Rites of passage

Life is a process of change. We encounter many transition points in our lives. Some of them we recognize and go through willingly, some we try to resist and some we aren’t aware of. Rites of passage are ceremonies that traditionally help us to leave one group and enter another. We still have some of these today, depending on which culture you belong to. They include baptism, first communion, the bar or bat mitzvah, the quinceañera, graduation ceremonies and marriage.

Our culture seems to have rites of passage in place for the first part of life. Then, for many of us, there’s silence and we’re on our own in uncharted territory. This can feel like a loss of hope or meaning or sense of direction. Or it can show up as a tendency to cling to the identity of youth—the last one to be conferred on us with any sense of clarity.

But again and again we reach places of transition and it’s essential that we navigate them with some degree of success. The passage from youth to midlife is one such transition point. Another is the encounter with mortality. And another, the transition from middle age to old age.

When unrecognized or refused the need to change can show up as symptoms. Depression. Anxiety. Bereavement that doesn’t seem to resolve. Compulsive behaviors that suddenly escalate.

Therapy is a space where such transitions can be recognized, honored and fulfilled. Our culture might not provide instruction for such experiences. But each of us carries in him or herself the material and even the form that we need. In this work we refer to cultural tradition and mythology, as well as to your personal history, to elicit the knowledge that will initiate you into the next stage of your life.

To review articles of mine on this material, please follow this link and this link.