Purer or Puer? Yes, and Puella

by julie swanson

It occurred to me that someone searching for my blog by its title (Purer and Purer Streams…) might misspell Purer and be led to websites on the topic of the Puer. Or that someone interested in Jungian psychology and searching to learn more about the archetype of the ‘puer’ could accidentally put an R in the middle of puer and spell ‘purer’ and be led to my blog. And that’s OK, I realized—in either case the person might very well be interested with what they’ve happened upon, because I fit the puer archetype and my blog could just as easily be called Puer Streams.

In Jungian psychology (named for Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, 1875-1961), the puer archetype describes one who never really grows up psychologically, a person whose emotional life hasn’t progressed beyond adolescence. An eternal child, boy or girl. Think Peter Pan, my childhood hero. (Puer aeternus is Latin for eternal boy; for a female, the term is puella aeterna–eternal girl.) I never wanted to grow up as a kid, saw it as the death of my essence. I did obviously grow up in some senses, and when I did, I thought my whole dread-and-denial-of-growing-up issue was a thing of the past. I didn’t notice anything immature about myself; I just felt young at heart. However, a few years ago I began to see a chasm between my chronological age and my age in terms of psychological maturity (in some aspects, particularly my dependence on my parents–not my dependence on them as living, breathing people and what they could do for me; my dad had been dead and I’d lived far from my parents for years; but on their world views. I over-identified with them). I also started seeing my reflection in windows and thinking, “What? No way, could that be me?!” And I began realizing how I’d never really broken from the mindset of being a kid, a daughter, a happy-go-lucky little tomboy, the high school and college athlete I once was.

When I first read about the puer archetype, I was like, yup, that’s me. And at first I was proud of that; I’ll always be a kid inside, I’ll never get old and stodgy! But the more I examined myself, the more I saw how limiting it was to be a puer, and the benefits of maturing past that, accepting and even embracing aging and the wisdom and calm and peace that can bring.

Like all archetypes, the puer has both positive and negative aspects. I’m not saying it’s all bad. Hardly. But I don’t want to get into the whole thing of archetypes here. You can look that up if you’re not familiar with the notion as Carl Jung thought of it but are interested in learning more.

But I did have more I wanted to say on this topic, or I wanted to go into this in more detail, should I say, so more on this in my next post…