Children, Adults, and Rites of Passage

SNAP OUT OF IT Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6| Part 7

“[S]afe spaces are designed
to turn emotions into medical conditions.”
Greg Gutfeld

Let’s talk about children. Let’s talk about the characteristics children have that we expect to change once they become adults.

This is important, because, as you will see, many children are now running around in adult bodies. Especially in male bodies. And this is not healthy.

I know these are overly simplified but bear with me. You’ll get the point. The idea is: How can we tell when a child has transitioned into an adult? Or more precisely: How can we tell when childish behaviors have shifted into adult behaviors?

CHILDREN ADULTS
Are Emotionally Reactive Are Thoughtfully Restrained
Instantly Judge Consider Cause and Effect
See Everything as Black and White Recognize Middle Grounds
Experience Adversity as Crushing Are Resilient; Bounces Back
Avoid Responsibility Value Accountability
React Poorly to Frustration Realize Frustration Is Natural
Inflict Negative Emotions on Others Are Able to Maintain a Calm Exterior
Want Everything Now Practice the Virtue
of Delayed Gratification
Dwell in Extremes Practice the Virtue of Moderation
See Others as Objects in Their Way See Others as Equal Souls
Are Narcissistic Are Able to Serve Others
Resort to Violence,
Refusing to Change
Exercise Reason and
Is Willing to Change
Want Others and the World
to Change for Them
Recognize that Others Are Free to Be Themselves and Hold Contrary Opinions
See Others Who Disagree as
Bad People Who Must Go Away
Tolerate a Pluralistic Diversity
of Views and Lifestyles
Are Convinced that Mere Opinion
Is the Truth
Know the Differences Among Knowledge, Informed Opinion, and Mere Opinion

For that last bit, let me sketch a part of it for you.

Knowledge typically refers to something that you know first-hand from direct experience. “I saw the accident and the driver in the Mini ran that red light.”

Informed Opinion typically refers to second-hand information that has some means of verification. “Three different sources who have a history of being correct have told me the driver in the Mini ran that red light.”

Mere Opinion refers to simple beliefs based on emotional reactions, or on authority figures who have a history of being wrong and not acknowledging it. “I hate Mini drivers, so I know the driver of that Mini is at fault.”

By the way, not all knowledge can be independently verified. For example, I could have a dream last night in which I was flying over the city. No one can independently verify that dream. But I still know it happened.

The question always comes down to: How objective can I be about my own experiences? And how do I know that I really know? These are the questions that arise, and often get mangled, in philosophy classes.

We may not be able to address those questions directly, but we can at least recognize that there is a difference between child behavior and adult behavior.

That children dwell in the realm of mere opinion, while adults strive for informed opinion and knowledge.

And that we need to be aware of how others may influence our picture of ourselves.

The Pygmalion Effect

“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Walt Disney

You may not know the story of Pygmalion.

Pygmalion was a gifted sculptor from Cyprus who one day found a large, flawless piece of ivory. He sculpted a beautiful woman and found it so lovely he became obsessed with the statue, thinking it his ideal woman.

He went to the temple of Aphrodite to plead for a wife who would be as perfect as his statue. When Aphrodite visited the studio of the sculptor while he was away, she was flattered to find that the image was of herself.

Aphrodite brought the statue to life, and when Pygmalion returned to his home, he found his ideal had come alive.

In 1968 a study was done by two researchers, Rosenthal and Jacobson that demonstrated what they called the “Pygmalion Effect.”

They told teachers that the researchers would test the intelligence of children aged six to twelve years, all drawn from the same school. They then randomly assigned children to two groups.

Their teachers were told that the children in one group were “high achievers” even though they were randomly chosen. At the end of the school year, these children showed significant test gains, despite the random allocation to a group.

In short, the researchers discovered that the teachers’ expectations manifested in the children.

We can uncritically accept, subconsciously,
pictures other people hold of us.

The subconscious repository stores our picture of ourselves. When we are young, that picture is influenced and reinforced by how other people picture us. Their pictures of us affect how they talk and behave around us.

This leads to a couple of interesting ideas:

The Pygmalion Effect can work both ways.

First, you hold pictures of other people. Consider being very careful about the negative thoughts you hold of others, especially what you are sure is true about others.

