A Draft Program for Young Adult Liberation

Young adulthood is the transition period between youth and adulthood. In Co-Counseling we define young adults as between the ages of twenty-one and thirty.

Young adults are oppressed. The oppression of young adults is a combination of classism and mistreatment based on age (with young people’s oppression as the model). Young adults are treated horribly with hardly any acknowledgment of the oppression from anybody. Young adult oppression is a training ground for becoming an agent of oppression. Becoming an agent of oppression involves accepting large limitations on one’s humanity and perspective on the world. Young adult liberation is about standing up against young adult oppression, young people’s oppression, and classism. It’s about redefining what it means to be an adult so that young adults and older adults have lives full of integrity, joy, and humanness without any limitation.


The following are six things that are necessary for ending the oppression of young adults. Each is aimed at ending a specific aspect of young adult oppression, and in combination they can eliminate the oppression of young adults completely.

1. Eliminating the economic exploitation of young adults and all other forms of disrespect aimed at young adults, for example, any mistreatment that uses age or lack of experience as the excuse for treating young adults badly. This will involve three parts:

A. Locating the oppression in our day-to-day lives—it’s hard to see and insidious by nature. Young adults need to talk and discharge about what our lives are like;

B. Discharging about the effects of the oppression and internalized oppression;

C. Organizing to dismantle the systematic aspects of the oppression.

2. Eliminating class oppression.

A. As we become adults, we are dehumanized by being divided into different class roles. Eliminating class oppression is necessary to the success of young adult liberation.

B. To end our oppression as “inexperienced” junior workers, it is necessary to eliminate the unequal treatment and unequal compensation that all workers experience.

3. Assisting young people in eliminating their oppression.

A. It is a major hurt to be separated from young people by becoming their oppressors. In order to regain our humanness we need to actively participate in their liberation.

B. The mistreatment directed at young adults is often justified “by our lack of experience.”This justification is based on young people’s oppression, which asserts that the less information a person has, the less human he or she is considered to be. In order to end the mistreatment of young adults, we must eliminate the oppression of young people.

4. Leading—and training other people our age to lead—social change movements to create a just society (including, but not limited to, taking charge of the growth and good functioning of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities).

A. Responsibly leading all people is the natural role for young adults.

B. Hanging on to our dreams and fighting for having the world the way we want it to be contradict the pressures of adulthood and young adult oppression to give up.

5. Organizing people of all ages to discharge about and change the definition of adulthood.

A. The taking on of adult identity is the crux of young adult oppression. It limits our humanity. In order to hang on to all of who we are, we must discharge adult identity.

B. The continuation of classism, young people’s oppression, and an oppressive society run by distress patterns depend on our acceptance of an adult identity. For points 1, 2, 3, and 4 to succeed, we must rid ourselves of the limitations of the adult identity.

C. Young adults are in a strategic position to change the definition of adulthood because of our relationship to it: we haven’t accepted adult limitations completely but we are close enough to adulthood to see what the expectations of adults are.

6. Building strong relationships and using relationships as the foundation of all young adult liberation work.

A. Strong relationships are the most important element in building any liberation movement.

B. Because the breaking of relationships is one of the major limitations we are expected to accept as we become adults, prioritizing relationships is a good way for us to hold on to more of our humanity as we get older.

C. This will require us to discharge about internalized young adult oppression, i.e., competition.


1. Young adult liberation is neither about staying young nor about acting more “grown-up.” It’s about re-defining what it means to be an adult based on human characteristics.

2. It is crucial to name young adult oppression, and it is equally essential to not be victimized by the oppression in any way. Young adults need to take a powerful position in relationship to everything, including the elimination of young adult oppression.

3. What is the role of young adult identity in building a young adult liberation movement?

• Young adult identity is not a strong identity in the wide world; it is not forced on people the way that, for example, gender identities are. In Co-Counseling our goal is not to take on extra identities, because doing so tends to involve taking on additional internalized oppression, and no one needs any more internalized oppression to discharge. From this perspective, it does not seem useful to encourage people to identify strongly as young adults.

