01 Aug A young man’s needs – the importance of a Rite of Passage
As I have said, a young man is not just a bigger version of a boy. Sure, they are the same person, but they function and think in a very different way and it’s important to understand this.
How we parent at this time in their lives and the level to which the community gets involved in creating a healthy transition from boy to young man is critical. It is possible to support our boys so that as young men they can be inspired and motivated to really go for it in life. It doesn’t mean that it won’t still be hard for them at times, it doesn’t mean they won’t go on the puberty roller coaster, it doesn’t mean they won’t have struggles and issues. What it does mean is that they won’t feel alone, they will be able to learn from others’ stories, they will know they have gifts and talents which are seen and appreciated, and they will know they are loved and that they have an important role to play both in their community and the wider world.
When we treat our young men simply as big boys they are likely to do one or more of the following:
1. Withdraw and stop communicating
2. Become angry
3. Rebel in any way they can
4. Become depressed.
At the core of the addiction was a self-esteem or personal wellbeing issue and almost inevitably these issues began when the men were teenagers.
The missing link
In the early 1990s I went camping for four days with a group of fifty or so men. When we got to the campsite, we were told we were not allowed to talk about sport, politics, what work we did or what car we drove. For the first hour no one really said much at all. Eventually the conversations began and over the course of the four days I was astonished to discover that most all of the men were struggling to deal with the same basic issues:
1. Their relationships with their fathers and feeling like they had never been acknowledged by them
2. Not knowing what they were really supposed to be doing with their lives (and knowing that what they were doing wasn’t actually it)
3. Wondering when they were going to truly feel like they were a man
4. Trying to work out how to have a healthy relationship with a woman
5. Trying to work out how to best father their own kids.
The revelations and discussions at that camp continued long after we got home. At the time, much of my work involved dealing with men who were struggling with addictions. Those addictions could be alcohol or tobacco but they could also be to work, food, unhealthy relationships, or even exercise. At the core of the addiction was a self-esteem or personal wellbeing issue and almost inevitably these issues began when the men were teenagers. It made so much sense and yet it was demoralising. It was the beginning of the end of my career as a doctor in clinical practice. I wanted to spend my time preventing problems – not treating them thirty or forty years later. I knew that if we could do something for boys as they were becoming young men, we could have a positive influence on their later lives. This period can be a time of great learning where knowledge of the ways of his community and of men is passed on. It certainly is a time when he must stop acting and being treated like a boy. It is a time when his individual gifts and talents must be recognised so that he can begin to take his rightful place within his community. And it is a time when he needs mentors – men other than his father – to guide him and to discipline him.
After twenty years of studying ROPs and running programs all over Australia and around the world, I have seen first-hand how when done properly they have a huge impact. Properly-run ROPs help our boys to become confident, capable, balanced and insightful adults with empathy and resilience who are able to handle life’s challenges and opportunities.
To read more, please purchase a copy of the Making of Men – The Making of Men
If you would like to learn how to run a Rite of Passage and attend Dr Arne’s Global Rites of Passage Leadership training, please Click here