In psychology it is defined as a complex to a mental condition that brings together a series of symptoms that modify behavior. It is identified in people who have a propensity to develop certain types of complexes, according to how certain external elements and previous experiences have influenced. That is, according to their relationship with the environment they are influenced, eventually they develop certain psychological characteristics that correspond to them.

For this reason, a part of the wide list of complexes that have so far been identified, find their origin in traumas and situations of considerable gravity ; that had a great psychological impact. But complexes also arise as a way of dealing with situations that generate discomfort or even anxiety. Behaviors are adopted that serve these patients to cope with people and situations, which they could not otherwise do.

One of the most recognized complexes is named after the Wendy complex. It is usually always associated with the Peter Pan complex , they are because commonly people who develop one or another condition maintain a direct connection. It usually occurs in couples where their relationship is based on mutual dependence, on the one hand to satisfy the need to feel protected and the other to feel useful.

What is Wendy’s complex?

The Wendy complex is a psychopathology characterized by the need to assume the obligations of a protective figure . Being more specific, the behavior of the affected people can be described as that of a mother who takes care of her children. This group of symptoms modify behavior, to such a degree that the person himself neglects himself.

These people focus their lives on protecting and caring for the people around them. They could even try to control them with the excuse of achieving their well-being. It is usually mentioned that most of the patients who suffer from this condition belong to the female gender, however this is not a fixed condition. The same happens with the Peter Pan syndrome that is always associated with men.

Wendy’s complex is known as one of the most common psychological conditions in the group made up of people of the female gender. In other words, this sector of the population has greater possibilities to develop it in a certain period of their lives. We usually talk about women who show this projected behavior in their partners , these in turn could also develop all the characteristics of the Peter Pan complex.

In the latter case, they are individuals who have difficulties in coping with adult life . The origin can be found in some type of trauma that occurred during childhood, consequently it has a trauma that blocks its ability to develop a more mature personality. These adults cannot assume obligations of their age, which will have multiple problems in their social relationships and in their family life.

What is the origin of its name?

The origin of the name of this complex is found in one of the most important literary works in history. Considered a classic in children’s literature, it also has a vital importance for English culture. Its title is Peter Pan and its author was James Matthew Barrie , First published in 1904, it would become a total success in its theatrical format.

It tells the story of a boy who has the peculiarity of never growing up , but also has the ability to fly. She is approximately ten years old and has the company of a little fairy named Tinker Bell. She gives off a magic powder, which gives anyone who comes into contact with her the power to fly indefinitely.

Peter Pan comes from the island of Neverland where he lives with his friends the Lost Boys , as well as other fantastic beings such as mermaids and fairies. There are also Indians and pirates, the latter are led by Captain Hook; he is the antagonist of this story. Peter Pan cut off his hand and fed it to a crocodile, this animal has been chasing the captain ever since.

In his adventures between his place of origin and the outside world where other people live, by chance he meets a girl whose name is Wendy . She lives with her parents and her two brothers. At first Peter Pan invites her to see the island of Neverland, finally agrees on the condition that he will go with his brothers.

Wendy’s visit is intended to fulfill the role of a mother to all Lost Children. She shows a loving behavior, takes care of all of them by telling them stories, administering medicines and ensuring that they comply with the rules. Together they live various adventures, but finally Wendy decides to return with her family to her place of origin. She offers him the possibility of being adopted by his parents, along with the other children.

Captain Hook kidnaps Wendy and the Lost Boys, but they are saved by Peter Pan; who defeats the captain by delivering him to the crocodile. Wendy, her siblings, and the children return home where they are adopted; with the exception of Peter. He returns because he doesn’t intend to grow up , but promises to keep visiting her every spring.

This fictional character is described as a child who hates everything related to adults and the world in which they live. This rejection is manifested in their behavior that tries to avoid any type of responsibility. He even avoids thinking about his biological parents and his place of origin, before arriving on the island. However, his need for Wendy’s company will be revealed due to his emotional deficiencies and his curiosity to know how it feels to have a mother.

What are their characteristics?

The main characteristic of this complex is the excessive concern for the safety of other people . This is how eventually people who suffer from this condition adapt their personal life considering the needs of others. Consequently, they adopt behaviors that are similar to that of women when caring for their children, even when they do not occupy this role in real life.

These people also suffer from conflicting feelings that reflect the insecurity they feel about the possibility of being rejected. This means that they will spend their time and effort providing comfort and security , this is in exchange for thanks and similar displays of affection. These cares are usually projected on individuals with whom they could maintain a romantic relationship as a couple, but even with siblings or close friends.