Not only do you create blind spots about others in yourself that screen out anything that does not match your stored truths about them, you may also actually transfer your negative images to them in a way that they may adopt.

Second, be very careful about accepting as “true” any negative thoughts from others about you. Watch your own thoughts to screen out negative characterizations you may have accepted from others that may be holding you back, creating a negative, limiting picture of yourself.

Other people’s opinions of you
are no longer any of your business.

We often carry multiple pictures of ourselves based on our current associations. In other words, different people may have given you different pictures of yourself, which can be triggered when you are with them. Or the pictures can be triggered in a situation similar to one you remember.

For example: Do you find that when you visit your parents, you become their child again, feeling how their image of you puts you in a box of behaviors that reinforce their picture of you?

Do you find that you are a different person—more confident, more capable, more articulate, wittier—around one group of people, and much less confident and capable and articulate and witty around another?

Do you find that when you return to old friends you haven’t seen in years you fall into old picture-patterns that you had forgotten about?

Do you recall being known as a klutz or awkward in high school, and then after many years being a non-klutz away from those acquaintances, when you go back to them, you are suddenly that klutz again?

Have you ever been with someone, perhaps a spouse who seems to undergo a personality change when around his or her parents or old friends?

Have you noticed how you change when you are with your church group, your drinking-poker buddies or shopping friends, your coworkers, your neighbors, your political group, your military pals?

Few of us maintain a single, consistent picture of ourselves as we move from peer group to peer group, or person to person.

However, over time, you can develop a strong, consistent self-image that does not change significantly when your environment changes.

Rites of Passage

“Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent
and independent with a tremendous spirit of
adventure and a love of play.”
Henri Matisse

Marriage is a fascinating rite of passage.

Think about it. Before getting married, two people walk around thinking of themselves as single, being single, acting single. Then they go before a powerful authority who declares, “Now you are married; go out and live it” and prang! They go out and live it.

They think of themselves as married, being married, acting married.

What really changes? Nothing but the picture they hold of themselves. The picture changes. Nothing else happens.

Often, people improve with the change in picture. Their hearts open wide, they become more giving, and they step into the best picture of themselves. Friends and acquaintances begin to see the newly married, no longer as mere separate individuals, but as a couple who embody unconditional love.

But marriage can go the other direction. Sometimes people go through profound personality changes when they marry. A whole new picture takes hold, because they “know” that this is how a “married person” is supposed to act.

Men who seemed sweet and reasonable, who shared household burdens, suddenly demand that their new “wife” do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

Women suddenly expect their new “husband” to take on the natural role of handyman and protector.

Sometimes the change is more drastic and even violent.

What accounts for this change?

I’ve talked about how powerful our picture of the truth can affect our perception of Reality and the “Truth.”

How the Subconscious Repository and Adaptive Unconscious works in setting and maintaining the picture of ourselves that we hold.

How the Pygmalion Effect works to give other people pictures of themselves, especially by people perceived as authorities.

A priest or public official is seen as a powerful authority to two people getting married. So powerful in fact that with a single declarative sentence, that authority can transform the deep-seated image two people have of themselves, to the point of an immediate personality change.

Think about that.

This is the primary function of Rites of Passage.

Rites of passage initiate the activation of a new picture a person holds of themselves. Before the rite of passage you are one kind of person. After the rite of passage you are another.

I grew up a math and science guy. On my SATs I scored high in Math and lower on Verbal.

In college I started out majoring in computer programming. After a couple years, I purchased a new Apple II+ computer, just when the industry was starting.

Then new personal computer magazines started appearing, and I saw one where the editors asked for submissions. I thought, What do I have to lose?

I wrote up a review of a computer security system. The editor wrote back and said, “We love your writing style. Why don’t you expand this review into an article that compares security systems?”

Wham!

My picture of myself changed dramatically with that paragraph. Someone with authority said I was a writer. A good writer.

I wrote that article, they published it, and they paid me $200. I submitted my next article to a truck magazine about my friend’s custom truck. They bought it!

Now I was a freelance writer.

I changed my major and got a bachelor’s degree in English.

Then when I took my Graduate Record Exam, guess what? The score in Math was lower than on the Verbal side. They reversed.

