Context & Experience:
In this video, Dr. Marc Gopin share a simple, yet powerful experience of a spontaneous ritual that helped established a safe space for dialogue among Syrian refugees.
This experience is a useful reminder that, to be effective, rituals don’t need to be complicated and that they often borrow from other cultures, relying on universal symbols that can speak across spiritual traditions and help build relationships.
Ritual has a deep history of facilitating social bonding. As highly social animals, primates have an extensive range of social rituals designed to build trust, promote group harmony, and reinforce social relations. Ritual’s effectiveness in building social relationships can be traced to two important functions: (1) ritual focuses attention on a particular behavioral or sensory signal at the exclusion of other competing signals, and (2) ritual inhibits pre-potent defensive responses long enough to allow social emotions and social-bonding mechanisms time to operate (see White Paper). In the case of this ritual, attention drawn to the fig and the blessing offered a momentary respite from the acute sense of sadness and separation felt by the refugees. The space created through the ritual – physical, mental, and emotional – allowed for social bonding among the participants. Further research is needed to explore how rituals might contribute to satisfy the need for belonging and interconnectedness, which can contribute to greater control over the stress response.
In this short video, Dr. Matt Rossano, Professor of Psychology at Southeastern Louisiana University, explains how, in more general terms, ritualized behaviors are important to transform conflicts.
1.3. Group rituals can allow a mix of social interaction and integrative self-reflection that contribute to enhance human cognition
2.1. Group rituals help facilitate social bonding
3.2. Rituals provide a sense of safety that can allow for the suspension of the fight/flight response and can ease the stigma around traumatic experiences
4.2. Rituals serve as an important mechanism to convey intentions and create a space for the possibility of mutual understanding