1. Mother and Father Complex – The Journey To Adulthood

This article opens a series of posts on the Puer and Puella Aeternus and you can check the other parts here:

Part II – Conquer The Puer and Puella Aeternus

Part III – Meaningful Work

Part IV – The Invaluable Mission of the Puer and Puella Aeternus

The Problem of Our Zeitgeist

In the next few articles, I’d like to devote some time to explore one of the main problems of our zeitgeist, many people have been refusing to grow up and have been remaining childish for too long. Marie Von Franz foresaw this issue in the 70’s with her incredible book, “The Problem of The Puer Aeternus”. This is one of those books that can completely change your life if you apply its knowledge, and since I read it, my life took on a new course and I was finally able to truly grow up.

As you may notice, this is a subject very dear to my heart, since it mingles with my personal story. I dare to say that, in people under 40, 90% of their psychological problems stem from avoiding truly becoming an adult and fully taking responsibility for their lives. And I even analyzed people approaching their 50s still dealing with this very same problem.

That’s why I felt the duty to share everything I’ve personally learned from overcoming this condition and all the insights I’ve gained after having analyzed people from over twenty different countries. I started sharing these articles on Reddit and since then I’ve received messages on a weekly basis seeking guidance on how to overcome this, so now I present you with the Conquer The Puer and Puella Aeternus Series.

The Mother and Father Complex – The Journey To Adulthood

The Call To Adventure

The first task of every person is to be able to free themselves from the protection of their mother and father and take their call to adventure. However, in order to do so we must draw our sword and kill the dragon of desire for eternal childhood and develop authority, independence, and responsibility for our own lives.

The Archetypal Principles

The mother and father complexes are, arguably, the two archetypal principles that have the most influence over our psyche.

Jung says that “The father acts as a protection against the dangers of the external world and thus serves his son as a model persona, so the mother protects him against the dangers that threaten from the darkness of his psyche. In the puberty rites, therefore, the initiate receives instruction about these things of “the other side,” so that he is put in a position to dispense with his mother’s protection” (C. G. Jung – V7 – §315).

The mother is the embodiment of the collective unconscious and represents the Eros principle, the sensual and chthonic realm, pleasure, and nourishment. From the unconscious springs our life force, creativity, and the possibility for renewal and rebirth. The mother opens the possibility for a relationship with our inner world and our soul. This principle also determines how we relate to our emotions and build relationships.

In contrast, the father embodies the Logos principle and the spiritual realm. It’s about authority, responsibility, tradition, and preservation. He is the law and that’s why he balances the instinctual tendency of the unconscious. The father opens the possibility to develop our persona and our relationship with the external world.

“The father represents the world of moral commandments and prohibitions […] The father is the representative of the spirit, whose function it is to oppose pure instinctuality. That is his archetypal role, which falls to him regardless of his personal qualities; hence he is very often an object of neurotic fears for the son” (C. G. Jung – V5 – §396).

Both principles balance one another and an exacerbation to any side will invariably lead to problems. To make things very simple, for both men and women, too much of the father principle kills absolutely everything that’s related to the feminine principle, and too much of the mother principle kills every quality of the father principle.

The Inner Theatre

“Interpretation in terms of the parents is, however, simply a façon de parler. In reality the whole drama takes place in the individual’s own psyche, where the “parents” are not the parents at all but only their imagos: they are representations which have arisen from the conjunction of parental peculiarities with the individual disposition of the child” (C. G. Jung – V5 – §505).

Although they are internal forces, they are projected upon the real mother and father, or the caregivers that adopted this role in your life. We first experience these two forces through them and this will shape how we relate to these principles internally. So individual experience can act like gatekeepers to creating a healthy relationship with these principles and preventing a person from growing up.

What Does It Mean To Be Infantile?

“An individual is infantile because he has freed himself insufficiently, or not at all, from his childish environment and his adaptation to his parents, with the result that he has a false reaction to the world: on the one hand he reacts as a child towards his parents, always demanding love and immediate emotional rewards, while on the other hand he is so identified with his parents through his close ties with them that he behaves like his father or his mother. He is incapable of living his own life and finding the character that belongs to him” (C. G. Jung – V5 – §431).

Another kind of infantilism is when someone is able to acquire some adaptation to outer life but remains childish when it comes to emotions. We have plenty of examples in tv-shows like Frasier, Chandler from Friends, or the character Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.

”So far as his emotional life is concerned, he has not yet caught up with himself, as is often the case with people who are apparently so masterful towards life and their fellows, but who have remained infantile in regard to the demands of feeling” (C. G. Jung – V5 – §431).