• On the other hand, young adult oppression is insidious. Young adults are treated as though everything that’s difficult in our lives is our own fault and an individual problem that no one else is experiencing. For this reason it is useful to communicate clearly to young adults that we are systematically mistreated because of our age and that it is not our fault. Furthermore, young adults need to identify ourselves as young adults to some extent in order to recognize the oppression that we face in common and to organize to eliminate it.

4. It is important that we broaden our perspective of young adult liberation. Often people actively participate in young adult liberation during their twenties and then move on to other things after they turn thirty. Adulthood tends to make people forget the importance of organizing to eliminate age-related oppressions. This is one of the effects of oppression, and no one should be blamed for it. On the other hand, we must be clear that young adult liberation is not something to do before we are ready to “settle down.” It is a movement that is good to be a part of until we have reached our goal of everyone having a life of no limits.

5. As young adults, we are told we are not yet “real adults” and that we deserve to be treated badly for that reason. We are made to feel bad about ourselves and don’t notice that we are accepting the irrational limitations of adulthood. Instead of being preoccupied with the distractions that young adult oppression provides, let’s take adulthood by the horns, grab onto it, make it our own, discharge about it, define it for ourselves, and not let it take us by surprise.


No identity is inherent in any human. Identities are patterns that are put on us. Oppression convinces us that the identities we carry are who we are. Most identities are based on insignificant characteristics that we are made to feel are important.

Identities divide people arbitrarily and then assign to them different distress patterns. One group gets a rock bound to its feet, another to its hands, and another to its back. And each group also gets to hang on to some of its humanness. For example, young people are allowed to be playful, and adults are encouraged to be responsible.

With each identity come patterns, internalized oppression, and pre-determined ideas about how to live. In the absence of identities, each human being would simply choose to do the things that most interest him or her, making a new decision in each new situation.

We don’t have to take on identities, but because they are so prevalent in our society, it is difficult not to. Once we have an identity, we have to be honest with ourselves that we have it (or parts of it). Avoiding discharging on a set of distresses just leaves us with undischarged distress.


Adulthood is one of these identities; it is not an inevitable “stage of life.” There is an insidious idea in our society that there is a huge difference between adults and children. Young people’s oppression is based on the idea that a full human being is an adult and that young people are in the process of becoming fully human. In fact, age is just the amount of time we’ve been alive. The only things that change as we get older are our bodies and the amount of information we have. Our ability to think doesn’t change (except to the extent that we discharge or accumulate distress patterns).

Information is just information. Having more information does not mean a person is smarter or more valuable. Furthermore, we all have different pieces of information. Each of us knows interesting things. Sharing information between humans is one of the most exciting things about human contact.

Adults are not much different from younger people. Certainly adults have at least as much in common with younger people as they have with other adults. The bottom line is that there are many more similarities among people than there are differences.


We are taught that adulthood is a natural progression in life, not a choice. This lie, in combination with ten to twenty years of being denied the right to make decisions for ourselves as young people, leaves us vulnerable to taking on an adult identity. Adult identity can involve:

• A false distinction between work and play. Work becomes what we do when we are being “productive and responsible,” and it often feels like a drag. Play becomes the time when we can relaxedly enjoy the world, ourselves, and other human beings, and it is often trivialized because these very human activities do not support the “good functioning” of capitalism. Without this false distinction between work and play, people of all ages would naturally organize with other people to do things and learn about and take responsibility for the world around us in fun and challenging ways.

• Pressure to be productive. Adults often equate our value with what we do and how hard we work.

• The attitude that adults know everything we need to know and that our learning is over.

• Pressure to take on our respective class roles and become active players in the continuation of capitalism. For some people this means becoming a sheet metal worker, for others a social worker, for others a corporate executive. For the vast majority of people, this means working.

• Believing more of the lies about the other identities we carry. We accept more rigid ideas about how we’re supposed to be as females or as black people or as members of any other group of which we are a part.