Other salient characteristics of this psychopathology are described below. It is important to pay attention to changes in behavior, eventually these people adopt new habits that they integrate into their daily lives . They are as follows:

    • They are awarded responsibilities that are not theirs . In this way they use their time and resources to provide care, help and protection to one or more people.
    • They develop an intense need to feel useful. For this reason, it is normal that they always want to participate in projects or activities occupying an essential role.
    • In the case of couple relationships, these zero individuals focus on achieving the happiness of their partner in a persistent way . They will keep you from feeling sad, angry, or frustrated; they will try to fulfill all your wishes.
  • They learn to carry out pleasant behaviors to address other people, this is a resource used in order to gain attention, affection and respect. 
  • Unconsciously they suffer a deep fear of rejection and abandonment. For them they are more prone to self-sacrifice in order to be taken into account thanks to their actions.
  • They tend to neglect their own needs , their sense of overprotection is not applied to themselves.
  • They always take the initiative to make decisions and take actions that guarantee people’s safety. They take on responsibilities that may be beyond their own capabilities .

Practical examples. How is it identified? 

It is identified once the patient has difficulties in differentiating his personal needs and those of others. This means that they have stopped understanding what are the motivations that govern their lives, unfortunately they adapt their daily lives to the service of other people. Generally it is difficult for them to realize this situation, so it is important that they have the help of a close person who can call them for attention.

The most common is that it occurs in individuals who maintain a private life that really has as a priority to serve others . Both men and women can develop this condition, however there are some differences in each case.

Taking into consideration that the female population is the one who leads the statistics that record the suffering of this condition, the role of women in society must be analyzed. These people are more likely to develop this complex due to cultural reasons, the pressures exerted on them limit them to occupy the protective family role ; that always watches over the safety of his children.

So when women reach a stage in their lives, where they are finally wives and mothers, they become obsessed with providing them with all the comforts meeting their needs. Unfortunately this is a behavior that can also be projected on their partners , it becomes a relationship where there is a lack of equity in terms of the responsibilities that correspond to each one.

What are your causes? 

It could be assumed that each person with the Wendy complex is accompanied by another with the Peter Pan complex. A dynamic is created where “Wendy” takes care of everything that “Peter” does not do, takes responsibility for his person and everything he avoids.

Another possible cause is the difficulty of controlling their own life, these people then focus their objectives to control the life of another. Some psychologists find that a family life characterized by instability and the experience of traumatic situations. So these individuals try to avoid feeling unprotected, they compensate by assuming the role that their parents did not assume. 

There are also people who misinterpret the concepts of love and sacrifice. The confusion that they generate makes them easy targets for family and relationship situations where they must take responsibility for things that are not their responsibility. They also try to avoid conflicts because it generates anxiety, for this reason they prefer to offer to carry out any type of action that can guarantee a calmer atmosphere at home.

How is it overcome and what are the most recommended treatments? 

Both the Wendy complex and the Peter Pan complex are not formally considered psychological disorders. However, attention should be paid to the consequences of the development of this behavior applied to life as a couple. The interaction between these two people could generate important personal conflicts of a psychological nature.

The treatment applied for these cases should address the problems related to the difficulty of evolving and progressing towards adulthood in a healthy way. These are individuals who have taken extreme behaviors that reflect their rejection and discomfort in adult life. Curiously, both complexes describe opposite poles with this attitude, where one of them assumes an excessive amount of responsibilities and the other prefers to avoid them.

Psychological therapy should help the patient to learn to establish norms in their personal life , these are combined with limits that allow them to understand the positive and negative of life in general. These are individuals who have not been able to understand what relationships are like, as well as what their real goals and desires are.

For example, there are two modalities of therapies that can provide the most appropriate solutions in each of the aspects that have been violated due to these complexes. Both couples therapy as well as the cognitive behavioral therapy , both to modify behavior patterns that have influenced the development of these behaviors.

Patients suffering from Wendy’s complex will have to overcome their fear of rejection, but also accept commitments that they are truly capable of making. They should understand that relationships with a partner or of any other type are based on mutual affection and protection. This reciprocity will allow them to free themselves from responsibilities that are not theirs, this will also provide them with freedom and balance in their emotional self-management .

The most important thing is that the patient learns to give greater importance to pursuing his own goals. Independence and the freedom to make your own decisions are essential elements for living a healthy adult life.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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