“There were two key reasons why every indigenous community developed rites of passage for their boys and girls. The first was to create a shift from child behaviour to healthy adult behaviour. So child behaviour in a boy is what you typically see in a six to eight year old. “I want to be the centre of attention and I need acknowledgement all the time. Look at me.” You know what? They also want all the power. And they have no responsibility and take no responsibility for their actions. It’s always someone else’s fault. They’re ruled by their emotions. So if they don’t get what they want, they have a temper tantrum. They want their mother. And that’s fine in an eight year old. But when you get a man who still wants to be the centre of attention, still wants all the power for himself, doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, has a temper tantrum when he can’t control his emotions, becomes physically or verbally abusive and wants his mother – that’s really not okay.”
(Arne Rubinstein, founder of the Pathways Foundation, interviewed in Dumbo Feather, March 2015)
Driving a car, voting in an election, having sex, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, going to night clubs and casinos, all these “adult rights” sit as a byproduct of the things society deems only acceptable for those who have become adults. The trouble is, most children are not being taught how.
As Arne Rubinstein explains here, part of the process of becoming an adult is the psychological shift which needs to occur during the transition (be it boy to man, or girl to woman). An adult who still lives with the mind of a child, engages where there is no need to engage, seeks attention and cannot distance themselves from the emotional patterns of childhood and as such, is unable to fully participate in the emotional world of the adult.
Viewed in this way, the rituals we see around us which represent the move to adulthood, especially those which centre around alcohol, fail dismally in what they need to be achieving. Although this psychological shift will take years, if not decades to fully achieve, depending on one’s hurdles along the way, the rites of passage of which Rubinstein speaks commence and shape the process as a guide for the passage of life. They seek to focus attention on the transition which must occur within before the right to adulthood is claimed.
This can only be a good thing.