We continue our series on the Great Minds of Psychology with the work of Marie-Louise Von Franz, who began studying with Carl Jung in high school. Her expansive career and work on dreams, alchemy, Individuation, the Feminine Principle and the Puer Aeternus and Puella Eterna (eternal boy and girl). We explore:
- Why it is never too early to learn about the psyche
- Von Franz’s contributions to psychology, including Dreams and Alchemy, as well as her work with Fairy Tales and archetypes
- Puer Aeternus (Peter Pan Syndrome) and Puella Eterna (eternal girl) and how remaining as a child can stall your life
- How the balance between structure and playfulness is necessary for full self-expression
This podcast represents the opinions of Debra Berndt Maldonado and Robert Maldonado, PhD. The content here should not be taken as medical/mental health advice. The content here is for informational purposes only, and because each person is so unique, please consult your mental healthcare professional for your mental health questions.
Watch the next Soul Session in this series on our YouTube Channel.
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Debra Maldonado 00:28
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I am Debra Maldonado, here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. We’re excited to continue our series on the great minds of psychology. This week, we’re focusing on Marie Louise von Franz, who studied with Jung. We’re also focusing on her work of the eternal boy and the eternal girl. The topic is Why Do Some People Never Grow Up. Before we begin, we’re going to remind everyone to join us by subscribing to our channel to make sure you don’t miss another episode, if you’re watching us on YouTube. If you’re listening to us on one of the podcast services, don’t forget to subscribe, because we have a great series and you want to make sure you get everyone. Let’s talk about Marie Louise.
Robert Maldonado 01:25
Before we get going, I want to mention and dedicate this podcast to our friends and listeners in Turkey. We know, right now you’re in the middle of a big transition. We wish you the best. Marie Louie von Franz is another incredible mind in psychology, her work is still very relevant today. Recently, I heard Chiron, the publishing company is about to publish her collected works in hardcover. Those of you that want to geek out with her work, it’s going to be an incredible set of volumes. She studied with Jung very early on. She met Jung when she was still in high school, 18, and when into analysis with him at 19.
Debra Maldonado 02:29
A lot of people that do our training ask us, “Can I work with younger people or do I have to wait till they get to that midlife before we can work with them?” It’s never too early to individuate.
Robert Maldonado 02:41
It’s not so much that it’s individuation. But it’s that it’s never too early to learn about the psyche. You’re creating this persona, there is an unconscious mind that is guiding you from the inside.
Debra Maldonado 02:59
Allowing yourself to access the unconscious and explore yourself and understand why you do the things you do.
Robert Maldonado 03:09
She was born in January 4, 1915. World War I was going on at that time, she lived through that early period, then World War II, of course. She died in 1998, fairly recently, she got to see a lot of the modern world and wrote into the 50s and 60s. Incredible work, her contributions cover the whole gamut. She did a lot of work on dreams and dream interpretation. Those of you interested in dreams, there’s a great interview with her on YouTube, where she talks about her learning from Jung directly. You get a sense of how they worked with dreams early on. Alchemy, one of the toughest subjects in Jungian psychology. She did a lot of work on alchemy. Those of you interested in alchemy, keep working on it, it might take a while for you to get it but it’s an important contribution to psychology, especially individuation.
Debra Maldonado 04:34
How would you in essence describe alchemy for people that don’t know?
Robert Maldonado 04:39
I think the big picture is that it shows how the psyche works, that there is this unconscious language speaking to us all. He used his studies to demonstrate that here was a group of people, very actively mining the richness of the unconscious mind through what they perceived as the alchemical process, which was for them a way to project their unconscious on to the material world.
Debra Maldonado 05:15
With alchemy, would it be bringing those symbols to consciousness, transforming and integrating? It’s a transformation that happens?
Robert Maldonado 05:23
In the symbolism that emerges from their work, you see the symbols of transformation, precisely what he later calls the individuation process. For us, in our work with dreams, we’ve seen those symbols and the series of symbols that mimic or reflect the alchemical process of transformation.
