You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born. Fear not the strangeness you feel. The future must enter you long before it happens. Just wait for the birth, for the hour of the new clarity. -Rainer Maria Rilke
As we journey through life, we may find ourselves scared or anxious, uncomfortable and worried as we let go of one stage of life, step into the new or unknown, while trying to make friends with the discomfort. And in so doing, we find the courage to step into the next phase of our lives.
In many cultures, such transitions are marked with rites of passage. Rites of Passage are as varied as cultures and have served an important role in bringing communities together to mark an ending and commemorate a new beginning. In fact, a rite of passage is an established way to make sense of two questions that every therapist is familiar with:
“How do I make meaning of my life during this time of transition?”
“How do I live authentically in this present moment, honoring and letting go of the past, and taking a meaningful step towards an intentional future?”
In making the link between therapy and ceremonial rites of passage, I’d like to share some thoughts and ideas.
A ceremony is said to have three important steps:
1. The Opening Phase signifies the ending of the old, the termination of what came before and brings us into the heart of the ceremony.
The Opening Phase or beginning stage of therapy signifies a willingness to acknowledge what’s not working, and what needs to change. In terms of Rilke’s poem, I like to think of this as the stage where we begin to see the images of what could be different. And this is usually when a client takes the brave step of calling a therapist, making an appointment with change.
2. The Threshold Phase is the actual “doing” of the ceremony, the meat of the matter, the rituals, the expression of intent, the witnessing of the individual’s journey and the celebration of the movement.
The Threshold Phase or middle stage of therapy involves the actual work, the exploration of possibilities, the trying out of alternative ways of being, and this is when we might encounter Rilke’s fear of strangeness. A good therapist, like a good friend can remind you that the strangeness is just the future entering you, so it can be born.
3. The Closure Phase of a rite of passage is the beginning of the new, when the doer or initiate steps into the intention, beginning a new phase of their journey.
I believe that therapy, like any ceremony, must have a definite beginning, middle and end. The Closure Phase or Termination of therapy allows us to celebrate successes and honor the gains made through this journey. It also allows us to have a positive and healthy ending, a new template of completion.
It is my privilege to hold your hand during your dark night, and an honor to mid-wife the birth of your dream. I truly believe in the value of therapy, as a way to gain closure as you embark on the next phase of your journey with new-found clarity.
May you find strength and solace in these words, and may you find comfort in your own modern rite of passage through this transition.