3. Conquering The Puer and Puella Aeternus – Meaningful Work

In the previous article, I mentioned meaningful work as a solution to the Puer problem. But this tends to evoke a lot of confusion, especially the meaningful part. Some people, as soon as they hear the word “work” picture someone selling their souls and completely giving up on their hopes and dreams. They envision someone slaving themselves for thirty-plus years in a dead-end corporate job, absolutely dreading their existence. That made me realize that this topic must be expanded with some validated advice, so here’s my attempt to fill in some gaps.


Let’s recap the most important lines on this matter:

“The Puer and Puella tell the story of an unrealized potential and a half-lived life. Meaningful work and responsibility are the principles that can redeem their soul. Bringing their dreams to reality and fighting for them is what can revitalize their spirit. Realizing their potential and fulfilling their role as the child of the promise is what can bring meaning to their existence”.

The Puer and Puella tend to have a very distorted and negative relationship with work. It evokes the feeling of being trapped, because once again it threatens their clinging to childhood. However, work is exactly what can set them free. It’s one of the pillars of conquering authority over one’s life, it’s the price you pay for acquiring autonomy and freedom to be and act according to your own essence.

Through hard work, one can turn their deepest aspirations into concrete reality. It propels the creation of a life imbued with meaning, and inspiration, and that’s worth living. Without seeking independence it’s just impossible to free yourself from parental influence, and the one that refuses this task will be forever doomed to live in their shadow. The results as we already know are chaotic relationships, depression, anxiety, and a lack of meaning and direction.

Main Patterns

Over the years I noticed two main patterns. The first one is the Puer or Puella that jumps from job to job every three months, as soon as things start to get more serious their “free-spirited souls” just vanish seeking the next “perfect” job. The second kind is more subtle. There’s a tendency to be accommodated in a very low-effort job that has absolutely no challenges. Nevertheless, this conceals a deep fear of pursuing their true aspirations. Another variant is the ones that seek to make a living in excuse ways, always trying to bend the law. In all cases, meaning and commitment to their true path are missing. But let’s say they understand the importance of seeking their autonomy, now what?

Meaningful Work

The Puer and Puella always have one foot in the realm of the eternal fountain of youth. This gives them brightness, insightfulness, and the ability to draw inspiration and creativity directly from the collective unconscious. This is only insidious when it’s not rooted in reality, because when this creative force isn’t elaborated and doesn’t find its place in reality, it rots and drags the Puer along with it. Then he falls prey to a myriad of fantasies and wishful thinking, never accomplishing anything. It’s as if he’s living in a glass castle that prevents him from fully engaging with life. 

However, when this connection is paired with responsibility and adaptation to life, wonderful creations can come to fruition. Simply put, the Puer and Puella have to find a way of maintaining their connection with creativity and inspiration while they grow up. These forces spring from the Self, however, what’s determinant is what you do with it. It’s their mission to shape this inspiration and give it a place in reality. The first lesson the Puer and Puella ought to embody is that everything has a price and even the most wonderful endeavors, have their hardships.

Here I can share a personal example. I firmly believe that my soul called me to pursue the path I’m on. This calling turned into the responsibility of paying the price for making it happen. It’s in practical life that you must create a vessel for your fantasies to be expressed. Planning a career change, countless hours of studying, and investing in proper training and analysis is what I paid for following my soul. This will require diligence, discipline, and the creation of new habits.

This path made me face every fear I had, in reality, things aren’t easier because you’re following your inspiration, but it allows you to build an unshakable foundation. By engaging with your soul your sense of meaning is unraveled. But It’s not something static, meaning happens and is experienced within the relationship with your soul. Meaning has to be created ever anew with each step you take in the direction of what inspires and realizes you. A true sense of inspiration and meaning are only unraveled when you go beyond the ego and break free from arrogant selfish pursuits and the quest for power, and you put yourself at the service of the Self


“Everything you said seems amazing, but I don’t feel inspired at all!” Usually, inspiration is buried under the parental complex. In other words, you allow their expectations to define you. You’re so enmeshed in their value system that it prevents you from freely accessing your soul. However, this is usually coupled with fear of admitting to oneself what one truly wants, because once you do, then you’ll have to do something about it and you won’t have the parental excuse anymore.

Many illusions are fabricated in this process, and people end up pursuing things to seek validation or to prove someone wrong. Or even that they are going all in into something when they truly aren’t. Deep down, it’s all an attempt to escape their own souls and avoid their true task. Another possibility is that you’re so detached from the practical aspects of life that your inspiration can’t reach reality. In this case, once you start taking more steps toward your independence, inspiration tends to fall into place. But I will elaborate on this a bit further as there’s one unspoken danger we have to address.

