What is Peter Pan syndrome and how to deal with it?

Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up, is not just a beloved character from a children’s book. It is a personality type many people live with even today.

According to psychologists, the Peter Pan syndrome is a behavioral pattern of a person who is unwilling to accept adulthood and the responsibilities that come along. As Psych Central notes, the term can be traced back to Dr. Dan Kiley’s book from 1983, “The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up.”

What are the signs of s Peter Pan complex?

On the surface, a person with Peter Pan syndrome would seem quite thrilling. They would have a lust for adventures, a carefree attitude, and spontaneous behavior. While these traits may appear amusing, they hide a deeper, darker pattern.

People unwilling to grow up usually have no idea where they see themselves careerwise. However, that’s not their biggest concern. These individuals are also significantly low in emotional intelligence and disturbingly high in commitment issues. Moreover, they often avoid taking responsibility for their wrongdoings. Blame-shifting is what they typically go to whenever they find themselves in such an uncomfortable position.

According to experts, the Peter Pan syndrome has similarities with the Narcissistic Personality Disorder(NPD).

What causes the Peter Pan syndrome, and who is likely to develop it?

The possible causes of the complex are rather a combination of factors. For instance, the unwillingness to behave like an adult can be triggered by childhood trauma such as a poor relationship with the mother. Contrarily, it can also be provoked by overprotective or permissive parents experiencing difficulties saying no to the child.

Another cause can be the person’s perception of commitment. Those living with Peter Pan syndrome usually fear intimacy because they see it as something that puts their sense of self in danger.

According to psychotherapist Jacqueline Connors, both men and women can develop the complex. The expert explains:

“Women tend to have a need to nurture and take care of things for people at an early age. However, a woman can have the ‘Cinderella mindset.’ This is an expectation to be rescued and taken care of by a mature adult.”

Are you dating a Peter Pan? 

Falling in love with a person grappling with Peter Pan syndrome can be surprisingly easy. After all, they are people who love life, have a passion for experiencing new, exciting things, and carry themselves with lightheartedness, and radiate euphoria.

Unfortunately, they do have their shadow side, just like J. M. Barrie’s character.

As already mentioned, these individuals struggle with commitment issues. This inevitably takes a toll on their romantic relationships.

If you presume your partner may have a Peter Pan complex, what you can do in the first place is be compassionate. Showing empathy to someone whose behavior is hurting you is undeniably troublesome. However, if you truly love that person and you believe they can change for the better, this is exactly what you need to do to help them overcome their emotional combat.

Another thing you should consider is being open about your needs. Peter Pan may be childish, but he listens to Wendy’s words when she confronts him about his carelessness. So, setting boundaries and letting your significant other know what bothers you should not be a problem, especially when the love is mutual.

And if this doesn’t help, take time to reevaluate your relationship. When someone refuses to change, there is almost nothing you can do about it.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Sustaining a romantic bond with someone who refuses to grow up can feel like looking after a child. It can be extremely overwhelming and energy-consuming, which is why you must take time to nurture the connection you have with yourself.

Do you have a Peter Pan complex?

In case you have found some of the previously mentioned traits relatable to your own personality, you may be suffering from Peter Pan syndrome yourself. However, this should not frustrate or worry you, as you have the power to overcome it.

To begin with, you need to get real with yourself and figure out the reason behind your childish behavior. Could it be something that damaged you emotionally in your childhood years? Is it a behavioral pattern you adopted recently? What made you resentful towards adulthood?

Once you determine the cause, you can think about whether your actions are hurting you or someone you love. If you don’t care about the negative impact they have on your life, you should at least be mindful of the way they affect the people you care for.

Therapist Lauren Cook also advises building stress tolerance. She clarifies:

“Lean into the discomfort of settling in. It can feel unnerving to sit with our relationships and our feelings, rather than run away from them. Practice leaning into boredom and familiarity. You may see that there is actually comfort that comes with long-term connection.”

Furthermore, if making progress on your own seems too burdensome, don’t be afraid to seek help. It could be someone in your inner circle who knows you better than you know yourself or a professional who can give you the right tools to cope with the complex.

What matters is that growing out of being Peter Pan is definitely possible.

Do you struggle with Peter Pan syndrome? Do you know someone whose personality matches the complex’s characteristics? Let us know in the comment section!

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