Peter Pan Syndrome: Adults Trapped In Neverland

Peter Pan Syndrome refers to adults who behave like children and do not commit.

Peter Pan Syndrome refers to those adults who continue to behave like children or adolescents without being able to take responsibility for their actions and adult life. They are people who refuse to grow up with a marked emotional immaturity nuanced by a strong insecurity and a great fear of not being loved and accepted by others.

In this article we will see what the concept of Peter Pan Syndrome consists of, as explained by Dan Kiley.

Peter Pan syndrome: adults trapped in childhood

The Peter Pan are the eternal youth who ignore the demands of the real world by hiding in a fantasy world, in their Never Land. Trapped in it, they cannot develop the roles that they have to assume, such as that of father, partner or professional, as expected in adulthood. They can be recognized because many of them may be reluctant to become independent from their parents, maintain superficial and uncompromising relationships, or have not just found their place in the world of work. Like the well-known JM Barrie character , they continually fly in search of adventure but find themselves unable to stop their flight and achieve stability in real life.

This resistance to growth, more frequent in men than in women, was defined by the American psychologist Dan Kiley in 1983, and is an increasingly frequent problem, since sociologically this disorder is increasingly chronic as a consequence of capitalist society and of immediacy, in which every day things are achieved with less effort and without the need for commitment, and in which we consume to fill emotional gaps. All of this brings us immediate but fleeting pleasure.

Thus, in Peter Pan Syndrome there is a tension between the lifestyle linked to childhood, on the one hand, and the demands linked to adulthood, a stage characterized by the need to assume responsibilities and achieve long-term goals. The prospect of leaving behind a way of life based on play and immediacy is very hard for some people, who in certain cases are reluctant to embrace that emotionally mature way of life that goes beyond self-centeredness and the “here and now” .

People who suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome may seem carefree and happy, since they live according to the Carpe Diem maxim , but when investigating a little in their life or person, feelings of loneliness and dissatisfaction emerge, accompanied by personal dependence, because they need their side to another person who meets their needs and makes them feel protected. This person who is in charge of satisfying you is usually the parents, older siblings or the partner.

Consequences of Peter Pan Syndrome

The consequences of PPS give rise to important emotional alterations, with high levels of anxiety and sadness being frequent , which can lead to depression. They also feel little fulfilled with their life, since by not taking responsibility for their actions, they do not feel their achievements as theirs either ( internal locus of control ), which has a direct impact on the individual’s self – esteem .

In addition, generally, people with PPS feel misunderstood and find it difficult to realize their problem and ignore that they suffer from it until a critical situation occurs and they realize that their way of behaving and facing the world is not effective or is anomalous with respect to that of the rest of his peers.

Adults who do not take responsibility

At the relational level, difficulties also arise due to the lack of commitment and the great demand with others. Generally, the Peter Pan person seems self-confident, even to the point of being arrogant, but as we have discussed before, behind it lies a low self-esteem. He has many personal qualities such as creativity and resourcefulness and is generally a good professional. In addition, he strives to arouse admiration and recognition from the people around him. But although socially they can be leaders appreciated for their ability to have fun and liven up the environment, in privacy they display their demanding, intolerant and distrustful part. So it could be summed up with the phrase: ” a leader outside and a tyrant at home. “

At the level of love relationships, many of them are singles who become donjuanes due to their great capacity for seduction, and they constantly go from one relationship to another. Those who have a partner can create superficial relationships, spending years without committing much. Many meet the ” Dark Triad ” profile .

He is also a candidate to act as Peter Pan, the boy who passes effortlessly from being the object of his mother’s affection to that of his partner or wife. In this case, since he is never alone, he does not learn to take charge of his life.

Signs of Peter Pan Syndrome

In order to finish recognizing Peter Pan, I will present the most characteristic signs:

  • Although adults have reached their thirties or even in their forties, they continue to behave like little children.

  • They feel a great need for attention from those around them.

  • His attitude focuses on receiving, asking and criticizing and does not bother to give or do for others. He wants them to give him what he asks or if he does not get angry, because they cannot tolerate frustration.

  • He lives focused on himself and his problems without worrying too much about what happens to those around him.

  • You are constantly dissatisfied with what you have, but you act to solve your situation, you want to have everything but without making any effort to get it.

  • View commitment as an obstacle to freedom.

  • He is not responsible for his actions but wants others to do it for him. Also blames others for what is not going well.

  • They hide behind excuses or lies to hide their inability to grow.

  • He is very attracted to youth, an idealized life stage for the subject with PPS.

  • Fear to loneliness.

  • Much insecurity and low self-esteem.

Causes of Peter Pan Syndrome

Peter Pan syndrome, like most psychological phenomena, is probably due to the effect of multiple factors, such as dependent or avoidant personality traits, style of coping with problems or educational patterns, but it seems that the one that has the most weight in This mismatch is the life story of one’s childhood; a very happy and carefree childhood that can be idealized by the person with PPS or, on the contrary, very unhappy and without affection.

In the first case, the syndrome seeks to perpetuate the happy moments living in constant childhood that it refuses to overcome, while in the second, the function of the syndrome is to recover the stolen childhood, through the freedom granted by being an adult.

“Mature”: redefining the concept

Growing as a person is part of the natural development of human beings, but this does not mean that it is simple. Being an adult requires deciding to grow and adopt values ​​and goals in life. It also requires giving up some things to achieve the goal, taking responsibility for your own mistakes, and tolerating frustration from day to day.

Maturing does not mean losing the child that we carry inside, not letting it out occasionally makes people too rigid, but we must not let the child dominate and hinder the life of the adult, as in the case of the Peter Pan. A relationship of understanding and affection between the adult and the inner child, since successfully maturing consists of achieving a balance between both parts of the person.

The ‘Wendy Syndrome’ also exists

Where there is a Peter Pan there is a Wendy . Do you want to know what Wendy’s personality profile is ? We explain it to you in the following article:

“Wendy’s syndrome: people who need approval from others”

Bibliographic references:

  • Craig, G. & Baucum, D. (2001). Psychological development. New York: Pearson Education.
  • Kiley, D. (1983) The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up. New York: Dodd Mead.
  • Papalia, D .; Wendkos, S. & Duskin, R. (2005). Psychosocial development in middle adulthood. Human development. Mexico City: McGraw Hill.

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