Debra Maldonado 05:56
Students that first start training with us will often have very similar dreams when they enter. We see it class after class after class, there’s the standing by the ocean dream or running away from the snake dream. There’s all these symbolic dreams that come to show they’re on the right track. Or right before they sign up, they’ll have a dream, it’s indicating that it’s time.
Robert Maldonado 06:23
She also did a lot of work with the feminine principle and elucidating that aspect of the psyche that has been ignored and repressed in Western culture. We see Mother Mary in Christianity, but she’s always in the background, or just looking beautiful in her throne. There’s no active worship of the feminine principle in Christianity and in the West in general. Part of her work was to bring that out a little more.
Debra Maldonado 07:09
And of course, the puer aeternus and the puella aeterna, the eternal boy and the eternal girl, the Peter Pan syndrome, as some people call it.
Robert Maldonado 07:21
Incredible work around that topic. Jung originally coined the term of what he saw in some of his patients and clients. There was this tendency to try to remain as a child or as a youth, a wish to remain in innocence and lack of responsibility.
Debra Maldonado 07:51
That’s in all of us, but some of us act out on it, some of us repress it.
Robert Maldonado 08:00
From the perspective of the larger scope of psychology, we know a lot more about culture and how it plays out. If you look at culture, especially Western culture, there’s a big emphasis on youth, remaining young, looking beautiful, looking youthful. We can say that that’s the expression of the psyche, or this tendency to want to remain as a child or as a youth, not take on the responsibility and the hard work of adulthood.
Debra Maldonado 08:45
I saw this in myself when I was younger. Fun Debi was my persona, my friends were all getting married, and I wanted to still play. I wanted to party and travel. I worked in the entertainment industry, I got to go to parties with celebrities, I was traveling all over, I didn’t want to be tied down to that. They seemed so boring to me. But part of me wanted that tradition, but also, the puella in me kept pushing it away. I felt like I was getting claustrophobic, so I’d sabotage, then always of course, I’d be attracted to the puer aeternus, which is the eternal boy. Then I’d be frustrated with them too, because I’d be like “Don’t you want to get serious?” I saw this a lot when I was doing love coaching. Women wanting to just play, the fear of being serious with someone, having to be responsible. Women feel they’re gonna lose their freedom because they see their mother and the traps of the committed woman, boring, not have all the fun. We don’t want to be that all the time. But we also don’t want to be the extreme of a committed person either, you don’t have any fun. You want to let puella have her expression as well.
Robert Maldonado 10:22
Here’s a little bit of information on what Jung and Franz meant by the eternal boy and the eternal girl. The provisional life is a prison for them. What they meant was that you’re not investing and committing to an adult life. You say “I’ll get by”, live like a college student. The bars are the parental complexes, unconscious ties to early life, the boundless irresponsibility of the child. They yearn for independence and long for freedom but they are powerless to pull it off, meaning, they want to remain in innocence and irresponsibility as long as they can.
Debra Maldonado 11:39
Also be rebellious because my father was very strict, I wasn’t allowed to play as much, be foolish and make mistakes. When I got in my 20s, I was like, “I’m an adult now, I don’t have any rules.” You’re living without those traditional rules as well. It could be a rebellious part of yourself, too.
Robert Maldonado 12:04
Von Franz talks about the hippie generation in the 60s, how that expressed her or Jung’s ideas as well. There was this wanting for the magical carefree world, fantasy, drugs and intoxication, very much like the Dionysius cult of Greece, where Dionysius was the god of wine and intoxication, escapism into this fantasy world.
Debra Maldonado 12:48
We see this in spiritual work too, where people want to have the magical thinking, they don’t want to do the hard work, they want what’s the easiest way to make a change in my life, let me think of a vision board, and hopefully everything just manifests, checks are gonna arrive in the mail. It’s very attractive to that puella and puer in us, we want to be playful that way.
