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  • Anna Brix Thomsen

The Puppetry of Puberty and its Traumatic Rites of Passage. 90

Going from child to adult is a process that in ancient times was celebrated as a sacred ‘rite of passage’. Sociologically speaking, the rites of passage are designed to symbolically integrate the child or young adult into the adult world/tripe or social group. In indigenous tribes, boys would will for example be prompted to hunt and kill an animal before he would be considered a ‘man’ and thereby carry on the traditions of the tribe. The rituals mark the transition of the child to full membership of the group or culture. Research on the purpose and subsequent psychological effects that rites of passage has on an individual, has shown that the initiations produce cognitive dissonance where the individual who is initiated afterwards embrace the group more easily and as such serve the purpose of strengthening the initiates affiliation with the group. (Aronson and Mills, 1959, Durkheim, 2001)

Today the rites of passage from childhood to adult life, stretches from that which is now defined as the ‘pre-teen’ or ‘tween’ period, where children as young as 9 or 10 (some even younger) starts entering into puberty – and lasts until the young adult’s birthday. It is for many, a very long, traumatizing and horrific period that come to gravely affect the adults we become.

Most of us can relate to the experience of being relatively happy and content as a children, not really caring about how we look or how smart or cool we are, to suddenly enter into a virtual war zone of hormones, brutal social hierarchies, uncontrollable changes of one’s body and a general feeling of not belonging and never being good enough. For some it starts abruptly the day we turn 12 or 13 or when we enter into Junior high or high school, for others it is a feeling that comes creeping or suddenly without warning, where everything you thought you knew were real and trustworthy – becomes dangerous and deceitful.

Every single day we hear stories about people who were traumatized due to their experiences as teenagers and without exaggerating, we may very well be facing a generation of young adults all suffering from post-traumatic-stress-syndrome in some way or another due to this. Have a look at the following statistics from various sources[i] on the current mental state of youth in the United States:

Among high school students, 44% of girls and 15% of guys are attempting to lose weight. More than 40% of boys in middle school and high school regularly exercise with the goal of increasing muscle mass. 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating. This compares to 25% of girls with high self-esteem. About 20% of teens will experience depression before they reach adulthood. Teen girls that have a negative view of themselves are 4 times more likely to take part in activities with boys that they’ve ended up regretting later. The top wish among all teen girls is for their parents to communicate better with them. This includes frequent and more open conversations. 38% of boys in middle school and high school reported using protein supplements and nearly 6% admitted to experimenting with steroids. 7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.

When children begin the rite of passage towards becoming adults, approximately at the age of 13, they are for all intents and purposes all alone in the world. The majority cannot speak openly or intimately with their parents, partly because such communication has never been taught to anyone in our societies and partly because the lives of young adults – what matters most to them – is so remarkably different from the life and values of their parents. Their peers are in the exact same chaotic process of being bombarded with hormonal and cultural changes that is pressuring them to ‘mature’.

The following are three examples of how children and young adults are introduced to ‘adult life’, as rites of passage they go through, that has devastating consequences for the adults they grow up to be:


Firstly, the adult world that young people are introduced to at this age, is for the most part not a world of sound principles teaching them how to develop self-integrity and critical reasoning skills. It is a world that celebrates alcohol as the socially accepted but highly toxic substance that is supposed to ‘loosen you up’ and become ‘sociable’ – because no one has taught you how to do that simply by expressing yourself in self-trust. Alcohol is marketed to children and teenagers on a daily basis, none the least by adults who, themselves consume alcohol regularly. A study done in 2010 by a group of scientists including Britain’s Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) and an expert adviser to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) created a scale to measure the most dangerous drugs in the world actually found alcohol to be the single most dangerous drug in the world when measured according to the effects on the body as well as the social and personal consequences of alcohol consumption. [ii]


