The Cure for the Eternal Boy/Girl

The Jungian Analyst Marie Louise Von Franz was a bit a of specialist in working with languid young men who drifted around. She even wrote a book called Puer Aeternus that captures her thoughts and reflections...Today, more than even, the Puer Aeternus is ascendant...

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The Eternal Boy/ Girl is extremely charming if a bit dreamy.  He is into religious and political cults and trends.  He is very good at conversing.  He maybe very playful and even good at seducing others.  There are many wonderful and creative things about such a young man, or woman, who sees the possibility in everything.  They are good at initiating things.  In times like ours, it may be hard to distinguish such eternal youths, from those who can't take on adult status due to the economic difficulties of establishing a career or home life of one's own.  But the Puer is not really an outer state but an inner state.  A Puer can live in a big house. For instance, the Orange Swan, President Trump, has Puer aspects.  He likes wrestling, gambling and prostitutes, all adolescent things.  The Puer lives the "provisional life."  He is never fully committed.  He is always looking for a better option.  After all, for him or her, this is good, but this is not quite it.  It's not what they were dreaming of.  So off they go, in search of a new job, or new love, or new religion.  In tindr, they will keep swiping.  This is not the promised land they bitterly recriminate inside their heads as each job/lover lets them down.  They leave a trail of heart break and devastation in their wake.  The shadow side of the Puer is a cold ruthless streak.  One minute they could, and no doubt they mean it sincerely at the time, be reading poetry to their beloved.  The next day they've left without even a thank you or good by note.  In a young person, such things are not unsurprising as they are exploring and experimenting. In fact they are to be expected. However, many people stay fixated at this stage of live for ever.  They put off mortgages, paperwork, jobs and so on.  They would rather go travelling and find themselves.  They put off long term relationships or children.  They may spend long periods on meditation holidays or even spiritual retreats.  None of these things is unattractive or wrong. It makes for an interesting life.  But there is something missing in such a psychology as the Puer dances merrily from one encounter to the next.  What is the cure to such a psychological predicament, which becomes less attractive the older one becomes?  According to Jung, the best cure was work.  This may sound suprising and Jung certainly wasn't working for the job centre.  But he was clear about this. Not any old type of work. No.  Many types of work would simply crush the Puer and make them feel that they were not living.  It has to be work that has something lively about it, something makes use of the Puer's many creative talents and capacities.  But of course any work has downsides. It is deflating and puncturing.  Thinking of something in fantasy, compared to actually doing it, are two separate things.  The reality of doing something is always a hundred times harder and this can be dispiriting to the Puer.  As Marie Louise Von Franz said, it is easy for a Puer to do something in a fit of enthusiasm or a trance-like state.  In such a state they can work with abandon.  But this is not really work.  The true test for a Puer is, can they get up on cold wet February Monday and get themselves into the office to complete the tax returns.  This is very disagreeable to the Puer.  However, unless such tasks are faced squarely on, the Puer will remain psychologically stunted.  Jung said, the Puer just needs to find a job, it doesn't matter if its grand or not, but they need to work that job, that piece of endeavour, to the best of their ability.  They need to commit and cultivate their patch in this world, however messy, imperfect and flawed.  

Ajay Khandelwal PhD

Ajay Khandelwal is an experienced psychotherapist and consultant. He welcomes contact and enquiries and is accepting new clients via zoom during the shut down.