Robert Maldonado 13:16
We’re not pointing fingers and we don’t want to look at it as a syndrome, or a complex because again, it’s part of the culture and part of the way the psyche expresses itself. We’re all subject to being caught up in these trends and ideas. A lot of us go through these periods of transition, where we fall prey to these ideas or express them in ourselves somehow. We want to see them more as an important aspect of the psyche and the way the psyche expresses itself, there is this creative, carefree, dreamy aspect of the psyche, but it should be balanced. We see it in Jung’s and von Franz’s life, it’s balanced by hard work and dedication to profession, to career, to the solid life of adulthood.
Debra Maldonado 15:18
Jung says there’s no transformation without emotion. When I first started out, a lot of people I worked with never really went there. They had the insight, but they never went to really facing those difficult emotions because it was all about clearing them away and making them positive. But it’s in wrestling with ourselves that the transformation happens. It takes a little discipline, it’s not all fun and games, it’s something is sometimes a tough part of our growth. To have that balance, it doesn’t mean we can’t have the magic too, but we have to have the balance.
Robert Maldonado 15:58
Often, what’s required is that commitment to something difficult in your life that you’re not sure you can pull off. That’s hard for a lot of us, especially if we don’t have mentors and guides and societal rituals that used to give us a structure for growth, moving to the next level.
Debra Maldonado 16:25
If you’re an entrepreneur and look all over the social media, you see people say, “Try this one thing and make a million dollars” or “Get a you TikTok account and start making money”. What happens is they end up renting these houses that make it look like they’re in a mansion, “it was so easy for me”, it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. That also appeals to people, “I don’t have to work hard, I can make it happen.” The whole lottery syndrome, if I could win the lottery, everything will be okay. That’s magical thinking. It’d be great if you win the lottery, but you can’t bet your whole life on it. You’re doing it to avoid something, the puella and puer always avoid something difficult. Part of becoming a grown-up is taking responsibility, knowing that everything’s not always fun and games and you could just run away from things your whole life. You see this with celebrities, they have it all, but then they face a difficult thing. All the money in the world can’t help them with this issue. They have to face something difficult. We all suffer. We watched the Michael J. Fox special. You’d look at him, he has all the wealth and fame. But he’s dealing with this illness, none of that money is going to matter. He has to deal with that tough part. We all have to deal with tough parts of life. But that’s what gives life richness and meaning, not just running away with the circus like you wanted to do, Rob when you were a kid.
Robert Maldonado 18:07
It’s certainly a natural part of the rebellious youth phase of our lives, we have to rebel against the old order, the old king, the parents, the church. But in Jung and Marie von Franz’s work, it’s a question of balance. We want to balance these unconscious tendencies with a conscious attempt at maturation and responsibility, so that we’re not lopsided, we’re not going one way or the other, not being very rigid, just conforming mindlessly, you see people that fall into the perfectionism of “I have to do it the way it’s taught in the books, or my professor taught me, or my parents.” It becomes very rigid, it becomes not a very creative way of being. On the other hand, you have creative people that lose themselves in that creativity, in that looseness of life, intoxication and drinking, in order to live that bohemian life.
Debra Maldonado 19:41
They blow their money. You hear about all these musicians and actors that get caught up in drugs and alcohol and addictions, and their own fame. They end up blowing all their money and end up bankrupt. It’s because there’s no parenting, there’s no one watching the store.
Robert Maldonado 20:04
There’s a beautiful quote in the Xia Ching, which Jung loved and embraced as well. It says, “Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man. If they existed, his life would only dissolve in the boundless. To become strong, a man’s life needs the limitations ordained by duty and voluntarily accepted. The individual attains significance as a free spirit only by surrounding himself with these limitations and by determining for himself what his duty is.” It’s that embracing of duty and calling that you find a balance.
Debra Maldonado 20:59
There’s a business, there’s show business, coaching business, art business, there’s always a business element to give you structure, so they can make money from their work and sustain themselves versus just doing the art and getting lost in it, but never really making it, working a job and doing their art on the weekends because they can’t find a way to integrate their purpose with that balance.
