Tear It, Shred It, Burn It

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My brother, Chuck, recently shared an item on a refreshing media outlet named Nice News. Their approach to news is straightforward– “News, but only the good stuff.” He shared an article about a study that discussed an approach to diffusing anger based on research from Japan.  The researchers proposed a simple and easy-to-implement method for coping with anger: writing down our negative thoughts and physically discarding them by shredding or tearing apart or crumpling the paper. This act alone helped many participants dissipate their frustrations effectively.

Rituals, I’ve realized, are more than just actions. They are vital psychological tools that alter our perceptions by changing our behaviors in an organized manner. For instance, the daily ritual of brushing and flossing promotes dental health and, as research shows, improves physical health.  Perhaps the actions of starting our day taking care of ourselves translate to other good behaviors like avoiding sugary treats or even getting a workout scheduled into the calendar.

I remember many years ago when my wife, Sheila, was facing a significant life challenge not of her choosing.  She was denied tenure at the university, even after getting an 8-1 vote by the tenure committee in her favor. She chose not to dwell in defeat. Instead, she choreographed an event to signify a bold step forward. Inviting friends and colleagues to gather at our home, Sheila introduced a symbolic act of closure. She brought out a file cabinet filled with her academic papers and invited each of us to cast these papers into a bonfire one folder at a time. As the flames rose, Sheila led a ‘Letting It Go’ Dance around the fire pit, inviting everyone to join and embrace the spirit of release and renewal (picture above.)

This ceremony was not just about letting go of the past—it was a celebration of my third law of resilience, which is to “bounce forward,”—clearing the deck for new opportunities that awaited her. It underscored the importance of marking transitions with positive affirmations and shared communal experiences, reinforcing our capacity to overcome setbacks and reframe them as beginnings.

Whether simple daily acts or significant ceremonial events, rituals remind us of our resilience. They empower us to transform our reality, reinvent our narrative, and move forward with a renewed sense of purpose. As we incorporate these practices into our lives, we enhance our well-being and inspire those around us to find their paths to resilience.

Consider creating your resilience rituals. They don’t have to be elaborate; even the smallest act can be a stepping stone to greater well-being. Start by taking a moment each morning to write down something you wish to let go of or an intention you want to embrace. Next, imagine your actions to enact and embody the changes you seek. If you want to let go, toss it. If you want to embrace it, put it in your purse or wallet.

I’d love to hear how you use rituals to transform your perspective and actions. Connect with us in the comments below or on LinkedIn. Let’s inspire each other as we strive to rebound from life’s setbacks and rise to new heights with resilience and purpose.

© Richard Citrin 2024

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