Ritual and Psychotherapy

It’s nearly Midsummer and the days are bright and warm, sometimes hot. The birds greet the sun early, then quieten. Increasingly, territories are left undefended. The great round of the seasons is at its zenith. Every few days rain arrives, often carried within thunderstorms.

Seasons ritualize our lives, mirroring the human lifespan. We speak of the “spring” of youth, the “summer” of our years and our discontent, the “autumn” of post mid-life acceptance, and the “winter” of our grief, or our old age. Young adulthood is filled with passions of all sorts; it is “hot’ , prolific, and sensual. Adulthood seems a time for the hard work of agricultural summer. Post mid-life “autumns” are filled with assessing one’s life, and preparing for the transition into the unknown.

Psychotherapy is concerned with aiding the individual, group, or family understand the demands, workings, and needs that go with each developmental  season. The transitions between developmental tasks are fraught with danger and promise. It is in these transitions we are most likely to lose our sense of self or purpose.  Graduations, marriages, job changes, breakups, promotions, illnesses, the deaths of our friends and parents, the endless changes we experience in our lives, open one door and close another. We are, and are not, the same person today we were yesterday. How confusing!

Therapy offers the opportunity to see this life moment in context, and to heal from the torments of our own demons. We are, after all, where we are. There is no blame; there have been so many forces acting on our lives, many beyond our control. We can only stop, notice where we are on the great wheel of life, and go forward with as much grace, courage, and compassion as we can muster.

Psychotherapy offers a space in which we can take stock of our lives, understand our human predicament, and garner support for stepping into the abyss between this moment and the next. The rituals of therapy aim to support that: the rituals of sitting together, focusing on one’s life for the better part of an hour, and of thinking together about life’s meanings. There are other rituals: waiting, sitting in the same chair most weeks, writing one’s check for co-insurance.

Together, we may make other rituals, rituals to mark the turning points in your life, and in our work together. Some of these rituals may seem everyday, others “big”. Each has the capacity to be sacred, if that is your intent. Some rituals may be unique to you, others may have been conducted countless times over innumerable generations. Each will be enacted with the intent of bringing order, meaning,  and healing to your life.

Although it is July, the first traces of red have appeared in the leaves of trees in our yard. They remind us autumn is not far off. The seeds of change are planted, one thing will become another. Perhaps we can stop, notice, and appreciate the moment. May we find gratitude, even in the midst of change. May we recall that given time, all transforms, and all heal. May our rituals start with a breath, and close with a return to balance. May our appreciation for this fleeting moment be ever renewed.

2 thoughts on “Ritual and Psychotherapy

  1. This made for nice reading 🙂

    It makes me think that the seasons themselves are a ritual… spring, summer, autumn, winter.. and the same set of seasons comes again. Perhaps the universe itself is ritualistic, at least seen from a Hindu perspective. It emanates from the Absolute Reality, expands and collapses back into time, only to emanate again and then return again. Some scriptures call it the dawn of creation and the night of creation which follow each other rythmically..

    1. Yes, seasons everywhere come and go, and of course, there are different seasonal different markers in different geographical locals. I think we are genetically programmed to pattern ourselves after the world around us; we both see ourselves reflected in the world, and reflect it. While Westerners tend not to think of themselves as leading ritualized lives, we do of course. Pachamama creates order through ritual, and we do the same. Rapid climate change is a problem, in part, as change overwhelms the rituals we have evolved over long periods of time to help us find order in, and live with, the natural world.

      Thank you for your very thoughtful response.

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