There has been a lot of research that has shown connections between our physical body and our emotions. In other words, how we feel physically impacts how we feel emotionally, and how we feel emotionally impacts how we feel physically.
We probably each have noticed this connection in our own lives, but lately I’ve been thinking about how we can use this connection to help us deal with emotional problems and hang-ups.
The Power of Ritual
One way forward is to harness the power of ritual. A ritual is a set of behaviors you perform regularly that has some sort of meaning attached to it. Research has found that engaging in rituals can help us make progress with emotional problems. This is true even if we are skeptical that the ritual has any real effect.
“Getting Stuck” on Writing
It is helpful if the physical ritual is related to the emotional hang-up you are trying to resolve. For example, author Amy Alkon talked about a ritual she engages in when she is feeling stuck in her writing. When she finds herself in a stuck place, she gets up, leaves the house, and walks to the bank, where she withdraws $20 from the ATM machine. Then, she walks home. Often, she finds that simply engaging in this ritual clears things up for her, and she is able to make progress on her writing task when she gets back to her computer.
Can you see how Amy’s physical ritual is related to the emotional hang-up she is trying to resolve? She is feeling stuck in her writing. Feeling stuck involves being stationary and not moving. What’s the opposite of feeling stuck? It has something to do with making progress and moving forward. So, she takes the idea of making progress and moving forward, and turns that into a ritual. She literally “moves forward” and walks to the bank. Because of the connection between our physical body and emotions, this physical ritual of “moving forward” helps her move forward in her writing as well.
3 Steps to Create a Helpful Ritual
Here’s a 3-step process to create a helpful ritual in your own life:
- Create a metaphor of your problem. Take the problem you are struggling with, and try to create a metaphor that represents it. For example, are you feeling “stuck”? Are you “weighed down”? Do you feel like you are “carrying a heavy burden”? Do you feel like someone is “pushing you around”? Come up with a metaphor that paints a physical picture of your problem.
- Create a metaphor for the way forward. What needs to happen for you to get what you want? Do you need to “move forward”? Do you need to “stand your ground”? Do you need to “destroy what is blocking you”? Do you need to “wash your hands” of the situation? Come up with a metaphor that paints a physical picture of the way forward.
- Do the ritual regularly. Engage in your ritual on a regular basis. Every time you do your ritual, you strengthen the connection between the physical and the emotional parts of yourself. Do your ritual every day for 3 weeks, and then reassess. Have you noticed any movement in your emotional issue or hang-up?
What do you think about using a physical ritual to help with an emotional issue or hang-up? What rituals have you used in your own life to make progress on emotional problems?