With age comes responsibility” and “responsibility is a burden” are two old sayings and unescapable truth of life. However, there are some people who ‘never grow up’, or take responsibility.
They enjoy living life carefree, and find responsibilities challenging and try to escape them by behaving immaturely. They are called Peter Pans.
Peter Pan is a fictional character created by Scottish novelist James Matthew Barrie in the early 1900s. His character is a care-free young boy, who never grows up.
A psychologist Dr Dan Kiley was the first to use the term ‘Peter Pan Syndrome (PPS) in 1983 in his book titled “Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up’. He described it as a “socio-psychological phenomenon”.
According to him Irresponsibility, Chauvinism, Anxiety and Narcissism are the markers of PPS victims. It affects people who do not want, or feel unable to grow up, they are people with the body of an adult but the mind of a child.
They don’t know how to or don’t want to stop being children, are unable to act independently and even dress up and enjoy themselves as teenagers when they are over 30 years old.
However, PPS is not currently considered a psychopathology as the World Health Organisation is yet to recognise it as a psychological disorder.
However, an increasingly larger number of experts agree that this is a mental health condition which can take a toll on quality of life if left unnoticed.
Humbelina Robles Ortega, Professor in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment at University of Granada and an expert in emotional disorders in a study entitled “Overparenting parents can lead children to develop Peter Pan Syndrome” warns that the overprotection of parents can lead children to develop the Peter Pan Syndrome, as “it makes them dependent and thus they lack the necessary skills to confront life.
The ‘Peter Pans’ of present society show emotionally immature behaviour “see the adult world as very problematic and glorify adolescence, that is why they want to stay in that state of privilege. PPS can affect both men and women but it appears more often among men.
Peter pans are unable to commit themselves or keep promises, they show excessive care about the way they look and personal well-being and lack self-confidence, even though they don’t show it, or show arrogance. Robles declare that these people fear loneliness, and thus surround themselves with people who can meet their needs.
“They become anxious when they are evaluated by their colleagues or their superiors, as they are completely intolerant towards any criticism. Some face serious adjustment problems at work or in personal relationships.”
Some PPS victims even keep constantly changing partners and looking for younger ones as Relationships with younger women have the advantage of less future plans, therefore less responsibilities.”
Psychologist Dan Kiley, also used the term ‘Wendy Syndrome’. Wendy Syndrome is named after Wendy Darling, who appears beside Peter Pan but is seen as playing an antithetical character.
She is often called a “mother”, taking on the role of an adult or someone more mature. Wendy darlings keep “making decisions, tidying up messes, and offering one-sided emotional support” and are always givers .
They exhaust their emotional resources for others and in the race for helping and caring often are exploited and fail to take care of their own needs. They act more than their age.
Humbelina Robles stresses that “Wendy is the woman behind Peter Pan. Since she deals with his things; this make Peter Pan to exist.” We can find Wendy people in the form of overprotecting mothers or romantic partners or friends.
Take Away: Try to fit yourself between Peter Pan and Wendy Darling. Don’t be a Peter Pan who escape from responsibilities. Be sensible and responsible.
Act maturely, but at the same don’t act like a Wendy Darling either. Offer love, care and support but one that is needed. Don’t boost over reliance and dependence.
Life is an experience that needs art of living. If you truly love someone, help them grow. Give them wings to fly and don’t make them parasites.
Author is a research scholar in the Dept of Psychology; University of Kashmir
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.