Types of Tests Encountered

There are Three Types of Test Encountered

  1.  Letting go of old childhood ways
  2.  Discovering & mastering the ways of adulthood
  3.  Dealing with being in-between (“inbetweenity”) 

These three types of test will be encountered in every significant change.  They happen when you let go of childhood to discover how to become a young adult.  They happen whenever you embark on any situational journey as a teenager. 

They also happen as an adult, for example when you get married or start a family or retire.  They happen if you get a big promotion or if you fail at something significant.  They happen in every corporate or community change. 

These types of test are always going on at the same time.  It will take time to let go of childhood and it won’t happen in a nice neat packaged way.  It will definitely take a long time to build the competencies required to be a young adult.  AND – as a teenager – you will experience “inbetweenity” quite a bit.

The Three Tests & the Three Core Challenges – How They Fit Together


So, how do the three core challenges faced by teenagers relate to the three different types of test on a heroic journey? 

Basically, all three of the different types of test will be in play for each core challenge.  In forming an identity as a young adult any teenager will have to let go of a childhood identity, discover a young adult identity and deal with being in-between (“inbetweenity”).  The three tests will also be in play for relationships and competencies.

The Three Types of Test

Challenge #1
Forming an Identity
Challenge #2
Developing Relationships
Challenge #3
Building Competencies

Letting Go

Identity as a child

Parent/child relationship

Superficial relationships with friends

Letting go of relationships as needs/interests change – no longer a fit

Dealing with others ending a relationship

Dependence on others to provide the capabilities to be OK in the world

Discovery & Mastery

Lots of exploration and testing with eventual clarity & commitment

Dealing with digital identities

Lots of exploration as needs & interests become clear (as friend, romantic partner, family member)

Key relationship skills

Dealing with relationships that are digitally based or heavily influenced

Lots of competencies to discover and master (or just get good at)

Challenge of being the author and not relying just on school or family for opportunities to build competencies

Dealing with “Inbetweenity”

It just takes a long time and a lot of trying things out, letting them go, trying new things to come to an identity as a young adult

Not a lot of certainty for a long time

Lots of uncertainty about needs & wants & worth as a friend or romantic partner

Awkwardness & uncertainty in finding new fit with parents, siblings, etc.

Everyone is changing, so “inbetweenity” is a shared experience – and that makes it harder

The challenge of “learning to love the plateau” – persevering and not being discouraged before mastery is achieved

Real Life Examples of the Three Different Tests

  1. Changing Relationships with Parents (a developmental journey)
  2. Moving to a New School (a situational journey)
  3. Recovering from Addiction (a situational journey)
  4. Changing Relationships with Friends or Girl/Boyfriends (both a developmental and situational journey)

Example #1 – Changing relationship with parents (part of the developmental journey of being a teenager)

How the Journey Begins:  You and your parents are thrown into the journey simply by your becoming a teenager

The relationship you had with your parents when you were a child will have to end and you and your parents will have to figure out what a new healthy parent-young adult relationship will be.  Most parents and teenagers spend a lot of time in relationship “inbetweenity” before the new relationship is discovered and developed.  That time is usually one of those emotional roller-coasters.

Let Go

On the journey you will need to let go of your identity as a child, including a life with few responsibilities, a life where you are being taken care of, and a life where others make lots of decisions for you.  Despite the natural desire to move away from childhood, these endings are much tougher than they seem.  The gravity of childhood will pull you back at the same time that the increasing gravity of young adulthood will be pulling you forward.

Your parents will need to let go of their image of you as a child and they will have to let go of many of their parenting behaviors.  One of the hardest things for them to let go of is the way that they have protected you when you were a child.    


A new young adult/parent relationship develops as your identity as a young adult develops and you take on more and more responsibility.   You and your parents will need to master new ways of increasingly shared decision-making as well as the ability to negotiate with each other.  Your parents will need to keep looking at you with fresh eyes every six months in order to really see the development and feel more confident in who they are trusting.


The old parent/child relationship with complementary behaviors will be no more, but the new parent/young adult relationship will still be evolving for a long time.  You are changing and the parent/child relationship is not going to work, but a new relationship with complementary behaviors has not yet emerged.  Parents may be holding on and/or you may be resisting taking on young adult responsibilities.  It’s usually a combination.  And it takes time.  Your parents are going to keep discovering a new you as you mature and have to change their parenting to fit.  You have to keep becoming more responsible and demonstrating mature decision-making in order for your parents to let go.  There will be lots of negotiating and experimenting because there is no formula for this. 

Your parents are trying to parent a moving target.  You’re trying to be more responsible while trying out some risky behaviors with friends and trying to fit in.  It’s “inbetweenity” for you and your parents – so expect that.

Example #2:  Moving to a new school (a situational journey)

How the Journey Begins:  You are usually thrown into this type of journey.

The author challenge is how to not be victimized by the move and become the author of your life in a new school or city/town.  This can be a really tough challenge. 