Robert Maldonado 21:29
Certainly in coaching we see that too. A lot of people love coaching, of course, because it’s our calling, we love to help people, we love to do it. But when it comes to the hard part of how you’re going to put yourself out there, how you’re going to find your ideal clients and nurture those relationships, they fall apart because it’s not within their scope of ability.
Debra Maldonado 22:01
I hear a lot of “I don’t like that structure, I want to be creative, I want to be intuitive”, that resistance to the traditional. You’re going to have to make sales, you’re going to have to have a marketing plan, you are going to have to have strategy. It’s counter to puella and puer, we’re wanting to play, wanting to create, we need the balance. Marie Louise von Franz said, “If we can stay with the tension of opposites long enough, sustain it and be true to it, we can sometimes become vessels within which the divine opposites come together and give birth to a new reality.” We’re not the extreme structure rigid person, and we’re not the extreme loose carefree person. When they come together and we could see them both together as equal, they both are valid, you don’t have to choose one or the other. They’re actually both integrated into your life, then this new you emerges that has the inner balance. That’s where really great things can be created. A beautiful film needs a solid blank screen to play a beautiful movie, a book has these beautiful words, but if they don’t have the blank pages to write down the words, it needs a template. This template of the structure that we have helps us, enables us to express our creative self but we need both. If we reject structure, reject commitment, it feels as though the ego loves comfort, you’ll be swirling around, never feeling like you’re getting anywhere. I see this a lot in spiritual work too, that spiritual bypassing where people want the easy way to get the quick fix to magically manifest things in their life. They think if they can manifest a million dollars, then they won’t have any problems anymore. This magical thinking that some one thing is going to solve it, I’m gonna go to this workshop one weekend, then I’ll be free of all pain and suffering. It’s really just a disservice to people to teach or think that in one weekend you can change your life. You can make a shift, definitely. But life is still going to happen. You want to commit to a long-term learning, a long-term growth versus looking for a magical quick fix. If it doesn’t work out, you’re off finding another technique to work on. I did that for a long time. I was like, “I’m going to try this, I’m going to try that”, all the wonderful techniques. What I was really doing was trying to escape the world versus integrating and really facing the difficult parts of myself that I needed to face. When our clients face those difficulties, sit with the uncomfortable emotions versus trying to move away, leave them away, just be raw with it, that’s where the transformation happens. We need that structure, that psychology to hold you together. You can be creative in it while you’re on the process. It’s not such a dark road, but you definitely need both sides.
Robert Maldonado 25:18
I wanted to ask you more about your work with single women. But before that, you mentioned also that you thought that the current focus on the inner child in the past traumas was an aspect of wanting to remain in that innocent youthful state.
Debra Maldonado 25:49
When people are ready to let go of the resentment they have about their childhood, they’ve worked on it enough, we all feel exhausted. Those of you who’ve been doing self-help for a while, personal growth, therapy, or whatever you’re doing, after a while it gets exhausting to feel like you’re working on the inner child or the childhood stuff, parenting, forgiveness. It keeps you in the past, it keeps you the daughter or son of that parent, or that child who had that experience, you’re identifying with that part versus your true self, which is that that child no longer exists, except when you keep active in your mind. It’s moving on and starting looking forward in life. Or you could spend your whole life resentful and regretful, I finally let it go at 41 or 40. All that time I was resentful, working, rearranging the furniture, and never really getting anywhere. Finally letting that go helped me move forward and have a new life, a new career, a new love, everything started coming in. Because if you’re preoccupied with the pain of the past, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look at that. Of course you should, you don’t want to bypass that. But there’s enough analysis in it, looking at it, turning it around that after a while, it becomes more of a deficit for you than actually a benefit.
Robert Maldonado 27:28
Tell us more about your experience with single women, what was the primary motivation in protecting themselves from this commitment to relationships?
