"Being part of a community, after all, means sacrificing a sliver of one’s own individuality in favor of a shared identity... members need to trust each other enough to know the sacrifice will be worth it.” - Jonelle Seitz
What are Connection Rituals?
Connection rituals are practices designed to deepen connection and increase group unity. They serve to empower people around a shared goal or interest.
Ritual practices are as varied and unique as individual humans. Rituals often emerge and evolve organically, developing and growing with the participants. Rituals are individualized to the needs of the participants, and built on the intentions of those individuals.
We can create rituals that evoke a certain mindset, such as finding gratitude in our life. Or evoke a certain fear that we wish to confront, such as the fear of death. The true power of rituals lies in the ability to ingrain intentionality into the fabric of our actions.
Anything that is done consistently and is intentionally designed to deepen connection may be considered a connection ritual. A common example in modern society is family dinner. Sitting down for family dinner can be a great opportunity to develop a deeper connection as a family. Unfortunately, the intention to deepen connection is not always there. Often we go to dinner and the intention is the opposite, to disconnect or escape through food.
Connection rituals have incredible power to connect and unify people. But that only happens when they are intentionally designed and created by the people that use them.
"Rituals are practices capable of providing identity to a community and creating bonds among its members... Such rituals function as a way of uniting groups through resistance, an unconscious message that ensures “if we’re united, we can survive any pain, any challenge.”
Why incorporate Rituals in your life?
Rituals can be used to empower positive life changes. Much of the empowerment comes from the connection between members. Group rituals show us that our actions and decisions have real effects on more than just ourselves. Through striving to better our own lives, we actively help to better the lives of others.
An example of this from my life was when Rory made the choice to refuse his methadone on his first day in rehab and begin the process towards getting off opioids completely, that motivated me, more than anything that I could have done for myself at that time in my life. And it has become a milestone and turning point in all of our lives, not just Rory's.
Rituals provide a consistent structure that we can return to and continually build upon. Gaining actionable insight on a weekly basis. Growing and evolving as humans alongside the rituals.
Ex: Rituals keep us accountable. We perform our rituals every week, regardless of how we feel in that moment. Each week we revisit the feelings that our decisions have created. The decisions I make in my everyday life become more meaningful because the ritual practice does not allow me to ignore or hide from them, as I had in the past. If I decide to make a destructive choice I will feel the consequences of that choice.
Rituals facilitate us in dealing with our fears and anxieties in a way that empowers us, rather than hinders us. In our everyday life, fears and anxieties are naturally repressed because they interfere with our present moment objectives. But as we ignore them and push them out of conscious awareness, they continue to grow and exert their effects on us subconsciously. In a ritual setting we can allow, even encourage, these fears and anxieties into conscious awareness, so we can acknowledge them, accept them, and let them go. Shedding their control in the process.
Ex: It wouldn't be productive if I was feeling the anxiety of my mortality 100% of the time throughout my day. I would be overwhelmed and paralyzed by that feeling. But the alternative, not allowing myself to feel it at all, doesn't serve me either. Rituals provide us with a safe setting in which we can encourage ourselves to feel repressed emotions and feelings, in a safe and productive way.
Ritual settings encourage vulnerability, openness, and acceptance. As we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we develop trust. As we develop trust we deepen our connection with ourselves and others. When we are intimately connected with others we are better adapted to confront our problems as individuals.
Ex: When I wanted to confront my fear of rejection I attempted to be more open and put myself out there. I did get rejected, and this hurt, it made me want to stop. But when I return to my ritual, and I express the feeling, I gain valuable insight, I learn that this painful emotion is actually incredibly valuable. And it motivates me to continue putting myself in situations that run the risk of rejection.
Communities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when they are created by everybody. - Jane Jacobs