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Cree Dueker

Professor Robert Ryan


Psychology 410
May 18, 2015
My Definition of Psychological Healing Rituals
Indigenous systems of knowledge and in particular indigenous healing encompasses the
whole system of traditional ways of knowing and being. Using these traditional ways of knowing
to promote health and wellbeing as well as using traditional healing practices to help individuals
when they are not well. Psychological healing rituals are fairly common in Native communities
and promote tradition, connection to culture, and traditional health. Meditation type rituals are
used to produce a state of relaxation which has both mental and physical benefits. Other healing
rituals such as religious ones or ones including rites of passage have the added effects of
calming, comforting, and reassuring those taking part through the use of traditional rituals.
Many native healing rituals have a spiritual connection or context and take advantage of
the healing potential that an altered state of consciousness can offer. These altered states can be
brought on by many activities that take place in healing rituals such as relaxation, exercise,
prayer, sensory deprivation, fasting, pain, singing, dancing, drumming, etc. A healing ritual of the
pacific coastal area can be seen in the Spirit Dancing of the Salish Nation. These dances are used
as a type of initiation for younger members of the tribe who are becoming alienated or lost from
their traditional ways. This dance is also used on tribal members facing depression, anxiety, or
those with behavioral, alcohol or drug related problems. Their bad ways are seen as a spirit
illness which the healer is able to kill the bad part of themselves causing these issues and then to
let them have the potential to change, and then they will be guided on their new path through the
teachings of elders.
These types of ritual healings do not only operate on a symbolic level but a physical and
mental one as well. They have the great healing powers of reducing anxiety and stress, relaxing
the physical body, and reconnecting or strengthening the individuals connection to their
community. Ritual healing processes use symbols such as ideas, beliefs, art, myths, etc. to benefit
the person they are healing. Traditional healers are then able to use these symbols in their own
ceremonies specific to their own tribe. These rituals are powerful not only on a mental level but
can also provide the physical release of endorphins which alleviate some of the individuals pain
as well as motivating other internal healing methods. Overall psychological healing rituals seem
to be the most effective due to their methods which help patients develop a new perspective,
present new ways of being or doing, resolving their distress, and make it so that they are able to
rejoin and be an active participant within their tribal community.