The Curse of Enantiodromia

Many Puers and Puellas, once they finally commit to a career path, face the curse of enantiodromia. In other words, they become a disillusioned and grumpy “adult”. Notice the quotation marks, because in this case the Puer ends up acquiring an artificial adaptation, but remains emotionally childish. The shadow simply engulfs them, also stealing every good quality the Puer has. For some, this is a necessary evil in their journeys, because once they’re able to bring their inspiration back it finds a more mature vessel. With their new sense of autonomy and responsibility, they can safely reconnect with the fantastical realm without being engulfed by it. Thus they can begin their process of creating meaning.

The Parental Shadow

“But the real therapy only begins when the patient sees that it is no longer father and mother who are standing in his way, but himself—i.e., an unconscious part of his personality which carries on the role of father and mother” (C. G. Jung – V7 – §88).

In reality, the Puer problem is multifaceted and it’s impossible to address all its variants in a single chapter. However, there’s always one constant, the influence of the parental complex. In other words, he unconsciously behaves like his father or mother and reacts to the world as if he were still a child. In fact, many are able to commit to a career and build a family, but it’s only an artificial adaptation as they are still children internally. This appears in their relationships when they expect to be mothered or fathered by their partners, or when they refuse to have emotional responsibility over their relationship and act like giant narcissistic babies.

Career-wise, many will seek the approval of their parents. Others might rebel and go for exactly what their parents hate, but it’s not for them, it’s a choice made out of spite. An interesting variant are the ones that try to escape their mothers by going to an intellectual field, and I met many of them back in the day when I was in college. They will spend years seeking a master’s and even a PhD, but they have zero life experience. They are intellectually bright but clueless when it comes to emotions and relationships.

It’s also true that many are able to build discipline and diligence, but it’s often not directed to the right place. It lacks the most important part, connecting with life. During music school, I met many bright musicians, but they always hesitated to go on crucial gigs. I know this because I’ve already done it too, haha. Many live in an illusion where they are going all in, but they are always finding a way to deviate and have the perfect excuse for doing so.

When the Puer and Puella have kids, they never get fully involved and refuse to adopt the role of the adult. It’s like they are “buddies”. They might treat their kids exactly like their parents treated them, or they will seek to do the exact opposite. Needless to say, everything is made in reaction to their parents, there is no individual character. In the worst scenarios, they are the ones who behave like children and expect their kids to be their parents.

As you can see, meaningful work is a crucial pillar for having your independence. However, the matter goes deeper. It all starts with challenging your identification with the belief system of the parents and stepping out of their shadow. Responsibility isn’t just about maintaining external conditions, it involves seeking your individuality and building a new attitude toward life. It’s about finding your own sense of meaning and committing to your task. It’s about giving your blood and fully engaging with absolutely everything you do. Regardless if it’s an individual pursuit, your relationships, or your creativity.

The Life Puzzle

In this final part, I’ll share some validated practical advice that I always explore with my patients:

So how can one maintain his connection with the eternal source while growing up?

I strongly recommend finding something that allows you to be creative and commit to it. It really doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it nurtures your soul, because this is exactly what might sustain you during this process. Once you establish this connection, I see two main alternatives, and it’s really important that you understand the kind of relationship you built with your practice. Either you can bring this to a profession or maintain it as a source of inspiration.

Here’s what I mean by that, before I became a therapist, I graduated in music and I worked for many years teaching and playing music. However, the pressure to turn music into a profession completely took the joy out of it, and everything became very mechanical and about achieving perfection. What inspired me completely rot. There was even a period where I completely disconnected from it and dabbled with weird jobs, until I finally understood that this was not the relationship I was supposed to have with music, its place in my life is a source of inspiration.

In contrast, psychology fulfills the professional role. This allows me to freely engage with music and explore my creativity, and all the inspiration I get from it is also directed to my work. It’s important to realize that your sense of inspiration might not come directly or solely from your work. For instance, having a symbolic attitude toward music allows me to bring it to a psychological level and this opens the possibility to a deeper understanding of creativity, inspiration, the anima and the feeling realm, and even my fears, and all of this makes me a better therapist.

Understanding the relationship and the place each thing has in your life is extremely powerful. So It’s ok to have a job you’re good enough at, but you don’t love, it will give you the freedom and foundation to pursue the other parts of the puzzle, such as meaningful relationships and your connection with the eternal source. Here, I can recommend a great book called “The Creative Act: A Way of Being” by Rick Rubin.

Many people also get surprised along the way when they uncover new talents and aspirations, and having that boring job is exactly what sustains them in these new endeavors. Even if you don’t have any inspiration now, take any step you can toward your freedom. Do it for your soul and you’ll find yourself along the way. Now is the time to drag yourself out off the couch, or perhaps you’ve already done that, but everything was under the shadow of the parental complex, and now it’s important to take some time to reassess your life and uncover your individuality. 

Always remember to seek a balance between the mother and father aspect. Regardless, dare to realize your authentic path. In Joseph Campbell’s words: “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path”.

Rafael Krüger – Jungian Therapist

Read Next – The Invaluable Mission of The Puer and Puella Aeternus

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