Do you know what a ‘puer aeternus’ is? It is Latin for ‘eternal boy’ or we could use ‘puella aeterna’ for a girl. And that is what this post is about.
In mythology the puer refers to a child-god who is forever young. The phrase ‘puer aeternus’ was written by the Roman poet Ovidius in his ‘Metamorphoses’.
In psychology it is an older person whose emotional life has remained at the level of an adolescent or maybe a child in certain areas of life. The puer leads a life in fear in being caught in a situation from which it might not be possible to escape. He or she likes freedom and independence, opposes boundaries and limits and tends to find restrictions not fun at all. That is me! Pierre sometimes calls me a ‘teenager’, mostly when I’m very stubborn against ‘those stupid rules.’
In Jungian psychology the puer aeternus is an example of what Jung called an archetype, one of the “primordial, structural elements of the human psyche“.
The shadow of the puer is the senex (the older one) which associates with disciplined, organized, rational and controlled. Conversely the shadow of the senex is the puer who we can describe as unbounded instinct, disorder and intoxication. Very very broad terms!
The puer himself has positive and negative connotations. The “positive” side of the puer appears as the Divine Child who symbolizes newness, potential for growth, hope for the future. The “negative” side is the child-man who refuses to grow up and meet the challenges of life face on, waiting instead for his ship to come in and solve all his problems.
Those two can tie together in “what is meant is the boy who is born from the maturity of the adult man, and not the unconscious child we would like to remain.”
‘Now or Neverland’ (1998) is a book written by Jungian analyst Ann Yeoman dealing with the puer aeternus in the form of Peter Pan, one of the most well-known examples of the concept in the modern era.
Peter Pan syndrome is the popular psychology concept of an adult who is socially immature. The category is an informal one invoked by laypeople and some psychology professionals in popular psychology. It is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as a specific mental disorder. In my opinion the Peter Pan Syndrome is not the same as the Inner Child. When you descend into the Peter Pan story you can meet some more darker places of some minds. It all depends from witch context you look at it. For me, I keep the two separate and I will elaborate on the Inner Child in further posts without having that confused with Peter Pan.
The concept of the ‘inner child’ finds it basis on the Jungian notion of the puer of puella. So what is this inner child? Does it exists? How to deal with it?
I don’t know but I’m supposed to work with it. I called it ‘the little one’. And she’s here. I myself find it a very strange situation to work with the ‘little one’ but it was suggested by my therapist and I am desperate enough to try. First and foremost I need to share my concerns of ending up with additional diagnoses because now ‘I’ constist of ‘Me’ ‘The Imposter’ ‘The depression’ and ‘The little one’. I also have Pierre in my life and occasional doggies. Can I keep them all happy?
 Sharp, Daryl. Jung Lexicon: A Primer of Terms & Concepts. (pp 109 – 110). Inner City Books, Toronto, 1991.
 Jung, “Answer to Job”, par. 742
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