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Fear of adulthood

I am Raghuvir Mahesh, a 29 year old lawyer, practicing in the high court. I got married before 6 months and since then my life has become an everyday disaster. My wife Kamini, a commerce graduate from Chandigarh fights with me everyday. She is perfectly alright in public and in the social occasions that we go to, but once our house door opens, her mood changes dramatically. She will criticize everything that I do or that is there in our house. I live away from my parents, so there is full freedom for her, but @ 80 % of our conversation is laced with her sarcastic remarks and angry outbursts. What I also fail to understand is that if I offer her some incentive in the form of a trip, a movie or eating out, she can forget and forgive all the things that she criticized a moment ago. I fail to understand what this is all about. Please advise.


There is a concept called as fear of adulthood. There are young people like Kamini, who if they have experienced a very traumatic childhood would be afraid of become an adult. The instances would like that of having a parent(s) who has addictions to alcohol, drugs; a physically/verbally abusive parent; constant quarrels between parents, physical violence, parents suffering from illness like schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorder or borderline personality disorder or environmental conditions that entail taking up a lot of responsibility. Child sexual abuse is also a major condition as growing up is associated with growing awareness of one’s sexuality which is misinterpreted as vulnerability. Any or a combination of these events can cause a person to divide their own personality into 3 parts. The first part is that of a child which is what they want to adhere to. In this condition, when incentives are given, like a movie, restaurant or clothes, they are gleefully joyous like children. They want to maintain this part of their personality as it enables them to escape from the responsibility of growing up. The second part of their personality is the one which wants to protest against the adult world. For her when you remind her of the responsibility of the house or her own self, you are a villain representative of the traumatic childhood that she wants to launch an attack on. She was vulnerable then and had to stay quiet, now she has the power to verbally or physically exhibit her anger which comes in the form of sarcastic criticisms. This also reflects a part of her which is very terrified that you will retaliate and henceforth acts from a preemptive position. The third part of her personality is the one that actually wants to grow up and explore the world. It is an adult part which sees the world as a good place to interact. Hence she is perfectly acting her maturity in the outside world. This might be the state of Kamini too. She is acting from 3 different parts of herself and hence you are unable to understand what she is. What you have to do first is to be very patient. This is a process in which you will have to first help her remove the fear of taking responsibility and growing up as an adult. You will have to teach her that the actions which have responsibility are the only true and deep adult actions and there is no option to that. Life would be otherwise a superficial illusion. You will also have to help her let go of the childish parts of her where she goes to for her nurturance. This can be done by substituting the childish pleasures by more developmentally appropriate adult pleasures and mature relationships. The biggest and the hardest task is to be able to address her past traumas. You may find that you may not be equipped to handle that part as it requires a balance of vigilant nurturance and watchful ignorance to be able to get the trauma out. However, remember, you have her trust on your side. It will be tested time and again and also you will feel that you are now acting like a doctor rather than her husband. You will have to go through this process as there is no alternative. Jump into it only after making sure that you have the fuel to go a long way, because if you stop midway, it will break her completely.

Dr. Darshan Shah

Dr. Darshan Shah, a renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist, is committed to make a difference in the area of mental health and help individuals cope with feelings and symptoms; change behavior patterns that may contribute to one’s illness and henceforth contribute to their newly improved pathway of life.