While attending some educational meetings last week I had the opportunity to listen to a speaker by the name of Dr. Glen Grigg, who is a clinical counsellor and teacher for City University in Vancouver and the Justice Institute of BC.
Glen spoke about rituals and the role they play in our health and wellness. Glen shared a story about a family in a war torn environment where the mother made a point of having the children continue the daily rituals around preparing for and attending school (taught by the mother), having meals together (despite having next to no food), and doing homework.
Glen highlighted that consistency with our rituals, particularly those that are deeply rooted with our identity, can be a protective factor during times of turmoil and stress. He posed the following question:
Can you think of a ritual in your life, and make a story about how it defines a part of who you are?
This led to some deep introspection on my part, as well as a little bit of anxiety when I began to self-diagnose some of my rituals as potentially compulsive behaviors (for example, I have a ritual around the way I enjoy one of my favorite TV shows, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and I will refuse to start the episode unless everything is prepared accordingly).
The second part of the exercise, looking for a story that explains a part of who I am, has occupied a lot of my thinking lately. I had the opportunity to travel to Prince Rupert this week, and it so happens that the eulichan fish are currently running. I am aware of the significance of the eulichan for the First Nations of this area and that there are a number of rituals tied to the catching and processing of these fish. I am sure many individuals who engage in these rituals would be able to share stories that highlight the personal and cultural significance of the fish and the practices. I took a picture of all of the activity on the water around the running eulichan and took some time to do some personal reflection.
I was reminded that the only fish I’ve brought home since moving to Terrace have been donations from friends (my goal this summer is to go river fishing and come home with my own fish, not just a story of the one that got away!). One ritual that has had significant impact on my life recently is starting to read together with my wife. I think this ritual tells more of a story about our relationship than telling a story about me as an individual. The process of choosing a book to read, settling in and getting comfortable together, and then reading/being read to all have meaning associated with them. The net result has been a protected time to be close as a couple, where neither of us necessarily need to think about the words to say because they’re written for us and we can simply be present with one another.
If anyone is interested in sharing, I would be very interested to hear your responses and thoughts about a ritual that helps you stay well. What story does it tell about who you are? I would also be keen to hear from anyone who does catch and prepare eulichan, as I don’t know as much about the practices and rituals involved as I would like! Your turn – share in the comments below!
Additional reading on rituals:
- Finding relief in ritual: A healthy dose of repetitive behaviour reduces anxiety (from Science Daily)
- How a simple ritual can make you feel better (from Psychology Today)
About Nick Rempel
Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. He posts a monthly blog, "The Grizzly Truth," which aims to shed light on men's mental wellness. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.