We’re Born as Boys but Not All of Us Become Men
There are a lot of traditions and philosophies that have become lost with boys and men. There’s a complex and rich tapestry of history that can be painted here but if I did, I’d essentially be reinventing the wheel. I will just say for now, and as a teaser, that one of the biggest tragedies for modern males is the lost traditions of our rites of passage and before I talk about that, I think it’s important to understand this distinct and vitally important difference between men and women.
From Child to Adult
Girls grow into women and we don’t really seem to notice as much. I think that the female psyche is a lot more dynamic than male psyche and it’s harder to discern a noticeable transition between being a girl and being a woman other than physical maturation. Psychology says that the brain continues to develop until the age of 25 or 26 but there’s a much more stark transition between being a boy and being a man.
Over the years, as I’ve been involved in support groups for men, it has been interesting to see the men that have attended that are still boys mentally and psychologically. I’ve seen guys well into their 40’s and even their 50’s that, for all intents and purposes, are still boys. They never really made the transition from being a boy and into being a man. Many of them have even acknowledged this. They still identify as a boy and the concept of being a grown and integrated man eludes them. Many of them have acknowledged that they have never had their own rite of passage and officially entered into being a grown man.
So what’s the problem? What is the issue? The problem is boy energy. I’m pulling from Jungian psychology and if this seems like gibberish I’m specifically referring to Carl Jung and his idea of boy energy. He was an early psychologist who was a protege to Sigmund Freud. There are many, myself included, that find Carl Jung to be more profound as a pioneer in the ways of human psychology. Boy energy is foolish and reckless. Boys have something to prove. They are insecure and most importantly, they have never faced their inner demons. Violence, aggression, rape, addiction, fear and the like are all part of boy energy. Public shootings? Boy energy. Caretaking broken and dysfunctional women? Boy energy. Unsolicited dick pics? Boy energy. Lack of stoicism and emotional composure? Boy energy.
Okay but what about man energy? Well, here’s a list of traits of true man energy. Confidence, identity, conviction, courage, heroism, discipline, accountability, composure, purpose and self-respect. That’s not a complete list, there are many other traits but these are some of the most important ones. Men know when to lead and when to follow. Men know when to stick to their guns and when to apologize. Men are also empathetic and compassionate where these are traits that boys struggle to develop and demonstrate. I have to believe that the modern labels of “toxic masculinity” are more so associated with boy energy. The art of manhood has been lost on so many and I believe that there are many reasons for this. There is no one identifiable cause or one single lynch pin, more like a series of toppling dominoes. When it comes to manhood, we’re essentially reinventing the wheel now. Our traditions and values have been lost. The critics of males are stuck on just telling us to get our shit together without any real idea on how to do that. But that’s what we’re really here to do at The Orion Way.
Rites of Passage
There’s plenty of material and content out there that talks about rites of passage and so if this is a fairly new concept for you, I’d encourage you to do some research. There are some profound gems of wisdom to be found here. I believe that I have walked my own passages and earned my rites as a man. None of them were necessarily planned or deliberate. They just kind of fell in my lap and I had choices. I could have chosen courage or I could have chosen cowardice. I could have chosen conviction or I could have chosen doubt. Fortunately for me, I chose courage and I chose conviction. I’m not going to lie guys, it scared the ever living shit out of me. Here are some of the things that I learned in the process:
- There are multiple opportunities to walk through passages that earn your rites. It may happen multiple times in your life but chances are that it will boil down to one or two major events in your life.
- It’s terrifying. Passing from boy to man is scary as shit. You face colossal potential for pain.
- It’s extremely empowering. Facing the fear and overcoming it is unparalleled. But it is also required. When we talk about earning those rites, we’re serious. You earn them.
- It’s worth it. You cannot appreciate what you gain from it until you actually do it. I can’t tell you how great really amazing sex is until you do it. I can’t tell you how amazing adrenaline can be when you face danger and combine it with fun unless you do it. The experience opens your eyes.
- You are never the same afterwards. So many fears wither and die. They seem trivial and stupid in comparison.
- You look at yourself differently. You respect yourself more. You have greater peace. You no longer look at the world through the eyes of a child.
So let’s say that you recognize the need for a rite of passage in your life. What I just outlined is going to give you some clues on what you need to do but let’s break it down a little bit more.
- Don’t ask women about it. They don’t know. Women know about a lot of things but this isn’t one of them. Ask a man. Someone who has faced their fears and become a man.
- It has to scare you. But in a special kind of way. I wish I had a better format for you than that but try thinking of it this way. What is something that a boy would run from but a man would stare straight in the eyes? It’s less important that it scares you and more important that you exercise courage. Courage, of course, is not the absence of fear but the act of facing it.
- It’s often something that you have prepared for. You have trained, you have learned and you have undergone some forms of preparation.
- You don’t just face danger but you confront your inner demons and win. This is mainly your fear. The passage though has more to do with confronting and facing yourself. To stop listening to the voice of the inner boy and instead listening to the man.
- The event is celebrated and supported. Your brothers, your fellow men are proud of you because they know and understand. Respect and love is shared.
I have a friend that expressed that he had never taken on a rite of passage and he was well into his 30’s. When I’ve asked women about rites of passage they came up with things like, “change a flat tire on your own,” and things like that. Lame. While that can be challenging, there is no fear to face down. The internal struggle is not a hard one.
As I talked to my friend, he said that one thing that he has always wanted to do but had always been too afraid to go on a solo backpacking trip. As far as I know, this could be almost perfect for him. He would need to prepare. His brothers could train and mentor him. They could teach him. They could go with him a couple of times on trips. When he’s on his solo trip he could confront his fears. Stare it in the eyes. The battle is internal and he has to see it through. When he returns we would celebrate with him. He was the victor and we would welcome him back as a man instead of the boy that we knew before. Search for something similar. You can ask for help. Find a mentor. Join a community. Ask questions, learn and don’t be afraid to suck at it.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of wrong ideas that have lead many of us to believe that banding together as males in order to lift each other is an act of evil. Pure and simple. I stopped listening to those stories and I hope others will too. Perhaps in their own ways, that can be its own rite of passage for some. Show conviction, stand up for what you believe in, even if it’s scary.