Secondly, the world that young people are introduced to is a world that celebrates hardcore pornography for which there is hardly any legislation or regulation. This means that young boys between the ages of 11 and 18 are now the core group of consumers of pornographic material and if you are not aware of what it is they are actually watching, I can tell you that it is not the soft erotic images of 1970’s pornographic. It is brutal, abusive, misogynistic, degrading and delusional porn. And if that was not bad enough, it is from porn that many children have their first encounters with what sex is supposed to be, what sex is supposed to feel like and look like. Porn therefore – become integrated into a child’s mind as the education on sex that his elders were supposed to have given him during his rite of passage. Because of this development, we are seen an increasing amount of criminal cases – all around the world – where children and teenagers rape, kill or sexually abuse other children and even adults. We’re seeing an increasing amount of cases of gang- and mass-rape by adults on young women. [iii]


Finally, the third rite of passage that children through as they start entering into adult life, is an introduction to becoming ‘independent and individual’ consumers. The youngsters start having access to money and while many have already been bottle-fed with commercials and advertisements during their childhood, the teenage years is where they are targeted more fiercely than ever, because they are in the process of developing identities and personalities and most importantly – to try and fit into the social hierarchy – causing them to desperately search for that secret ingredient that can secure them at place on top of the social pyramid. This is the perfect hunting ground for profit-hungry marketers and they should know because to some extent, they created the never-ending demand for the latest new trend in technology, fashion and beauty-care products.

The rites of passage that young people go through in today’s western societies can thus be seen as facilitated, almost predominantly, by the consumer system – and as parents and other elders are already inoculated into these systems, they tacitly support this transition. Some parents may try to introduce other values or principles into their child’s life, but because our lives are so dominated by the consumer system, most parents find themselves speaking to deaf ears and the young adult will in many instances dismiss the parents’ attempts as irrelevant and of little importance. (Here it is also relevant to reiterate the fact that children learn more from what we do than what we say.)

Alcohol and porn consumption, as well as a proliferation of consumer behavior is obviously something that adults engage in frequently, but it is also strongly endorsed by the media and advertisement industries and the laws on these areas are conspicuous to say the least, by their absence. There are of course also ’formal’ rites of passage such as gaining a driving license or graduating from high school, however it is for most young adults the informal rites that come to shape their identities and choices in life, through the intense promulgation of these rites in the media and through a tacit collective infatuation with them.

These rites of passage; alcohol and porn consumption and consumer behaviors are examples of initiation processes into a specific culture and a subsequent internal affiliation with this culture, through which the young adult come to see and identify him or herself. The main virtues and values of this culture are: entertainment, pleasure, stimulation, escape, freedom from responsibility and happiness. That is what makes us so attracted to it; the promise of freedom and happiness and instant gratification. But seldom do we discuss the anxiety, the delusions, the addictions or the total and utter disconnection from one’s own being that this culture also propagates.

Having a look at the kind of human beings that come out of the rites of passage of consumer capitalism, it is no wonder that the current state of the world is in such dire straits. These are supposed to be the formative years where the child as the caterpillar goes through a metamorphosis and comes out as a butterfly on the other side of their teenage years, fully-grown and functional in their capacity as human beings. We become what we make of ourselves and that process of ‘making’ is most prominently enforced during the teenage and pubescent years. Unfortunately we take these rites of passage for granted, but even more so: we celebrate them, we reminisce over them and we glorify them in our movies and advertisements. We seldom discuss what they reflect back to in ourselves and how the virtues we celebrate are affecting our collective state as humanity. We seldom consider or admit to ourselves that it would be possible to do things differently.

Biologically speaking, in the years where the child becomes a teenager, much is happening within the physical body. The body becomes sexually mature and lots are happening both on a neurological and an endocrinal level. This therefore ought to be a period where the young adult becomes familiar and intimate with their own physical body and rather than being introduced to brutal and disjunctive images of physically augmented adults having sex, should get to know how their body works and understand what changes they are going through. This is not to say that sexuality or sexual expression should be kept within the privacy of the child’s own life, but that this process ought to unfold naturally in the tempo of the child’s individual development, with the support of adults who are self-educated to the point of being able to communicate and share information without shame and judgments. It also ought to be a time where they young adult starts focusing on discovering what they are passionate about in life, because they now have the neurological capacity for more abstract cognitive functions and as such are able to integrate information and reflect on it to a greater extent.

