Rituals Through Time and Space

Rituals Through Time and Space

Why Go Directly to Cinco, Start With Dos

“Rituals have the power to mark
or to move us
through transitions.”
— Rabbi Roni Handler
Prayers from the Heart

Evan Imber-Black has written the following “working definition of ritual”:

Rituals are coevolved symbolic acts that include not only the ceremonial aspects of the actual presentation of the ritual, but the process of preparing for it as well. It may or may not include words, but does have both open and closed parts which are “held” together by a guiding metaphor. Repetition can be a part of rituals through either the content, the form, or the occasion.

Now if that is a confusing set of phrases, clauses, subclauses and equivocations, I might suggest something akin to the archetypical Supreme Court definition of pornography – you know it when you see it.

  • Rituals can bind and divide. They can promote differentiation, enhance fusion and/or help create and maintain cutoffs, sometimes all at the same time.
  • Rituals help mark entries and exits. Therapeutic healing rituals help make meaning of loss and create a foundation from which to invest in developing new primary relationships in the future.
  • Rituals can provide both a true and false sense of safety and security.

Participation in the multigenerational history and transmission of family rituals can provide a solid foundation for self-differentiation, growth and maturity or be used to enhance fusion and stuck-togetherness.

So how to understand the structure, function and process of rituals from the perspective of Bowen Family Systems Theory.

Rituals make manifest the rules, roles, expectations, taboos, relationship requirements and Invisible Psychological Contracts of our extended families of origin in both time and space.

Ronald B. Cohen MD of Family Focused Solutions LLC discusses family rituals.Rituals provide a laboratory to research and learn about one’s family of origin in a different way; to take a larger, systemic, multi-generational perspective for exploring…

“The role of the family as an emotional unit that governs individual behavior and development” (Kerr & Bowen, Family Evaluation, 1988).

Now how can we use “naturally-occurring” rituals to foster new thoughts, understandings, actions and behaviors. With apologies to Jack Nicholson, there are four easy pieces:

  1. Collect data
  2. Make hypotheses and consider interventions
  3. Evaluate reactions and responses
  4. Try, try again

Learning about your family heritage can free you to change your future. So next time you’re home for the holidays, attending a life cycle event, or just recycling the same old, same old, consider how to do it differently. Strive to bring your behavior more in line with your deepest beliefs, even if this means upsetting family members by disobeying family “rules.” The life you save may be your own.

When stuck in the muck and mire of family fusion, consultation with a well-trained Bowen Family Systems Theory Relationship Consultant and “Coach” may help provide a foundation for the creation of new rituals that support both autonomy and emotional connection.

Best of luck on your unfolding journey of a lifetime.

Please share your thoughts about, and experiences with, Family Rituals in the “Leave a Reply” box below. To request more information or contact me directly for any reason, please click here. If you found this post helpful, please don’t keep it a secret. You are encouraged to click on the buttons below and share this article with your own networks. Looking forward to continuing the conversation.

Ronald B Cohen, MD, PC www.familyfocusedsolutions.com Ronald B. Cohen, MD
Bowen Family Systems Coach
1 Barstow Road, Suite P-10
Great Neck, NY 11021
(516) 466-7530

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