Let Go

You will have to let go of old friends, feeling “at home” with familiar surroundings, knowing how things work – getting around, stores, how your old school worked, old jobs or volunteer assignments, neighbors, and your identity in your neighborhood/school.


You will need to develop new relationships, figure out how to get around, understand the culture and norms of your new school, and figure out where you fit in your new neighborhood and school.  You will also need to figure out what your new teachers expect.  You may also need to help siblings or even a parent who might be having a hard time with the move.


There is usually lots of “inbetweenity” in this kind of a move and it’s hard to tell how long it will last.  You will be between relationships, although you can often maintain some of your old relationships – this time from a distance.  To some degree you will naturally be disoriented, unconnected, and struggling with an emerging identity and sense of place.  You will probably experience a mix of feeling anxious and excited, confident and intimidated, belonging or not yet fitting it, etc. 

Example #3:  Recovering from addiction (a situational journey)

How the Journey Begins:  You could be heeding a call (from within yourself or from someone else).  It could also be that you blundered in by getting busted by school personnel or the police.

This is a really tough journey and one that almost always requires a good support network (it can start small, but needs to grow).  Part of what is so tough about this kind of journey is that the tests are physical, emotional, intellectual and social – and may be spiritual. 

Let Go

There are a lot of endings that happen on this kind of journey.  You will have to end relationships with people you have associated with in the use of drugs or alcohol (for the most part).  You will also be changing daily patterns and habits, which is hard to do because they have been built into your “dailyness.”  You will have to let go of part of your identity, although certainly not all nor the most important parts.  You will also be letting go of your ability to self-medicate to deal with the world.


Sometimes this part of the journey is surprisingly easy, but usually it is pretty tough because there are so many competencies and ways of being in the world that have to be developed or found again.  There will be new relationships to develop and there can be a lot of these – from peers and parents to teachers, coaches, neighbors, siblings, etc.  There will also be new habits to form, new daily patterns to adopt, and there will probably be new class behaviors and study habits to form.

Of particular importance will the ability to develop a support network.  That includes the willingness to open up to help and reach out for help.


There will be lots of pulls in different directions.  Along with the normal tension between the gravity of childhood and the gravity of young adulthood, there will be the pull back toward addiction vs. the pull toward an addiction free life.  Old habits hang on before new ones are established.  New relationships can be hard to form and you can be left feeling alone.  School performance can be tough because of catching up and simply “being out of shape” for school.  Old associates (they probably weren’t really friends) will pull you back as will dealers. 

Example #4:  Changing Friends or Girl/Boyfriends (both developmental and situational

How the Journey Begins:  This journey can begin in a number of ways.  You could be heeding a call to get out of a relationship or start one (a call from within yourself or from outside).  Someone else ending a relationship with you could throw you in.  You could even unintentionally blunder in by behaving in ways that screw up a relationship.

For most teenagers, there will be a lot of peer relationship endings, beginnings and “inbetweenity” as everyone is changing and experimenting and developing new social skills.  Some teenagers have a few close friends throughout the teenage years, but most experience the turbulence of many changes.   

This is a different level of relationship from childhood relationships – deeper, more complex and more difficult.   Adding to the challenge is the number of relationships that can be changing and the difficulty of experiencing being out of relationship with others.

Let Go

With teenage peer relationships there are often a lot of endings.  Some teenagers have a stable set of relationships, but most do not.  Even for those that do, the relationships only continue if they are changing to meet the changing needs of those involved.

Letting go of relationships that are no longer good for you can be one of the toughest tests, but one of the most important.  On the other hand, losing relationships that are important can be one of the most difficult tests you will encounter.


There are a lot of social skills to master in achieving the ability to develop and maintain the more mature relationships of the teen years.  Fortunately, they are the same social skills required throughout life, so once again it’s like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool to learn how to swim – but useful ever after.

A major problem for teenagers, particularly boys, is the lack of opportunities to get support in developing these skills, for example: 

  • Self-awareness
  • Decision-making
  • Conflict resolution
  • Empathy and attending to others
  • Communications (speaking and listening)
  • Belief in self and value in a relationship
  • Assertiveness

The adult world does not do a good job in helping teenagers develop these abilities.


Experiencing “inbetweenity” in terms of relationships is one of the toughest experiences of the teen years.  Just as relationships are becoming more important, they are becoming more difficult – with inadequate support for mastering them. 

“Inbetweenity” will happen.  There is no way around it with relationships.  The key is to remember that this experience is normal and doesn’t mean you are failing as a relationship partner.  Some of the normal experiences are:

  • Feeling alone
  • Feeling rejected
  • Questioning your worth or desirability as a friend or girl/boyfriend
  • Feeling on the outside or the periphery of a group
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Wondering if you have a place – if you belong
  • Self-doubt
  • Confused about what to do
  • Confused about why others are acting the way they are

On the other hand, there will be some good experiences also (you never know what the balance of good and bad experiences will be or how hat balance will change):

  • Discovering the joys of a deeper relationship with someone
  • Discovering your value as a friend
  • Finding that you can lose a relationship(s) without losing yourself
  • Finding new relationships
What Tests Am I Encountering?