Creating and Altering Rituals
Let’s look at a therapist office, where people come to us to talk about their troubles during a set period of time. Although many of us assume this is helpful as we are slowly uncovering who we really are, from a Confucius standpoint, the greater benefit comes from the fact that we have set up a ritual space in which we take on “as-if” roles that we cannot play outside. Therapy helps break the patterns that dominate our lives, and through the interactions between us, the therapist and the patient, it allows us to construct a different way of relating to others. But inevitably we fall back to old patterns outside the therapist’s office. So, patient goes to therapy weekly and keep on practicing breaking those old patterns and through repetition slowly develop new ways of interacting and eventually construct a different and better self.
How Confucius Vision of “As-If” Ritual Can Be A Valuable Complement to Psychotherapy
When I am working with patients who feel that they have lost their balance, I often asked them to describe their daily and weekly routines in great detail. Their responses give me a better idea of the degree of structure or order in their lives. Many individuals are unaware of having developed mundane routines. Although I am asking for details, my primary interest is in their overall pattern of changing and unchanging activities.
An awareness of that pattern may be important in later phase of my work with them. If they seem unaware of what they do regularly, I ask them to pay attention to their activities and write them down. For some patients I may also recommend a temporary increase in the regularity with which they do things. I may also suggest that they introduce new rituals into their routine. For example, if they are leading a supercharged lifestyle, the ritual may be to pause breathe or release breathe once an hour. Or if the patients are feeling overwhelmed by sudden changes, I may recommend that they clean or organise something familiar. The sense of agency and order that comes from this is often calming.