How Imaginal Work and Transition Rituals Can Help You Heal from Trauma

Trauma blocks us. It gets frozen inside of us and limits our ability to move forward fully into the authentic beings we yearn to be.

Therefore, in order to heal, we have to find ways to move past the trauma.

Rituals can provide concrete ways to give closure to specific trauma in our lives. You can use your imagination to create scenarios that allow you to touch the emotion of the past, move through it, and then go beyond it.

How exactly does this work in a practical way?

Burning Letters and Journals to Move Through Trauma

One of the most common, and most powerful, transition rituals is when you burn your writing.

Perhaps you have old writing linked to the time of the trauma. For example, a childhood journal or letters you exchanged with a previous romantic partner. You may opt to read through those old materials. Alternatively, you may choose to simply let them go.

In either case, the end result is the same—a ritual "burning" of the past. It’s a way of symbolically saying that this part of your life is done. Doing so gives you permission to move past the experience and into the future.

If you don’t already have some kind of writings from this time, then you may write something now. For example, you might write a letter to someone who abused you in the past. Get out everything you want to say. This, itself, is therapeutic.

Then, you complete the process by burning the finished letter. If you aren’t comfortable with burning the materials, you could opt to bury them or shred them instead.

Creating and Destroying Artwork

Writing isn’t the only form of self-expression that brings healing. There are many other artistic modalities that give you the opportunity to express yourself. As with the letters, you can burn, bury, or otherwise destroy the finished piece.

Completing the cycle of creation and then destruction helps you put an end to the trauma that’s blocking your growth.

Examples of artwork to make and destroy include:

  • Scrapbooks of photos from the past

  • Mixed media collage

  • Clay with a word or someone’s name on it

  • Drawing or painting based on a memory

  • Songs or playlists that you put on a CD or flash drive

It’s important that you create something tangible enough that you can also destroy it.

That’s the reason that your playlist needs to be on a drive, not just on your computer. It’s more satisfying to stomp a flash drive to pieces than to simply drag the playlist to the virtual trash can on your laptop.

What to Do During the Destruction Process

The process of destroying the creative work is all about letting go of the past. Therefore, there are many rituals you can incorporate into the destruction process to lend that air of finality.

For example:

  • Say, “You can’t hurt me anymore, (and a person’s name),” while destroying the item.

  • Spit on the item to show that you’re done with it.

  • Tear it up into little pieces. Say, “I am stronger than you,” each time you shred.

  • Write a person’s name on the item and then scratch it out.

You might also light a candle at the beginning of the creative process. Then, when you’re done destroying the item, blow out the candle. You can combine this with affirmations about what you want the future to be now that you’re letting go of that painful past.

There’s truly no right or wrong way to do this process. You have the intuition inside that will tell you what you need to do in order to move past traumatic experiences. Trust that intuition. Follow your creative urges. Open up to what your instinct tells you and find healing within.

Of course, therapy can help you process the emotions that come up as you work through transitions and move past trauma. Contact me to learn more about trauma therapy and feminist therapy.