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Monday, June 8, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: Creating Personal Rituals as Part of Your Emotional Healing Process

In a prior article,  The Power of Creating Personal Rituals, I discussed creating personal rituals and how meaningful rituals can be to enhance a sense of well being.  In this article, I'm focusing specifically on creating rituals for emotional healing.

Creating Personal Rituals as Part of Your Emotional Healing Process

What is a Ritual?
In the most general terms, life is full of rituals.

Every culture has rituals.  Rituals are usually associated with meaningful religious or cultural observances where there is a ceremonial act or a series of acts that are performed in a certain way. It can be at certain times of the day, month, year or certain seasons.

The acts or words of the ritual are often done in a certain repeated way.  There might be certain places associated with the ritual and particular garments that are worn.

Rituals can be done in groups, as when people from a religious group join together to observe a holiday, or rituals can be a solo observance.

Meaningful rituals usually have a mindful quality to them.

Rituals mark transitions from:
  • Childhood to adulthood
  • Uninitiated to initiated
  • Single to being married
  • Life to death
  • One season to another
  • One state of mind to another
and so on

Most children learn about rituals from a young age.

Children Learn About Rituals at a Young Age:  Bedtime Stories

So, for instance, when I was a young child, my mother would read a book to me before I went to sleep, which is a common ritual that parents have for helping children to transition from day to night and from being awake to relaxing into sleep.  It's also a bonding experience between parent and child.

Artists and writers are often known to have certain rituals (or habits) that they engage in before they write.  It can help them to be more disciplined about doing their work as well as helping them to transition from their everyday thoughts and feelings to their more creative inner world.

You don't have to be a spiritual person or an artist to create a ritual.  In fact, many rituals that people engage in everyday aren't spiritual at all.  Think of your morning ritual, which most people have.  It's easier to transition from sleeping to being awake if you have somewhat of a ritual.

Creating Personal Rituals as Part of Your Emotional Healing Process


Your morning ritual might begin by making coffee or tea, feeling the warmth of the cup, smelling the aroma, and enjoying the first taste as you begin your day.  You might enjoy a few moments before the rest of the family gets up.  Maybe you look out the window and see the sun rising.

Creating Personal Rituals as Part of Your Healing Process

Rituals also don't have to be rigid or dogmatic.  As a matter of fact, it's better if they're not because then they can lose part of what's comforting and meaningful about having a ritual.

Why Are Rituals So Powerful?
Rituals create a bridge between your conscious and unconscious mind.  They appeal to the right side of your brain which is associated with creativity and emotions.  In that sense, a ritual can be emotionally transformative.

Creating Personal Rituals as Part of Your Healing Process

The intention, preparation and structure of the ritual as well as anything that is meaningful to you that you use to create a ritual often creates a transcendent quality that goes beyond you and your everyday concerns.

A ritual, whether done in a group or alone, can also be centering and grounding.  It can help you to relax you and clarify your thoughts and intentions.

In an earlier article, I discussed how setting an intention each day can be powerful (see my article:  Starting the Day With an Intention).

In another article about dream incubation, I discussed how you can set an intention for your dreams (see my article:  Dream Incubation: Planting Seeds), which came out of a dream intensive workshop that I attended with Jungian analyst, Robert Bosnak, who wrote the book, Embodied Imagination.

Dream Incubation as Ritual

Whether you set an intention for an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year or for the rest of your life, just the act of setting an intention is meaningful and helps you to focus on what's important to you.

The repetitiveness of a ritual can also be trance-like so that each time you do a ritual, you enter into a certain internal state, both physically and mentally, that is part of the ritual intention.

Why Create an Emotional Healing Ritual?
There are many ways to heal emotionally:
  • Talking to friends and loved ones
  • Healing in psychotherapy
  • Writing in a personal journal
  • Listening to music
  • Visiting places that are meaningful to you

and so on

In addition to these other ways of healing, creating a personal healing ritual is empowering because you're creating it yourself in ways that will be healing for you.

A ritual can be as elaborate or as simple as you like.

Creating a ritual is only limited by your imagination.

A ritual can be as simple as doing a particular meditation each day at a certain time.

Meditation as Part of Emotional Healing Ritual

There is a simple meditation that I learned from Nancy Napier, a psychotherapist in NYC, who taught my first year of Somatic Experiencing.

When it was time to begin the class, she would have us get quiet and centered in our bodies.  This settling down and focusing on our internal experience was a transition from whatever we were doing before to being present in a meaningful way in that moment.

After a few moments, she asked us, in a quiet and soft voice, to feel ourselves connecting with all the healers in the city.  Then, gradually she expanded it to include all the healers in the country, and then all the healers in the world.

After this short meditation, the feeling in the room changed.  Everyone looked more relaxed and open to learning.

I often use this meditation at the end of psychotherapy sessions with clients who like it because it's so grounding and centering.  It's especially helpful if we've been working on trauma.  After this meditation, even if trauma work was difficult, clients usually leave the session feeling relaxed.

This is a simple enough meditation that anyone can use it on his or her own.

If you prefer more elaborate rituals, you can use candles, artwork, pictures, poetry, movement, flowers, statues, inspirational sayings, and "props" to help engage your inner world.

Creating Personal Rituals as Part of Your Emotional Healing Process

Some people who have health problem set up a space in their homes where they place objects that are meaningful to whatever they're working on healing.  This space can be a corner of a credenza or it can be a table that is set aside only for this purpose.

Engaging and inspiring your inner world is what's most important in terms of creating a healing ritual.

Rituals don't need to be solemn.  Rituals can be a lot of fun.

You can use humor, if you like, which, in itself, can be healing.  Humor can help to lighten your mood, especially if you've been feeling weighed down by stress or illness.

When you're creating a healing ritual, the important thing is to make your own.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.













































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