How the contradictory paradigm of “adulthood” undermines your life

I don’t know if you ever thought about adulthood. In my past I didn’t think about it very much – apart from the time between 16 and 18, when this issue was burning. I remember that there were these two oppositional impulses fighting within me:

1st impulse:
Thank god I’ll soon grow up (= attaining full age) and then I can finally do what I want!

2nd impulse:
Oh my god, being grown up is really uncool, hard and boring, … I never want to become like my parents and all the other adult zombies.

Interestingly I couldn’t perceive this contradiction back then. It was just causing the emotional inner conflict so well known to most adolescents and leading to the following desire: Coming of age: YES – Becoming adult: NO! What came after that, looking back I would call the life of an adolescent of full age. Only at 36 I received the first hint about what adulthood really could be about and the possibility to transform myself from the adolescent of full age, which I still was, into a real adult women (and to tell you the truth – I’m still in the middle of this transformation process).

And perhaps you now question yourself, why should this be attractive? To keep your juvenileness is a great thing! This is exactly the problem: our society unconsciously suffers from a collective Peter Pan Syndrome! And this disease does not only effect your personal life, for example by keeping you from living your calling, but it probably will lead to the fact, that human life on earth will go extinct sooner or later. Yes, I’m serious – deadly  serious!

We live in a society of adolescents of full age

We live in a society of adolescents of full age und this has its consequences – personally as well as globally. But let us take a step back to make it clear. What is the difference between an adult and a child or an adolescent? It is mostly about the level of responsibility the person is able to take. Children and adolescents can only take a lower level of responsibility than an adult person.

A child/an adolescent …

  • is not held fully accountable for their actions
  • does not think (a lot) about the consequences of their actions
  • pays only half the price
  • mostly thinks about “Me, me, me” and “My, my, my”
  • assumes that somebody (an adult) cleans up their messes
  • counts upon the fact that somebody (an adult) cares for their living and survival
  • has partly naïve perceptions about how the world works
  • is needy and dependent on love, recognition, care, safety, money, etc.
  • etc.

That is normally the protection-zone of development for a child. And that is totally ok – for children and adolescents. It is a normal part of our development. It only becomes a problem, when we, as soon as we are able to enter the next phase of our development, namely adulthood – which is possible at the age of about 15 – are not doing it. If that happens, the structures of an adult person are fully developed within us, but they don’t get activated. That means, we look like adults from the outside, but inside we get stuck at an adolescent-mode. It is clear that this cannot work very well for us and still the prevailing context of modern western society is actually based exactly on this mechanism. This context is patriarchy. We live in a society, where we have drawn a lot of benefit in the past from the fact that we didn’t grow up. The word “patriarchy” contains the word “father”, which gives us a hint, what this social system is about:

  • promotion of the male principle (competition, war, making profits, mind vs. feeling, doing vs. being, possession vs. being, …)
  • hierarchy with a (male) authority figure at the top – “Subdue the earth and dominate it”
  • interactions between parent role players and child role players – both are not adult and don’t take responsibility
  • power and powerlessness – domination and being dominated
  • exploitation of people, animals and nature for personal profits and means
  • etc.

Patriarchy keeps us from growing up

Patriarchy is a context, which does not promote the ego state of a free, self-determined, powerful and radical responsible adult – on the contrary, it even tries to prevent it. Otherwise the game would just collapse, because nobody would like to play it anymore.

We are living in a society of adolescence of full age. People like you and me, but also so called authority figures, like teachers, priests, police men, managers, big bosses and also politicians – like Angela Merkel and Barak Obama. All of them nothing but adolescents of full age, who have not yet consciously gone through an initiation process into responsible adulthood and therefore are not aware of their hidden, irresponsible purposes. Interesting thought, isn’t it? Just take a look at what is happening in the world:

  • We exploit the resources of the planet for personal benefits – and don’t think about future generations
  • We count on “Uncle Sam” to care for our welfare and survival
  • We produce waste and messes (pollution) and don’t think about who will clean it up afterwards
  • We stay needy and safety oriented and give our authority to companies, bosses and the system, instead of living our calling
  • The rich and the powerful often times are not held accountable for their irresponsible actions
  • We foster naïve perspectives of the world – we believe for example …
    • that waste vanishes as soon as we put it in the bin
    • that nobody has to pay the price, when we consume cheap products
    • that our food is coming from the supermarket and our water from the tap
    • that what we read in the newspapers or see in TV is the truth
    • that winning the lottery would solve all our problems
  • We don’t want to pay the full price, but we want to receive the full benefit
  • We are convinced that we cannot change the world, because we are too small and all alone
  • etc.

