Rituals: they connect us to one another and to ourselves. They steep us in ceremony, and through repetition and familiarity, allow us to meld the familiar with the unknown.We think of rituals in connection with religion, or with major life transitions. But rituals, big and small, come in many forms that can both anchor our lives and help us move forward. For me, psychoanalytic therapy is a ritual.
Setting the Stage: Habitual Sounds, Sights, Smells
The ritual of therapy begins with an intention to get to therapy.As you make your way to your session, what thoughts, emotions, and experiences arise? Are you nervous today? Relieved? Is there a sense of mindfulness setting in, allowing you to sink into your heart and mind, and take stock of what is present?What’s it like to return to your therapist’s neighborhood, and their office with its familiar colors and decorations? In ritual, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and these details added together set the stage for therapy.
Sitting in the Frame, with an Open Door
Like a ritual, therapy is shaped by specific protocol and certain rules.These boundaries and repetitive aspects create the order or “frame” of therapy that allows for a contained space for healing and exploration. The familiar and stable parts of therapy allow the therapist and patient to explore the unknown, and take risks, together. In stark contrast, the simplicity and repetition of the therapy process invite spontaneity, play, and all that the patient brings to each session.
Quiet and Connection
These days, sustained human connection is easily displaced by an endless supply of cyber sound bites. We may find ourselves needing space and calm, and amidst the noise of our lives, the ritual of therapy offers a needed pause. Though virtual communication is, for many, a constant option, studies have shown we are lonely and in need of connection. Ritual reintroduces us to one another and to ourselves.The ritual of therapy allows us to return to our inner world, working together within the therapeutic relationship between patient and therapist.
Create your Own Ritual: Therapy
Dedicating yourself to a ritual can cultivate keen interest, patience, and presence—qualities our fast-paced world doesn’t always value or fortify. Where does ritual fit into your life? Can therapy be a beneficial ritual in your life?
“Ritual can be the Queen of England or the people of the Great Plains. It somehow transcends time and space… We could learn to listen to the wind; we could learn to notice that it’s raining or snowing or hailing or calm. We could reconnect with the weather that is ourselves… We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea.”
-Pema Chodron, “The Wisdom of No Escape”
WILA offers low-cost therapy with no limit on the number of sessions you are entitled to. If you’re interested, please call WILA at (424) 371-5191 or go online to set up your weekly (or biweekly, or thrice weekly) ritual!