It is possible to look at the doctoral experience as a rite of passage. According to Arnold van Gennep’s classic work these rituals are performed at critical points of one’s life (birth, puberty, marriage, etc.) and exhibited a tripartite structure. At first, a participant is separated from the social group of which they originally belonged (the world at large). This leads to a second stage where he or she is in a place of marginality or liminality where their social status is in flux (ABD). Finally, there is a reincorporation of the participant into a new social status or group (Ph.D.!).
However, there seems to be further gradations in the doctoral process, as Jorge Cham has been exploring over at PHD Comics. The best of these gradations is what to do with people who are particularly in my situation: the dissertation is defended, revised and filed, but the degree has yet to clear.