Therefore an individual is childish when he’s determined by their parent’s expectations and beliefs. He has an artificial adaptation to life because he’s unconsciously reacting to the world just like his parents would. This tends to appear in mainly two ways, either the person is absorbed by their beliefs and seeks to perpetuate them, or the person might rebel against everything and seek to do the exact opposite. In either case, he’s not an individual and has no life of his own, he’s fate is determined by the idea of his inner parents.

The parental complex is about authority, independence and autonomy, and everything starts by understanding how you relate to these principles within. For instance, imagine a person that is repulsed by the idea he has about his father “because he’s such a tyrant”. Furthermore, this person is constantly getting in trouble with authority figures and sees himself as a rebel. Well, chances are that this person has an inner tyrant and also acts in the exact same manner, but is unconscious of it. 

Not only that, but this person is also the first prey of this inner tyrant. However, when something is projected it exempts us from dealing with the truth, that what’s projected, in reality, lives within. And all this hatred will prevent you from relating to this principle in a healthy way because ultimately, you’re hating this in yourself. However, in order to conquer the complex, you must take responsibility for it. The adult is the one that mastered these two principles within and was able to create a relationship with them free from parental influence.


These internal dynamics appear especially in relationships because you’ll project your inner mother and father complex on others, and mainly on your partner. Imagine that person who has a poor relationship with his emotions, invariably, they will project this function onto their partner. This person will delegate the responsibility for their emotional life and now the other person has to care for them and provide absolutely everything, just like a mother has to do for her baby. Not only that, if this isn’t done exactly how they want it, all the blame will fall on their partner. This kind of person sucks the life out of everyone. But never forget, relationship dynamics are only formed because both parties are performing their role. In the aforementioned case, for instance, there’s also an enabler who usually adopts the position of the helper.

This also tends to happen a lot with figures of authority, like a boss or a teacher you admire. Let’s say your experience with your real father was frustrating, he was always dismissive and overly critical. This tends to create an internal void that’s constantly seeking validation. Furthermore, you can internalize this inner critic and now it has nothing to do with the real father, you start doing this to yourself. Now imagine that a person is unconsciously seeing his internal father projected onto his boss, in this moment, this  person will react to them exactly as he would to his real father. Let’s say the boss is trying to be helpful with some constructive criticism. Now, complexes always distort reality and amplify emotional reactions, they make us interpret things that aren’t necessarily happening. This moment might trigger this internal father, the inner critic, and the terrible feelings associated with it. Suddenly, you’re acting and feeling like a helpless child. But always remember that, even though it was triggered in relation to someone else, this lives within.


In every case, tracing the origins of certain behaviors will almost always lead to the relationship with the caregivers. There will always be the tendency of looking for someone to blame, but in doing so you’re simply avoiding dealing with the real matter and perpetuating a childish existence. I get it, you might have gone through horrible and despicable things and none of this was fair and they weren’t your fault. And I know it hurts, but now you’re an adult and you have everything you need to turn your life around. It can be scary and overwhelming taking responsibility but this also gives you power. You’ll never be able to change what happened or other people, but you can change how you experience everything internally and this will set you free.

Psychological knowledge is a double-edged sword, some people use it to perpetuate even more their childish behaviors, but the wise ones see it as a map to better understand themselves and do everything they can to change. Most of our problems stem from remaining a child psychologically for too long, it ruins relationships and brings anxiety and depression. Carl Jung says that  “The perpetual hesitation of the neurotic to launch out into life is readily explained by his desire to stand aside so as not to get involved in the dangerous struggle for existence. But anyone who refuses to experience life must stifle his desire to live—in other words, he must commit partial suicide” (C. G. Jung – V5 – §165).

Here we see people using every excuse and creating scenarios where they can be perceived as victims so other people become responsible for them. But while you refuse to take life by its horns, I’m sorry to tell you, but all you’ll be able to see is darkness. Or perhaps you’re just floating in a bubble that’s about to pop, it’s a half-life that I don’t wish for anyone. Listen to that voice that wants more and that wants to conquer life. Take your call to adventure, the dragon you must kill lives within. It’s time to let go of your childishness, because every time you hesitate this dragon gains power. Commit to living life. Remember this is a process, take one step at a time, you might fall, but that’s ok. Be gentle with yourself and pick yourself up. Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of decisiveness and small increments, that’s how significant changes come to be.

But what happens when you hesitate to become an adult and allow the dragon to win? Well, this takes us to the problem of the Puer and Puella Aeternus.

Read Next – Conquer The Puer and Puella Aeternus

Rafael Krüger – Jungian Therapist

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Conquer The Puer Aeternus – Overcoming The Mother and Father Complex

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