Spending all your time with people the same age in a school system that is highly insensitive to individual expression and that promotes brutal competition through the rites of passage that we have discussed here, are not the best place for someone in that sometimes very vulnerable phase of becoming an adult. Some youngsters can handle it and some even enjoy it, but for many it is a traumatic and devastating experience, that not only lasts several years, but that they also do not have any choice but to comply with. Teenagers become isolated, despondent, aggressive, suicidal, homicidal, promiscuous, anorexic and severely depressed, all because of their entry into the rites of passage of what we call puberty. We blame these experiences on the hormonal changes they go through, because after all: we’ve been there ourselves. But what we don’t realize (because we’re the product of the same brainwashing that we’re now subjecting them to) is that this has all been orchestrated with intent. Teenagers are broken down and torn apart only to be built up again as inflated, intoxicated versions of themselves who have long forgotten that they once embodied an authentic self-expression, a true joy over being alive, and a passion to make something meaningful of their lives – who in relief of being done ‘serving the sentence’ of childhood, ‘happily’ embrace an adult life of pseudo-freedom.

If we want to have any chance of changing this world, we have to start with what we are subjecting our children and young adults to. We have to stop taking these rites of passage that we’ve come to accept as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ for granted and start providing alternatives that will support the youngsters to grow up to become whole human beings. The teenage years of a person’s life could be the most amazing, educational and creative years, where each person is supported to discover their full potential and begin the process of forming themselves as responsible members of society. But this is not possible in the current system and parents as well as teachers and any and all adults have direct responsibility for this. If we would not want anyone to go through the experiences that we went through as a children and teenagers, why then accept it as normal and natural for the children growing up now? Why take it for granted? Why not envision new rites of passage where youngsters could be introduced into adulthood in ways that would be supportive and nurturing for them to become their utmost potential?

If you are ready to get involved in a political and economic change of paradigms and thereby also a change of our education systems, I invite you to investigate the Equal Life Foundation’s proposal of a Guaranteed Living Income System. This proposal suggests a groundbreaking change in political paradigms that doesn’t ‘take sides’ but instead presents a completely new approach to solving the problems we are currently facing in this world.

Re-Educate yourself here:

A couple of weeks ago I was part of the panel on a Live Google Hangout about the Common Core standards initiative. I definitely recommend watching it.

The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto:


Human Resources: Social Engineering in the 20th Century

The Story of Your Enslavement

On Advertisement and the end of the world:

Third World America – Chris Hedges

More articles about parenting and education in a Guaranteed Living Income System:

Watch the hangout about Education for a New World in Order:

[i] Neuman, M.D., Fredric. “Low Self-esteem.” Psychology Today.

Council On Alcoholism And Drug Abuse. “Image and Self Esteem.” Mentor Resource Center. Accessed March 3, 2014.

“Brands in Action: Dove.” Unilever USA.

Quenqua, Douglas. “Muscular Body Image Lures Boys Into Gym, and Obsession.” The New York Times. Accessed March 3, 2014.

PR Newswire Association LLC. . “New National Report Reveals the High Price of Low Self-Esteem.” Dove Self-Esteem Fund.

Borchard, Therese J.. “Why are so Many Teens Depressed?.” Psychcentral.

Council On Alcoholism And Drug Abuse. “Image and Self Esteem.” Mentor Resource Center. Accessed March 3, 2014.

Shapiro, Hannah. “Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty boosts girls’ self-esteem for Back to School.” Accessed March 3, 2014.

Quenqua, Douglas. “Muscular Body Image Lures Boys Into Gym, and Obsession.” The New York Times. Accessed March 3, 2014.

Shapiro, Hannah. “Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty boosts girls’ self-esteem for Back to School.” Accessed March 3, 2014.

Linton, Melissa. “Teens & self-esteem: Your teen’s self-esteem dependent on you.” Accessed March 3, 2014.

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