The Covid-19 pandemic: An Unintentional Rite-of-Passage
The term ‘rite-of-passage’ traditionally describes a ceremony to mark a significant life change, but it is also a useful metaphor to describe the developmental learning process. As in the ceremony, the developmental process takes us through three phases: ‘severance’, in which we must let something redundant in the self go in order to make room for new meaning structures to emerge; ‘threshold’, a period of potentially creative uncertainty as we leap into and explore the unknown; and ‘incorporation’, as we integrate and assimilate what we have learnt and habituate our newly expanded awareness.
Key to a rite-of-passage ceremony and indeed, most positive developmental experiences, are that they are entered into willingly and with intention. By contrast, the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown us all into a rite-of-passage process with no consent or prior intentionality on our part. Suddenly, and without warning, we have been severed from the familiar world we are accustomed to. Our daily habits have been disrupted, along with familiar ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. In an intentional rite-of-passage this disruption is welcomed and is essential to the developmental process. It loosens our old patterns, making it easier to figure out what needs to be let go of and what is essential and useful to retain. Without intentionality, this kind of disruption can be anxiety-provoking and bewildering, and many of us have found ourselves feeling this of late.
The liminal state we find ourselves in during this crisis is a ‘betwixt and between’. It is neither the world (or self) we knew nor the world (or self) that is yet to emerge. We have been flung across the threshold without having worked with or developed our intent for how or what we want to emerge on the other side. So, how can we turn this turbulent time around and harness it as an opportunity to create a positive developmental experience for ourselves within it? The key is to pause, take stock, and begin to develop our intent.
More to follow soon…