A Threshold: some barrier to cross or door to enter, whether by an irresistible opportunity or a circumstance beyond the individual's control, this shove might be the last straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. This could be anywhere from the moment the individual realizes the potential risk of trauma or oppression and is faced with a choice, to the point where the affliction becomes too much to handle and they ask for help.
A Pilgrimage: This might be literal physical travel to a special location or in some cases, metaphorical transportation to another (usu. mental) realm.
Seclusion: in global narratives, the mad man runs off into the forest. In reality, individuals either begin self-isolating, or are immobilized, housebound, detained or bedridden.
An Encounter with the Shadow self: this is a battle with one's other side or dark side, possibly including a relaxation of the ego. Stories about this encounter are found often in Western narrative tradition for example, the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or more recently, Fight Club;
An Ordeal: This is a challenge to be overcome, such as a traumatic or re-traumatizing experience. It is a trial or test of the individual. It may be a test of anything, such as strength, endurance, foolhardiness, or wit. It is sometimes a sacrifice of a cherished aspect of oneself, which ends up being a source of finding oneself, the change making the individual not substantially different, but crystallized.
Experience of Paradoxes: These can be literal paradoxes, where the individual is between places, sensations or states, experiencing neither one extreme nor the other, or both simultaneously. It may involve riddles or puzzles to be solved, or it may be metaphorical such as being in a state of purgatory between events.
Asceticism: This is usually a renunciation of luxury, and a commitment to live simply or even austerely. Classic vows of poverty, chastitiy, and obedience fall into this category, as do prolonged yogic postures.
Outward Signs of Identity and Personality shifts: This is usually a change in appearance, attitude or behaviour. It can be all of the above. The individual shows that they have found a new or improved lifestyle or way of being. Dietary restrictions, special garments, mannerisms, etc. demonstrate this to the world.
The Guru-Disciple Relationship: or Master-Apprentice relationship, can be between any perceived expert and an aspirant who wants to achieve mastery in a skill or ability that is held by their teacher or leader.
Acceptance into a Special Group: a sense of community and belonging, a solidarity and camaraderie with others who are on the same path or who have been through similar situations and come out the other side.
All together this presents the picture of a Mystery School: an initiatory experience from which the individual gains knowledge, skill, status, or power and emerges reborn into the wider community. The mystery part is the experiential piece, no one can use words alone to describe the journey. It's in the stillness of the rite that the mystery is revealed. So even it it's long and drawn out, the mysteries will still unfold before the individual when they reach that point of internalizing what is going on.
It is crowned by the Triumphant Return: where any symptoms of dysfunction are under control and a degree of autonomy is restored, involving, often, more self-control and self-knowledge than ever before, and a new perspective on life and how the world works.
The experience of Balance and Harmony: The total transformative experience from Threshold to Triumphant Return may have conflict and resistance within it, but the output of a successful rite of passage is a sense of peace. (In a cultural context, this may be one way the community knows if the initiation has “taken”.)