And now compare this list with the first list about the qualities of a child/an adolescent. Do you notice something? The results from the fact that we live in a society not grown up, become visible in your personal life as well as globally in the actual state of the world. It is time to open your eyes and look at the truth: Our society and therefore most of the people living in this society are not grown up!

Perhaps there is resistance coming up within you and you say: „But I am grown up! I work and earn my living. I have children and I care for them.” The problem is, that we define „Being Adult“ in a way that is not really useful for us. A way that makes “Being Adult” not really attractive. It leads to the paradox I talked about at the beginning of the article: freedom: YES – becoming adult: NO! We first need a new perspective on “Being Adult” and on “Growing Up”, to regain unprejudiced access to this immanent level of development of ours.

The following map called „Growing Up“ compares the known old perspective with a possible new and more useful perspective, resolving the paradox and igniting the desire in young people to really grow up with everything that goes with it.

Growing Up

old perspective

new perspective

PHASE 1: To become an adequate member of the community
becoming 18 To find and take your place in the community
·         Finally doing what I want: To find your calling
·         drinking alcohol To end childish neediness
·         driving a car To develop your own authority
·         staying out all night To examine and to question given cultural circumstances
·         having sex To complete unexpressed emotional pain from childhood and to let go of childish illusions
·         going to elections, making
To find out, what you are really capable of (bright part & shadow part)
·         spending money To put yourself into a bigger context
PHASE 2: To take responsibility for your own interpretation of the world/your live
To subdue yourself to the norms of society,
to adapt, to meet expectations
To become aware of your purposes (responsible and hidden irresponsible purposes)
Gaining certificates To actively acquire abilities and distinctions, in order to become yourself and to give a service to the world
To make it, to function To bring your vision to life
To manage it by myself
To be reasonable, to have yourself under control, to make yourself numb

The comparison makes it clear: the process of growing up cannot happen overnight – as our culture makes us believe at the age of 18. It is a longer transformational process, which has to be actively and consciously passed through step by step.

But not only „Growing Up“ but also „Being Adult“ needs a new meaning, so we can gain the courage and the strength to stop the old game.

Being adult

old perspective

new perspective

Childhood is lost forever (melancholy) Childhood is completed
You have to adapt to the role models, rules and norms of civilisation Freedom
It is a burden To choose consciously
To be responsible means to be guilty To possess your feelings and to use them responsibly
It is boring To be creative, to be the creator of the circumstances
It’s everyday life (2 kids, a dog, a house, a garden and a station wagon …) To be centred
It means to have finished learning To live your own authority, to be powerful
It means to well established To be ready to look truth in the face, to see the correlations
It’s the serious side of life To possess your own shadow side; to be aware of your purpose
It’s competition and rivalry To be ready to pay the full price
To have come to terms with life Access to the realm of radical responsibility
You have to make compromises, you are the victim of circumstances To be ready to feel the pain
Life is not a picnic To be in the service of something bigger than yourself
To be numb To create your life actively
To have to know everything To accept death
To be realistic, to bury your dreams To be your destiny in action
To be held accountable To have an impact
It is not funny, the fun is over now To live passionately
Being old To make a difference
To pretend To give up excuses
To keep control
To be sobered
It’s hard

If you want to live your calling, you have to make a decision! And every decision has a price. Are you ready to pay the full price – the price, an adult person pays? If yes, it is time for you to start your transformational initiation process into radical responsible adulthood.

Radical responsibility means that you take responsibility for everything you do and everything you don’t do. For everything that happens in your life and everything that doesn’t happen. For everything that happens in the world and everything that does not happen. No excuses anymore – no loopholes and no security! But instead you get strength, freedom to create and liveliness.

Imagine how the world would look like if we lived in a grown up society with radical responsible people. What a cool vision!



Possibility Management offers you a modern initiation into responsible adulthood: