“Manhood is the defeat of childhood narcissism”

David Gilmore

Real men are made, not born. Regarding this, when we observe around the world, most cultures have rites of initiation where the little boy gets initiated into “manhood.”

Undoubtedly, a boy then has to do some things or act a certain way for him to be eventually considered a MAN. The problem arises when the boy, despite passing through the puberty phase, still acts childish. Safe to say then that the phrase “a little boy in a grown man’s body”  was probably inspired by such behaviour the ‘grown man’ displays. Or as I once referred to in my previous blogs; “a Man-Child.”

So how does the ‘grown man’ act childish? Rather, WHY does he act childish? Let’s go back to the infant years. 

From the moment a child is conceived in the womb, the dependence on the mother is obviously necessary. This continues to the birth of the child all the way to his childhood stage. A point reaches when life requires the little boy to become less and less dependent on the mother and more and more dependent on himself. What we may call “the journey to manhood.”

In the words of Marie-Louise von Franz:

“The man who is identified as the man-child remains too long in adolescent psychology; that is, all those characteristics that are normal in a youth of seventeen or
eighteen are continued into later life, coupled in most cases with
too great a dependence on the mother.”

Marie-Louise von Franz

The dependence on the mother becomes so prolonged that the boy sees his mother as “the perfect woman.” He then confuses himself to when it comes to perceiving other women. Growing up, he unknowingly looks for his mother in other women without realizing that such a task is unattainable.

He eternally longs for the maternal woman who will enfold
him in her arms and satisfy his every need.

Marie-Louise von Franz

It becomes necessary therefore, for the boy to break free from the dependence on the mother in order to fully depend on himself (and act in a certain way) so that he may be called a MAN. The failure to do so even at later stages of life when he is now an adult is one of the reasons why a ‘grown man’ is said to be still a ‘little boy’.

Some boys break free from this dependence and learn to be responsibly dependent on themselves. Unfortunately, some do not. The reasons why they do not do so include; 

  1. The Overprotective Parents; 
  2. Lack of Meaningful Responsibilities;
  3. Lack of Appropriate Role Models;

In summary, one may identify a man-child by some characteristics which include:

  • No woman is ever right for him – never really settles. Jumps from relationship to relationship looking for the “perfect woman” like his mother is. For that reason, there is always that “she is fine…but…” and continues to give reasons that would prevent any kind of future commitment.

“There is a terrific fear of being pinned down, of entering space and time completely, and of being the singular human being that one is. There is always the fear of being caught in a situation from which it may be impossible to slip out again.”

Marie-Louise von Franz
  • He has difficulty in finding the “right job” or even his purpose in life as he feels like he is not yet in the real world. As such, he is living life with the belief that it is not yet his time to act or as we say start “adulting.”
  • He believes that he is inherently special. For that reason, he looks down upon others as inferior without really no justification. He has a “Superiority Complex.”
  • He is a Wishful Thinker;  nothing ever really satisfies him. If only this was there… If only this happened…He lives the life of “if only” instead of dealing with whatever cards he is dealt with. He is what we call as “Fickle” and never really is firm about whatever choices to make.

A man can’t go out the way he came in…a man has got to add up to something.

Arthur Miller


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