Early on, I saw myself as a math and science guy. Then I switched to a language and literature guy. I went on to work in Silicon Valley making a great income as a writer, and then developing managers in a tech company.

All because one authority said something powerfully good about me, which changed my picture.

Boy or girl, man or woman, or however you want to identify yourself, becoming an adult is crucial to a responsible, happy life. If you wear your emotions on your sleeve all the time, if you believe that your emotional response should dictate how others behave, you are being a child.

Time to grow up and stop blaming others for how you feel.

Adults keep emotions in balance
with thoughtfulness.

And becoming a thoughtful person is your duty.

A Note about the War Against Boys

In the United States, a disturbing trend is happening in the public schools. Competition and risk are frowned upon, while the value of feelings are elevated. Games like dodge ball and active recess activities are being eliminated.

Natural boy-based behaviors are labeled “aggressive” and anything aggressive is deemed bad by definition.

Culturally, there appears to be a concerted effort to stigmatize all playful use of guns. Zero-tolerance policies punish boys for pretending to have guns.

Even drawing the picture of a gun or forming one with your hand can result in suspension or expulsion.

Here are more stories from a few years ago:

A 10-year-old boy in Pennsylvania was suspended for using an imaginary bow and arrow.

An 8-year-old Arizona boy was threatened with expulsion because of his drawings of ninjas and Star Wars characters, and his interest in zombies.

A 7-year-old boy in Maryland was suspended for chomping a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun.

A 6-year-old boy in Colorado was charged with “sexual harassment” for kissing a girl.

(Search the Internet for such stories. They are legion.)

Increasingly, boys are seen as defective girls.

When male consciousness is denigrated in full, the results can be catastrophic. That male energy will come out, in unexpected and inappropriate ways.

Here’s an excerpt from Creating Your Life about how boys and girls go through a rite of passage into becoming men and women:

Has it ever occurred to you that the reason that there are so many boys in men’s bodies is because these boys never went through a rite of passage to change their picture?

Girls have a natural biological event that ushers them into womanhood.

What do boys have?

They used to have fathers who took them hunting or camping, or did something that ritually ushered them into being a man. An adult male with adult male responsibilities.

How often these days is that particular rite of passage missed?

In the U.S., we live in an age that attacks traditional male practices that initiate boys into men.

What are the consequences?

Boys in men’s bodies. Boys who do not know how to appropriately channel male energy. Boys who are expected to behave in the civil ways that come much more naturally to the female consciousness.

In short, males become confused about their roles in society.

If you question these statements, ask any woman not immersed in academic studies.

Jordan Peterson, in a landmark interview now on YouTube, explains right at the beginning why men have to grow up.

Interview with Jordan Peterson on Channel 4.

This is a classic.

Here are a couple of bad jokes that might still make you laugh.

A young man and his date were parked on a back road some distance from town. They were about to have sex when the girl stopped. “I really should have mentioned this earlier, but I’m actually a hooker and I charge $20 for sex.”

The man reluctantly paid her, and they did their thing. After a cigarette, the man just sat in the driver’s seat looking out the window.

“Why aren’t we going anywhere?” asked the girl.

“Well, I should have mentioned this before, but I’m actually a taxi driver, and the fare back to town is $25…”

One more:

After waiting more than an hour and a half for her date, the young lady decided she had been stood up. She changed from her dinner dress into pajamas and slippers, fixed some popcorn and resigned herself to an evening of TV.

No sooner had she flopped down in front of the TV than her doorbell rang. There stood her date.

He took one look at her and gasped, “I’m two hours late… and you’re still not ready?”

Yep. That last one is a stereotype, playing off something that is not always true.

(And I hate to break it to you, but stereotypes can be funny. Humor is in danger these days because many people want to reject all humor that implies stereotypes.)

But it’s important to remember that stereotypes arise because there are some truths in them. The problem is when we apply a group stereotype to a particular individual.

Which leads to our next post.

SNAP OUT OF IT Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

4 thoughts on “Children, Adults, and Rites of Passage

  1. Pingback: How to Quit Smoking and Other Imagination Exercises | Mark Andre Alexander

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  4. Pingback: The Truth about Happiness | Mark Andre Alexander

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