Debra Maldonado 27:47
They’d find men who were the eternal boys, the Peter Pan men, they were most attracted to them because inside they didn’t want the commitment. That was my experience, too, I see that a lot. Or they are turned off by the men that are structured and want to act like father figures, because they want to be the child. Everyone’s different. There’s also the women that want to be a little girl, have the older man take care of them, put on pretty dresses and go shopping, be this little maiden versus growing into a woman and having her own voice and having an equal say in the marriage or partnership. Men too want to keep, they have the wife and then go cheat with the younger woman to reclaim their youth in a way, push away the traditional provincial life, they want to still have the taste of youthfulness or feel young again. It really does affect a lot of relationships. But I also think that if women can be aware of themselves and have the balance with commitment and love of getting married not meaning that you’re going to be boring for the rest of your life or being single is so great. After a while you want to have that commitment with someone that’s sometimes tough. When there was a conflict in a relationship, I was gone, I didn’t want to talk about it. A lot of people I’ve worked with don’t want to just ask the guy why he didn’t call or when things get difficult, they shut down and run away when they’re struggling in a relationship or communication issues. Men do the same thing, they back out. It’s willing to work with the conflicts, willing to communicate, willing to be a grown-up and have a grown-up conversation. But I think it also comes through shadow work as well. We talked about shadow work. If you don’t know who you are, you’re going to just project your parents onto your own unused places, your denied parts are going to show up in the partner. You’re not going to realize you’re seeing a projection. That all plays into this eternal girl and eternal boy is the shadow work.
Robert Maldonado 30:21
From that perspective, how do you see these people that are talking about relationships now and doing relationship coaching, talking about the five love languages and those kinds of things?
Debra Maldonado 30:38
Those are okay, it’s insight, but it’s not really a transformational work. As a woman, and I hear this from my clients that were single for many years, it’s like an insult that these dating experts are telling you how to behave like a parent, like you’re doing it wrong, you should ask this question, here’s the script to say on a date, so the guy will want to commit to you or the girl will want to commit, how to approach a man and how to act on your profile. This very superficial acting, basically act to get the man, it puts a woman in very submissive position, where you want to get the guy but no, the guy should want to get you, it’s very disempowering. That’s what I didn’t like about the traditional dating tips. I never thought they applied to me. The Rules came out when I was dating in the early 90s, my friend was reading the book and she was like “You should act like you’re busy all the time.” I’m like “What?” Dr. Phil said to flirt with other guys while you’re on dates because guys like competition. I’m like “This stuff is crazy.” We become like little girls and little boys, we don’t know how to have a relationship, so we need scripts. But the best way to do it is know who you are, grow up and be willing to set boundaries, be willing to ask for what you want. Those things are really important. But we have to know the unconscious drives. Why are we unconsciously drawn to the same pattern all the time? Why are we always feeling stuck? I like this idea of the structure versus freedom because there’s a lot of logic and emotion in that balance of masculine and feminine and also structure in traditional sense. Then the playful child that wants to play.
Robert Maldonado 32:42
Given that in the Jungian model there’s this idea of projection, what’s going on with the eternal boy and eternal girl when they’re dating? Are they projecting their own immaturity on to their partners?
Debra Maldonado 33:05
They could be insecure, it could be the playful one. They project that, it triggers them in the other person because they don’t identify with it. They think of themselves, it’s almost unconscious that they are being non-committal. For me that was the case. I was so serious, I wanted to get married, I wanted to have kids. Meanwhile, I was at a happy hour, drinking wine, flirting with the boys, going on vacations to Mexico with all the girls. It’s like you say you want this, but you’re acting this way. Many times our behaviors and our decisions are so unconscious, we rationalize and the ego hides it from us. We have to be really honest with ourselves and say “First of all, what do I want in life? Am I acting according to that? If I’m avoiding being uncomfortable, avoiding commitment, avoiding something that’s difficult, then maybe I am a a puella or puer.” It is maturity to really face tough things. It’s a natural process, we’re supposed to face something tough so we can grow up, so we can finally break free. As we look at society and people wanting to be young and youthful, social media is all about youthfulness, we have to understand that youthfulness is not only in the physical, chronological age, but youthfulness is our ability to be creative, our ability to think fresh out of the box, like a child. Be childlike, but not like a child in a way. We want to have that innocence when we approach something new and openness that we did as kids. We don’t want to get that all down and be like, “I gotta be serious now, I gotta write my goals down, they have to work.” We want to have both. The key is not to shy away from the difficult things.
