Rituals have been part of human life since the dawn of man.
Definitions of the word ritual are broad and varied:
-“The body of ceremonies or rites used in a place of worship”.
-“The prescribed form of conducting a formal secular ceremony – the ritual of an inauguration“.
-“A detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed”.
There are those rituals of great significance such as the ceremonies of baptism, confirmation, bar- or bat mitzvah, marriage, funerals, etc. These momentous occasions may be experienced just once, or perhaps a few times during the course of your life.
Then there are those that may be less noticed, but more regular such as an established routine – a morning cup of coffee, a nightcap before bed, a daily meditation or prayer time.
Created to celebrate events, seasons, holidays, rites of passage, anniversaries, special moments, victories, etc., there is great comfort and validation to be found in rituals of all kinds.
We humans derive pleasure from a certain amount of stability in our lives – the kind of stability that comes from forming patterns and habits. There is safety to be found and experienced in the knowledge of a routine practice.
It is precisely because of this that rituals, particularly those performed on a regular basis, can transform into addictions.
Addiction is defined as “the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something”.
Say you begin a fitness ritual designed to validate, strengthen and improve the health of your physical body. So you decide to set aside time each morning before work or your daily activities to go for a run.
You get into a comfortable routine and begin to reap the benefits of improved health and wellbeing.
Pretty soon you find that if you miss a day, you just don’t feel as good. You feel out of sorts, cranky even. The ritual is so well established that when not observed, you are thrown off-balance and into a state of confusion. Your body craves the adrenal high that comes from running.
As time goes on you begin to experience some pain, or sustain an injury from overuse. You consult health and medical professionals and begin to get the message from everyone that you need to find another form of exercise, but you cannot even begin to imagine not running!
Your fitness ritual has metamorphosed into an addiction that is now detrimental to your wellbeing!
What rituals do you have in your life that you can’t imagine doing without?
Is it that morning cup of coffee that originally began as a pleasurable way to set the energy for your day, that now you “need” in order to simply have enough energy to function?
Or is it that nightcap that began as a way to slow down at the end of your day and signal time for the body to relax, that has now become a necessity in order for you to sleep?
Take a look at the rituals, or habits you have created in your life. Which ones are still within your control and which have you become enslaved by, that are now addictions thinly disguised as rituals? You may be surprised.
Just recognizing when a ritual has become an addiction is empowering. It gives you the opportunity to take back control, change your routine and free yourself. It provides an opportunity for you to heal yourself and gain more awareness of how an energy can change from a positive to a negative vibration, or from a space of validation and celebration to a space of control.
For each ritual in your life, ask yourself the question: Ritual or addiction?
Photos courtesy of stock.xchng and flickr.