Becoming a man is a fearsome process. It is movement away from the secure comforts of home and mother towards commitment and individuation. It is fraught with the fear of separation; few boys make the leap from childhood to adulthood, from immaturity to maturity, without support.
In days of old, with the help of elder men and the close proximity of fathers, boys were helped to make these painful developmental steps through rituals and rites of passage. Today, lacking any meaningful initiation, many boys act out their own initiations through reckless behaviour, drunkenness, rebellion against authority, sexual irresponsibility, risk-taking, and a lack of commitment to themselves and family.
Our children are being exposed, most often through television, the internet and social media, to sexuality and adult issues earlier in their lives than ever before. While on the other end of the maturity spectrum, young men and women are delaying marriage (if they get married at all) and delaying having children, until they are almost 30 years old. Our culture cultivates an extended adolescence, a ‘pre-adulthood’ that lasts for nearly 15 years.
It need not be this way. Written into the hearts of boys and men is the path of the masculine journey. Unconsciously, it is acted out on playgrounds, in classrooms, kitchens, bedrooms, and in business board rooms and governments around the world. Little talked about, the path is now buried in a culture too preoccupied with a frantic busyness to recognize it. But it is there.
Meeting the deep developmental needs of boys, and helping them to accept themselves as men, will cultivate the strength and maturity they need to fulfill their true potential as leaders and innovators.
What is the masculine journey?
It follows well-known developmental steps:
- Symbiosis with mother: the sense of self and well-being
- Boyhood: desire, play, the will to power
- Adolescence, separation from mother, sexual awakening, and the need for affirmation,
- The warrior and the wound
- Leaving home: cutting the ties that bind
- Healing the wound: exploration, grief, and rebirth
- Commitment: Finding one’s path in work, marriage/relationships, and spirituality.