Robert Maldonado 35:12
We’re gonna have to train more coaches in relationship models, so that they can do some of this work with their clients.
Debra Maldonado 35:23
This is so fascinating, this whole idea. When I heard it, I found it so helpful with people. One of the tale summaries, Marie Louise von Franz talks about The Goose Girl. The Goose Girl is a story, if you don’t know, a Grimm tale where there is a young woman, the mother sent her off to another country to marry a prince, she had her maid to go with her. This whole thing unfolds when she leaves the safety of her mother’s protection. Her maiden basically switches roles with her and bullies her, she didn’t have the power yet, she couldn’t find her power. That’s what happens in the world, we go off in the world, we’re not seeing our power. We’re still tied to being this little girl or little boy. We haven’t really fully embraced our power yet. The story ends with her finally embracing her power and taking her place at the throne. But she had to basically leave the mother and leave her childhood behind to go on this journey, which was very difficult, in order for her to really transform into a woman. For men too, there’s a lot of young men that are living at home, they’re playing video games into their 30s and 40s, they’re not that serious about life and resent it, the structure or a regular job. Women too, some women want to stay in that childlike way or even be dependent on their parent to support them in adulthood, not really be free and break away, make the most of themselves. The hero’s journey is all about that. Hero’s journey is about leaving the comfort zone, facing difficulties, so we can grow up. That’s the whole process. She talks about this in one of her books, that story and all the archetypal meanings in it. It’s really cool.
Robert Maldonado 37:29
She wrote a lot about fairy tales. In fairy tales, you often see the dark aspects of the Mother, the devouring mother, the evil witch or the godmother that consumes the life of the child. Incredible stuff. Von Franz definitely contributed to and expanded on Jung’s work. She brought her own ideas into the mix and was a big influence in developing the Jungian in Zurich.
Debra Maldonado 38:10
That’s where I picked up that book, when we were in Zurich, in the Jungian center, I picked up one of her books and read that analogy of the fairy tale. This was a great episode to think about whether you are being too playful or not playful enough. Again, it’s about balance. There’s nothing wrong with being playful. There’s nothing wrong with going on a girls’ weekend and being silly for the weekend. But if that is every weekend and your life is just a big party, you’re not really living your purpose, it’s a lost life, unless your purpose is to just party and that’s it. There has to be some balance, facing those tough things that make us grow and become the woman or man we were meant to be. Because we’re meant to grow up. We’re not meant to remain a child like Peter Pan who wanted to forever be a child.
Robert Maldonado 39:07
Again, it’s a cultural phenomena as well, the culture puts pressure on us to remain as children in many ways. We have to be very conscious of this and exert our will to grow up and face the hard challenges while keeping our creativity and our zest for life.
Debra Maldonado 39:33
If you want to change and you’re just waiting for something magical to come in, you’re probably being a Peter Pan, or Peter Jane, or Jane Pan, I don’t know what the female version of it is, the eternal boy and girl. Just ask yourself “Where am I not challenging myself in my life? Where can I stretch and do something scary that’s going to force me to grow, that will take me to where I need to go?” What have you been avoiding? What have you been resisting? That’s where you should go. We’ll see you next week on another episode, we will explore another great mind. I hope you’re enjoying this series, let us know and make a comment below. Share and come to our Facebook group and join us as well. Take care, everyone, have a wonderful week, we’ll see you next week on Soul Sessions.