The Puer Aeternus and the Senex Archetypes

“You can’t be old and wise if you were never young and crazy.”

Chris Brown

What do Puer Aeternus and Senex mean?

These Latin terms mean “eternal boy” and “old man”. Both terms depict the universal and inherited principles of youth and maturity in depth psychology.

Why are they in pairs?

Each of them is the opposite of the other, although they represent a whole. You’ll find out more about that later in the blog.

Why are they essential for you?

You are born with both of these archetypes incorporated in your unconscious psyche.

They influence your way of thinking, feeling, believing, and behaving. It affects your ability to choose partners, friends, and jobs. The influence of these archetypes on you is often not balanced. Thus, you can live your life either in line with the youth principle or in line with values that come with mature age.

In both cases, you’ll be in disbalance with yourself. By balancing both archetypes, you can reach psychological maturity and a general state of well-being.

What are the well-known examples of Puer Aeternus and Senex?

The most notable fictional representatives of the Puer Aeternus are:

  • The famous adventurous treasure hunter Indiana Jones
  • The heart-breaking secret agent James Bond
  • Peter Pan, a playful boy who can fly and never wants to grow up

These characters are adventurous and young-in-spirit, and don’t like to follow societal rules and norms.

Well-known examples of the Senex archetype are:

  • Gandalf from the “Lord of the Rings”
  • Albus Dumbledore from the “Harry Potter”
  • Merlin from the “King Arthur”

All of them symbolize an old, wise, persistent, and hard-working man, but also a strict and conservative person, one who isn’t paying much attention to life’s pleasures and comforts.

Main psychological reason for liking these movies and being excited by their characters is the archetypal structure that triggers your archetypes deposited within your unconscious psyche.

That’s one of the most evident proofs of archetypes’ existence since they’re common to all human beings and have a fascinating effect on us.  

What if you’re female?

You can act as Puella Aeterna – the “eternal girl”.

You refuse to grow up psychologically, you’re prone to adventures, and you can’t stay long in a committed relationship.

Famous fictional characters that fit this principle are:

  • Lara Croft from the “Tomb Raider”
  • Rey from from the “Star Wars”

In the case of a Senex woman, you’re playing the “old woman” role, one who is wise, spiritual, and protective, such as:

  • Professor Minerva McGonagall from the “Harry Potter”

This blog focuses on the male variant of these two archetypes, as they’re more common in real life. But almost everything said for the male variant of these archetypes can also be applied to the female variant.

One crucial difference is that in the female variant, the relationship between the daughter and the father plays a decisive role in forming the psychological profile of the “eternal girl”.

While in the male variant, the relationship between the son and the mother is essential in creating the “eternal boy” profile.

What is the Puer Aeternus type of person like?

Suppose you live according to the Puer Aeternus archetype.

That means you’re a person that never really grows up in the psychological sense. You’re very close to the mother image and are fixated on the adolescent period of life.

You’re somewhat controversial since you’re childish and lack necessary skills for being a grown up. On the other hand, you’re a source of spontaneity, playfulness, and creativity.

Your reality principle, sense of social responsibility, and obligations towards other people aren’t fully developed. Hence you may be perceived as arrogant and selfish.

You seek exciting activities, and you may be prone to reckless adventures.

You rebel against authority figures and moral norms. You avoid commitments, marriage, responsibilities, a steady job, and routine.

You rush to conclusions, make sudden decisions that you later regret, and then change them impulsively to leave an unpleasant situation. Often you leave one unbearable situation for another.

Your impulsivity is closely connected with your impatience.

You seem to be quite naïve because, in the eyes of others, you often make wrong choices.

You don’t see the situation objectively, choosing to look at things from the angle you like, with a blind spot for all other facts and information that aren’t in accordance with your perception of the situation. Because of this attitude, you can often be a victim of tricks played on you by other people.

There’s also a tendency not to commit yourself totally to anything.

There’s always “a backup plan” for when things become too serious, complicated, or stressful. Under such modus operandi, you live a “provisional life”, by never being entirely in the present.

You may have problems in admitting and expressing your aggressiveness. This often becomes a part of your shadow. Or it goes to another extreme so that you become obsessed with aggression towards almost anybody.

Sex can be essential in your life

You often change partners and look for sexual pleasure, excitement, and conquest. When initial enthusiasm passes, your partner seems less attractive to you, so you leave them and start looking for the next one who will bring adventure and adrenaline.

On the other hand, some positive characteristics compensate for the lack of your psychological maturity and adaptation challenges through curiosity, open-mindedness, idealism, vivid imagination, a tendency towards heroic deeds and adventures, and high creativity.

Since you live a life of eternal youth, you may look younger than your age and may tend to keep your youthful appearance until old age.

If you’re close to the Puer Aeternus archetype, you may possess great strength, courage, inspiration, artistic tendencies, and the capacity to do great deeds.

But you also rarely “walk on the ground” and often “fly high in the sky” because you’re not well connected to the reality principle, thus leading you to have a lot of missed opportunities and a life unlived in reality.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­And what about the Senex?

Puer-Aeternu- and-the-Senex Archetypes

Senex is the exact opposite of the Puer Aeternus.

In psychological language, we say that one is in the shadow of the other. Therefore, all that is being said of Puer Aeternus’s qualities are the traits that Senex lacks.

For example, if you have a dominant Senex archetype in your psyche, you’re an example of order, work, discipline, long-sightedness, wisdom, and stability.

You radiate reliability and maturity, respect social norms and moral values. You’re well organized, hard-working, prosperous, and wise.

This also means that you can be too conservative, rational, rigid, narrow-minded, and overly cautious.

You may be obsessed with personal security, health, money and be prone to obsessive-compulsive or paranoid behavior. Thus, you can be perceived as an insensitive and authoritarian person.

As a Senex, sex can be insignificant to you

Your perception of sex is slightly conservative, and it’s difficult for you to relax and indulge in sexual pleasures. You may feel guilty about enjoying life in general since hard work and self-control are your greatest virtues.

Bearing in mind the closeness to the archetype of maturity, you might give the impression of a serious and intelligent person. Even if you’re young, you may behave like an adult or appear older than your age.

How should you handle both of them?

If one of those archetypes is underdeveloped, you’ll end up being either too much into excitement and adventures or obligations and hard work.

If you stay in this imbalanced state as you get older, you might experience the feeling of dissatisfaction, emptiness, bitterness, meaninglessness, and melancholy. That’s why it’s essential to accept and integrate both archetypes into your conscious life.

It’s crucial to be honest, and objective with yourself and to admit which of these two archetypes is more diminutive and which one is more present in your life.

It will help if you increase the archetype’s less developed characteristics in your psyche. In such a way the qualities of overly developed one will slowly reduce and the balance between the two will be achieved.

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