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I. Tucker Brown, Joseph Stewart-Sicking, Ed.D

Re-Visioning Rites of Passage in Postmodernity: A Phenomenological Study of the Psychospiritual Themes in the Coming of Age Experiences of Men in an American Sample

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This dissertation examined the psychospiritual themes in the coming of age experiences of American men. More specifically, the study—grounded in the existing empirical research on emerging adults—used theories from ritual studies and postmodern sociology to illuminate the phenomenological structure of masculine, adult emergence. These theories addressed typologies of ritual process (e.g., van Gennep, 1960; Eliade, 1958), the types and meanings of re-invented ritual activity (Grimes, 2000, 2011), and the unique socio-psychological complications characteristic of coming of age in postmodernity (Bauman, 2000). The principal research questions targeted the form, psychospiritual significance, and function of postmodern ritual process. The study also focused on how the findings might apply in pastoral counseling and psychotherapy. Participants included male graduate students at Loyola University Maryland, as well as members of the ManKind Project (MKP), an international community-support network for men that offers varieties of re-invented ritual activity. Through an action sensitive, hermeneutic methodology (van Manen, 1990), the research design facilitated a collaborative analysis yielding seven psychospiritual themes. Results indicated that in general co-researchers experienced ritually diffuse forms of transformation, and that more conscious methods for ritualizing their coming of age experiences may have enhanced their integration of psychospiritual meanings. Findings also illuminated that communal approaches to ritual participation, such as MKP, could greatly benefit emerging men as they come of age. Further, the study proposed that a form of ritual process—complemented by the construct of spiritual modeling (Oman & Thoresen, 2003a, 2003b)—could serve as a useful application of ritual in pastoral clinical practice.

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