Rite of passage
I first became really aware of the value rites of passage in working with an outdoor experiential “narrative therapy” program called Maui Hero Project. This program sought to replace the missing cultural recognition of milestones for at-risk teens by creating experiences that inspired youth to pass through a tough challenge and then be recognized for it—something that so many of them, products of broken homes, failing in school, unable to get jobs—could not achieve in our current culture.
All that to say, we did 8 weeks of physically, emotionally and mentally taxing tasks including jumping off giant waterfalls, learning an elaborate drumming performance, crawling through a black lava tube, enduring a sweatlodge, making masks of our faces, climbing to the top of a mountain. I felt as triumphant as they did when we played our djembes together in an involved graduation ceremony that boosted the self esteem of these disenfranchised kids. As a middle-aged lady of nervous disposition, this was no small thing for me as well. Nothing like being the leader to make you have to jump first!
My daughter’s graduation was such a day, a true triumph.
Her arduous tasks in majoring in cellular biology, in having her project take top honors,
her bold gold Athlete scarf she was one of the few brainiacs to sport. . . oh yes, this was a milestone, a rite of passage that it was truly wonderful to witness.
I felt like we’d achieved it with her through all the support, traveling, financial help, extra work, communication, and prayer/worrying we’d done over the last four years. Yay for parents too!
Rites of passage both anchor and launch us in the world. Whether they’re created deliberately for therapeutic value, as a statement of intent, or as a milestone in their own right (such as college graduation) rites of passage are universal through all cultures.
Whatever stage in life you’re at, get in and build and participate in a rite of passage. Witness one for someone else. Celebrate your life, your loves, your work, your relationships—and see even greater growth unleashed.
P.S. I love narrative therapy. Because, you see, it's therapy that's all about STORIES!
(Ignore the following blub if not interested.)
Narrative therapy is a respectful and collaborative approach to counseling and community work. It focuses on the stories of people’s lives and is based on the idea that problems are manufactured in social, cultural and political contexts. Each person produces the meaning of their life from the stories that are available in these contexts. A wider meaning of narrative therapy relates significantly to a relatively recent way of thinking about the nature of human life and knowledge which has come to be known as ‘postmodernism’ – which believes there is no one objective ‘truth’ and that there are many multiple possible interpretations of any event. Thus within a narrative approach, our lives are seen as multi-storied vs. single-storied.
Stories in a person's ‘narrative’ context are made up of events, linked by a theme, occurring over time and according to a plot.
A story emerges as certain events are privileged and selected out over other events as more important or true.
As the story takes shape, it invites the teller to further select only certain information while ignoring other events so that the same story is continually told. David Epston (founder of therapy) sees these stories as both describing and shaping people’s perspectives on their lives, histories and futures.
These stories may be inspiring or oppressive, it's your choice. Make yours amazing.