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The Restorative Power of Ritual

Rituals play a number of critical roles

  • Rituals in the face of loss can help us feel less grief.
  • Rituals with families can make us feel closer.
  • Rituals with our partners can reinforce our commitment to each other.

They are not “elaborate religious ceremonies”, but more often just private and idiosyncratic activities.

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The Restorative Power of Ritual

The Restorative Power of Ritual

https://hbr.org/2020/04/the-restorative-power-of-ritual

hbr.org

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Key Ideas

Rituals and the sense of control

They are a powerful human mechanism for managing extreme emotions and stress, and we should be leaning on them now.
The utility of the ritual isn’t related to its practicality. Absurd rituals can have high utility. If it helps you create that sense of control, if it calms your anxiety, that’s what matters.

Rituals play a number of critical roles

  • Rituals in the face of loss can help us feel less grief.
  • Rituals with families can make us feel closer.
  • Rituals with our partners can reinforce our commitment to each other.

They are not “elaborate religious ceremonies”, but more often just private and idiosyncratic activities.

Rituals and repetition

Repeated rituals seem to gain in strength, but even one-time rituals can be effective (for example, burning pictures in the place where you met your ex).

Creating new rituals

In dealing with the current pandemic, people are using technology to recreate their rituals as best they can. But they’re also inventing new ones.
The loss of many of our public rituals, including things as simple as meeting a friend for coffee or a drink, has led people to naturally look for new ones.

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  • Rituals that aren't connected tangibly with practical outcomes, bond people and demonstrate cultural affiliation.
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Over-imitation enables us to maintain a distinctively human culture.

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The shared rituals and their importance
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Adapting shared rituals

While going through difficult times, we are all losing, more or less, the shared rituals we used to have with others. But that is not actually such a bad thing.

Instead of thinking about what was lost, we could think about what we still have and figure out ways to make the most of the time spent at home, like staying more with our family or getting in touch again with old friends by calling them.

Making new rituals

It’s not that difficult to create rituals online. Focus on:

  • Asking people to bring to their online gathering something symbolic to share, to create a sense of connectedness.
  • Marking the moment as something special by having someone provide an opening statement.
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Everyone is stressed out as there are losses all around. Most of us miss life before the lockdown. It is a good idea to let those feelings come out, listen attentively to the partner, and maybe give a hug, while avoiding any ‘fix-it’ response.

Rituals

Rituals are important to maintain a positive connection. A ritual can be anything that makes you and your partner regularly turn towards each other, emotionally, physically or spiritually.


Rituals of connection form the pillars of this culture, making the bond stronger by reinforcing it.

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Prolonged uncertainty

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Ambiguous loss

We have lost so much, and many elements missing from our normal lives are intangible and can hardly be identified. Because it is ambiguous, we find it difficult to know what we are mourning.

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Grieving the ending of a series

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Connecting to stories and characters

We are genuinely invested in the outcome of a story and the state of the various characters.

These connections to fictional stories and characters are why many people share their opinions about the plots and characters’ actions. People feel so connected, and in some cases, they feel like they have ownership over something.

TV series as a form of detachment

For many people, watching a show regularly can be a form of temporarily checking out of what’s going on in the real world.

It’s a way we detach from our own issues, our own problems. And the thought of giving that up and coming back to our own world is a little frightening for people.

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