Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Going through a phase

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As discussed elsewhere [TODO: not yet published], letting one’s head overrule one’s 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 might 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. through 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-satiety (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 been good for 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 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 might 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, baseball 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 or interest. 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 might go unnoticed or be perceived as something positive by third parties.

Addendum on later own confusion

Revisiting this page in 2023 (original writing in 2009, revisions in 2013), I am a little confused, as the above does not sound like something that I would say and as I, except for the title, do not even remember the text. With an eye at length and quality, I even considered removing it.

By and large, it makes sense, with the reservation that some cases might be better viewed as “going through a period of intense preoccupation” than as “going through a phase”, e.g. in order to get a grip on a certain field in a manner similar to someone who takes a college class.

However, I am not certain how the whole party bit would have worked with me. Yes, I might have profited from the experience, but would I have actually engaged in it? (Assuming an alternate reality with different influences and, obviously, assuming partying/drinking/rebelling/whatnot within reasonable limits.)

Looking at later life, including a few college-year parties and some work parties, I usually find parties boring, overly loud, or otherwise a poor use of my time. Bars and the like are even worse, as there is usually a factor of overcrowding. (Where I use “party” to indicate a certain type of event, where drinking, music, whatnot features prominently. Other types of event might or might not bore me, largely depending on the company, but typically have less alcohol, less noise, and less whatnot.)

As an example, my last visit to a disco was in the autumn of 1997—close to 26 years ago. I might have spent twenty minutes in a locale so loud that conversation required shouting and so crowded that it was hard to move in parts of it (in as far as there was dancing, great compromises were needed). The only reason that I reached even that length of stay was the sheer size of the place, a former brewery, which required some time to gain an overall orientation, especially with slower-than-usual movements. Eventually, I could not take the noise and crowdedness, and headed out. On the way out, some girl grabbed my hands—and I, a 22 y.o. single, just shook them free and continued on my way, without even checking whether she was someone whom I knew, whether she was pretty, or whether she was someone that I might, had the circumstance been different, have wanted to meet. My urge to get out was that strong.


I became an exchange student in Germany in the autumn of 1997, and can place the event fairly exactly in time based on this. In fact, while the disco had a regular and open-to-the-public night, my participation was within the least interesting of several “organized fun” excursions arranged within the exchange program. In my case, with reservations for the exact timing, it was also likely the last, as I preferred to go my own way and have my own type of fun after this fiasco. (If in doubt, I did not go to Germany to spend time with other non-Germans...)