for any problems they feel. Would Peter Pan ever accept blame for his own actions?
Since Peter Pan Syndrome isn’t accepted or recognized as a problem by accredited health care societies, there are next to none therapeutic interventions. One might call it a quirk. Pans may be likeable, attractive, and endearing on superficial levels with adults. On deeper levels, relationships tend to weaken. There are many Pans and, eventually, they will find their Tiger Lily or Tiger Larry as a supportive, submissive partner. As long as they have the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and entertainment, people with Peter Pan Syndrome are easily satisfied.
With little data to further examine people with Peter Pan Syndrome (other than anecdotal references), there are few suppositions and tools to help someone you know or someone in your family cope with never growing old. Peter Pan Syndrome is a complex that may affect men and women. They won’t believe you. They’ll brush you off as being “Daffy”. After repetitive attempts, you will be as tense as Captain Hook thinking about that ticking alligator. Should Peter Pan Syndrome receive more attention by the scientific community?