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Society Refusing to Grow-up: Nagaland and the ‘Man-Child’


C. Lide Sangtam
Department of Psychology | St. Joseph University


In 1959, a Swiss Jungian Psychologist by the name Marie-Louise von Franz gave a series of lecture concerning what she called the ‘Puer Aeternus’, which is Latin for “eternal child”. In such mythological settings we find such characters as someone or an entity who is eternally young, like Peter Pan who refuses to grow-up, or rather who refuses to take the responsibility of an adult, as it comes with a risk of losing that eternal bliss of carefree, irresponsible ruler of Neverland that does not exist, in short, a king of nothing. That it is better for Pan to be a king of nothing than to be a cruel, vengeful adult like Captain Hook. 


Nagaland doesn’t seem short on this type of Peter Pan Syndrome, where most individuals including adults as well as youths who refuse to grow up. Of course, not everyone is, but almost most of them have stunted their mental, emotional, and spiritual maturation, only their physical body is big and large, that’s it. They do indeed occupy the bodies of adults, but their mental development failed to keep pace. Do deal with this, is to help them with a little incremental changes in their lives, taking smaller responsibilities day by day.


What we look for is a virtuous purpose, and, above all, meaning in our life. How do we give meaning to our existences when there is so much suffering? Here’s one thing you can do to lessen unnecessary suffering, do you have an aim or a goal in your life? If the answer is a “No,” then you’ll seek and grab on to whatever anyone offers you, whether it means being morally questionable or something very destructive. If you failed at what you’ve been aiming at, you might become a person without any purpose to your life. In other words, once I failed at something then the entire purpose of life is meaningless and worthless; therefore, either I live to fulfill my impulsive desires or just end it. A good defense mechanism is not to look at why you failed but how can you pinned it on others. You blame others; you blame your family, the society, the world, and, even, God for your utter personal failures. You excuse yourself from the blame, even though you are to be blamed and the entire fault is at your feet.


If you do have an aim or goal, but still feel like you’re not going anywhere, you’ll be depressed, anxious, and feel like life itself has no meaning. However, are you sure you’re aiming at the right thing and not some temporary material things (be it wealth, property fame, power, influence)? Your aim or goal must have a valued-goal and it requires you to give your fullest potential. Yet, seldom do most of us do this. Rather what most of us like to do is that we knowingly chose to be ignore of our failures and the inappropriateness of our aims. And this could go on and from 20 year olds to time you’re about 40, but by this time it is a bit too late, though I shall not make any arbitrary claim. 


In simple terms, one good way of correcting the errors of your goalless and ill-directed purpose of your life is to expose yourself little by little to your fear of responsibilities and independence. That is, asking questions to yourself such as, “How can I become a decent human being, without being a irredeemably miserable and make everyone around me as equally miserable and irredeemable as I am?” This is a good start. This question, I believe, needs to be asked by most of us in Nagaland. Just a simple glance makes us glaringly aware of this.


You also need a proper goal, because having a goal in life can re-organize your hold world view, our perception changes with our goal in life. That goal, whatever it is tends to vary from individual to individual, must be intangible, not directed toward material and shallow desires. But in case you failed at attaining your goals, our defense mechanism kicks in, and we pin our failures on others. If it feels like you’re not going anywhere, than, are you sure you’re aiming at the right thing?
We need to look at that which we conveniently chose to ignore because that is exactly where the new information is to re-orient our lives. Most people in Nagaland need to realize and accept that there will always be suffering and troubles in our lives. Failure is no exception and coming at peace with that will lessen our anxieties and depression and hopefully enable us to grow up as a proper adult, and not an eternal child. Most of us must stop lying to ourselves about our failures and take responsibilities for our actions. This begins, ultimately, by doing something good and productive.


Take responsibilities by voluntarily taking that action which you dread. All of these things are possible, if only people were striving to be good and decent human beings, but unfortunately most people are not. We have two choices, we can either continue to indulge in living a meaningless life by not taking responsibilities and thus live a life on impulsive acts and make our world, our society and our culture, our families, and our friends toward suffering and evil. Or, alternatively, we take responsibilities upon ourselves and our actions. Life is not the pursued of happiness, but a pursued of meaning and purpose. 


In the words of Viktor Frankl, “Suffering ceases to be suffering at a moment it finds a meaning.” These words rings true, and has been throughout human history. From the religious to the more humanistic ethical view on human life, the values we put on each other’s life can be as fragile as a paper cloth. As Frankl’s own experiences have brought the view of the true horrors of the 20th century to the readers of his groundbreaking book, the voice of a madman in the 19th century foretold the coming atrocities, where humanity was on the road to nihilism, in the form of a man named Nietzsche. A man Frankl himself quoted in his book “Man’s search for Meaning” often emphasizing the importance of it, that, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Perhaps humanity in his pride or reason to lessen the suffering might have forgotten the reason for suffering, maybe a man in his own journey to self-actualization have put too much emphases on the material wealth of a man and not his own spiritual wealth. What should you suffer for? Do you know why you suffer? If you do, than, don’t run away, face it. Life is like climbing a mountain, the higher you climb the better, clearer, and broader perspective you’ll have on your life, sure, it’s not the top but sure beats just standing on the ground and looking up the mountain. And maybe if you orient your life and your behavior to match your goals, you might make it to the other side of the mountain.

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