• Acceptance of increased isolation and the breaking of relationships with young people and other adults. The work of building relationships is treated as less important as we become adults.

• Becoming agents of the oppression of young people.

• Giving up on fulfilling our dreams; trivializing most things we thought about as young people.

• Pressure surrounding the making of choices and an attitude that the choices we do make will determine the rest of our lives.

• The idea that closeness equals sex.

• A rigid expectation that most people will become parents when they become adults, which affects all of us, whether or not we fulfill this expectation. The majority of adults are parents and are thus faced with parents’ oppression.

• Pressure to give up on changing the world to the way we want it.


As we take on adult identity, we sign a social contract. At the top of the contract, in bold print, is a list of all the privileges we think will come with becoming an adult. There are two types of privileges. The real privileges are aspects of humanness that have been denied to us by young people’s oppression, such as the right to take charge of our lives. The pseudo-privileges, based in distress, are what the oppressive society convinces us that we want, for example, drinking alcohol, having a credit card, and making our own consumer choices. At the bottom of the contract, in very fine print, are the terms of the agreement—things we would never agree to if we knew we had a choice—like agreeing to work for forty hours a week for the rest of our lives in a job that we don’t like. We get so distracted by the bold print that we don’t notice the fine print, and we sign the contract. Then two years later, or forty years later, we realize we made decisions about our lives or felt forced into situations that had nothing to do with
the life we had always dreamed of living. One of the
biggest dreams we sacrifice is living a life full of integrity.

Each person has his or her own individualized contract. Think for yourself about what your contract looks like. Discharge on each part. Decide or re-decide which parts you are actually willing to agree to and which you are not. The main thing is to make sure to discharge on all of it.

Our contracts also vary according to the other identities we carry. What is expected of adult women and men is very different. Adulthood varies according to class, race, culture, generation, where one lives, etc.


Imagine that people are like pots. The distresses we accumulate are kernels of popcorn. When we are young people, as long as enough contradiction is provided (like heat for cooking popcorn), we easily and quickly discharge and re-evaluate our chronic distresses—the popcorn pops out easily. As we take on adult identity, our chronic distresses get locked down harder. A top gets put on the pot, making it harder to completely get rid of rigidities through discharge. When young people discharge they seem to regain intelligence more quickly than adults. If adults become more systematic and skilled at discharging adult identity, we will be able to achieve re-emergence faster than before.

Some ways to discharge adult identity:

• What does your contract of adulthood say?

• What is your earliest memory of an adult?

• How do you think you have to be as an adult?

• Say to your counselor, “I’m going to make you a proper adult. I’m going to . . . .”

• What do you love about young adults? What can’t you stand about young adults?

• What do you love about young people? What can’t you stand about young people?

• What was/is life like for you during your first years as an adult?

• Discharge on the possibility of deciding to live forever or for a very long time.

• What scares you about dying?

• Proudly claim being an adult.

• Proudly claim your age and say the thoughts that follow.

• What do you love about being an adult? What do you hate about it?

• What do you love about adults? Why are you proud of us? What can’t you stand about adults?

• “I’m not an adult.”

• Where do you act “weird” that you didn’t when you were younger?

• Decide not to wait to live your life. What are you waiting until you’re older to do? Do it now.

• Have relationships with young people as peers, and use sessions to discharge on whatever gets difficult about that.

• Discharge on what it was like for you as a young person at different ages.

• Discharge about relationships you had when you were younger that were important to you that you lost.

• Give up things that you think you’re supposed to do as an adult, e.g., drinking vodka, wearing high heels and lipstick. What are the perks of adulthood? Give up irrational ones.

• What have you stopped wanting since you were a young person?

• How is your life changing as you get older? Which changes do you like? Which ones do you want to resist?

Ayana Raquel Morse
RC International Liberation Reference
Person for Young Adults
Oakland, California, USA


Last modified: 2014-10-06 23:50:15+00