Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Going through a phase

As discussed elsewhere [TODO: not yet published], letting ones head overrule ones emotions is not always a good idea—or is sometimes a good idea with negative side-effects. Similarly, someone who deliberately avoids certain phases and behaviors may find himself with a lack of maturity and completion in that area. Among the possible side-effects: Sub-optimal behavior in related areas, a need to make up at a later age, and a lack of experience or self-knowledge. Similar deficiencies can occur e.g. by a lack of security in infants according to some attachment theoriesw.

Over-protection can cause similar problems, or even be a special case.

In many cases, it is better to indulge in something, “taste it”, experience and experiment, sometimes even to the point of over-satedness (after which the behavior, likely, naturally fades away).

Example: My family and upbringing stood in the way of my running around at parties with (illegal underage) drinking as a teenager. At the time (in fact, until my early thirties) I approved whole-heartedly of the principle. With hindsight, however, I would have benefited from the related experiences. A more relaxed attitude, a bit of rebellion, some experience with alcohol, etc., would all have benefited me in the long term. (Which is not to say that I condone the unhealthy excesses many teenagers engage in; nor that it would have been overly common—I usually prefer a good book to a party.)

More generally, whenever the phrase “(s)he is just going through a phase” is used, it is usually best to let the phase play out, saving interventions for situations threatening to get out of hand—after all, “phases” are a part of growing as a person. Notably, some phases may seem as regression, yet still be valid growth. There will usually be a lesson that needs learning, a childhood deficit to fill up, or similar. Consider the case of a grown man who suddenly develops an obsession for model cars, base-ball cards, or similar—and forgets the whole thing three months later.

Notably, if a certain negative, immature, or pointless behavior is not limited to a phase, the situation is very different. Possibly, it is a symptom of a psychological disturbance, a marital dissatisfaction, or another problem that would benefit from treatment.


Based on my readings of various relationship forums, I am forced to add:

Women: Do not presume to judge what is a “negative behavior” or “too long” in your husbands—you will be wrong more often than you are right. The mere fact that his behaviour is not what you want it to be, does not automatically make it wrong: Men have different priorities and interests than women. (And if you knew how imbecilic some female activities are in the eyes of men...)

Phases are, of course, not defined by a perceived negativity in the behavior, but by a strong temporary increase in a certain behavior. This can be e.g. going to the theater twice a week, obsession with a particular kind of music, or an intense interest in a certain subject—all things that may go unnoticed or be perceived as something positive by third parties.