It’s a New Year of Relational Resolution Ritual

By Jeanne Sarson | Jan 11, 2012


Everywhere I look media articles and cartoons take aim at the New Year's resolution ritual. I read that taking action to eat healthy foods and be physically active by walking will improve wellness.[1] And according to Ruth, she says she always seemed to fail at keeping her resolutions until last year when she reworded her resolutions-making ritual. Rewording meant her 2011 resolutions read "I will NOT feel guilty about my coffee-drinking habit...[and] I will NOT say yes to everyone's demands on my time, unless I feel up to it."[2] Thrilled by her success of achieving these resolutions and feeling emotionally empowered, she began composing her 2012 resolutions early in December. This seems an appropriate starting point for 2012 Blogging—discussing ritualized relational patterns including that of resolution-making behaviours.

So much of what we do or how we act involves ritualized relational behaviours, from respectfully taking our position at the end of the line-up at the grocery store check-out to engaging in so-called "rites de passage". This French term refers to rituals and ceremonies that mark events of transition in life such as in birth, graduation, marriage and death; in sports the ritual may be the presentation of a gold medal for example. Rituals of many forms were practiced by peoples in all ancient cultures and continue today. The question today is: What kinds of relationships will these rituals—habits or patterns of behaviours—shape? This question is worth exploring because relationships exist in various forms, for example, as illustrated in the accompanying diagram. In some relationships healthy respectfulness and equality thrives; in others there is intentional neglect of children for example; there can be many forms of family abuse such as physical or sexualized violence; and, in others, intentional torture is perpetrated. In all these forms—healthy equality, neglectful, abusive or torturous—ritualisms or patterns of behaviour form the markers that distinguish one form of relationship from the other.

Because Linda and my work involves relationships wherein torture victimization has been reported to be accompanied by violent family/group organized torture ritualisms this form of relationship will be the focus of this Blog.

I begin first by asking the question: Who do you think you have a relationship with? Did your answer look like this? I have a relationship with MY-SELF as well as with others. Based on Linda and my experiences it seems that many of us do not concretize that we have a relationship with/to/for SELF. This means we need to ask our-Self questions such as: Are we clear, for instance, about our values, our beliefs and what our boundaries are and what we will or will not do. This is where I go back to Ruth. Rethinking and re-wording her New Year's resolutions ritual she decided she would relieve her-Self of unfair emotional guilt feelings. For instance, Ruth decided it was fair to her-Self to respectfully say 'No' to others when she felt she needed to. This was about trying to be more respectful of her boundaries of Self-care. In so doing Ruth respectfully focussed on her relationship with her-Self emotionally and physically.

Ruth, as an adult woman, obviously had the freedom to decide for her-Self how to relieve her emotional guilt in relation to her persistent failure to live up to her New Year's resolutions. Persons, children and/or adults, trapped in controlling relationships of abuse, torture and terror, obviously do not have this freedom. However, getting out or once out, they are confronted with the difficult and painful work of 'reconstructing' their relationship with/to/for Self, relieving unjustly internalized emotional guilt that perpetrators of torture intentionally inflicted onto them.

Back to the Beginning

So, let's go back to the very relational beginning as demonstrated in this little cartoon strip: 


When conceived as a sperm and ova and becoming, we have no control over what is next relationally. The truth is it is not possible to be asked which kind of relationship we want to 'land in'. We cannot dictate the relational mother, father, family, or adult group we want to land in. Therefore, the scientific fact is we do not select whether the relational environment we land in will be one of healthy equality and respectfulness, or whether it will consist of patterns of neglectfulness, abusiveness, or one where torture is the norm.

If we had been so asked—if such was a possibility—it is easy to know that none of us would choose landing into relationships where torture, abuse or even neglect were inflicted. Truthfully and simply stated, infants do not decide who their parents/family will be, or if adopted or placed in care who their parents/guardians will be. Therefore, for all who 'landed' and grew up in families/groups with adults who intentionally and purposefully perpetrated relational torture, truth must be clearly stated. The truth is despite all the emotional violence the torturers' repeatedly flung at them that they caused, that they were to blame and that it was all their fault they were tortured these were/are all lies. Such distorted lies were/are tactics of manipulation inflicted to force those so tortured into believing and internalizing emotional guilt. Lies that deceived them into believing they were/are guilty and therefore must be bad persons when the truth is they as children were not/are not 'bad' or guilty for the acts forced onto them by the torturers. Adults are the ones who decide what form of relationship they will make. Children grow up and may remain victimized into their adulthood.

Adults may also be held captive and tortured such as in spousal torture. They too, if given the choice, for example, if asked by the perpetrators, "Would you like to be tortured or would you rather leave and seek out a healthy respectful relationship?" the answer, I suggest, would be to leave.

Forms of Relational Rituals

Ruth spoke about healthy New Year's resolutions rituals but rituals, like relationships, also exist in many forms. Like Ruth's ritual resolution-making, these can be positive Self-improvement rituals or conversely, within violent families/groups relationships, rituals can facilitate and/or reinforce patterns of neglect, abuse or torture. For instance, an uncle may have a ritual relational pattern of visiting his nephew every two weeks to take him out for an ice cream. The uncle's true intent is to orally rape his nephew by establishing what appears to be a respectful uncle-nephew relationship. With torturer's, whether individual/family/group, their rituals are planned and organized to appear to outsiders to be normal gatherings but, in effect, their rituals facilitate their desires to perpetrate all forms of physical and sexualized torture tactics, for example. Therefore, depending on the violent relational actions or ritual patterns of behaviours of perpetrators, rituals may be used to inflict ritual abuse, ritual torture or a combination of ritual abuse-torture.

The use of violent relational rituals to re-enforce or deepen a victim's state of conditioned captivity is not unique to a specific type of perpetrator or to a specific country. Rather, the use of rituals for such a purpose is a worldwide tactic used by perpetrators who decide to victimize others. For example in:

1. The US. An American pedophilic priest manipulates a child into victimization by equating oral rape to the ritualism of "receiving Holy Communion".[3] And, when Marsha Allen was a five year old adopted girl from Russia, bought for $15,000.00 by an American pedophile, he held her in a state of captivity, starved her to keep her body underdeveloped, subjected her to a "marriage" ritual, tortured her, and exploited her in crime scene internet 'pornography'.[4]

2. Nigeria. A shaman used voodoo ritualism to instil a state of captivity in Nigerian women being trafficked into France.[5]

3. India. The ancient Devadasi system, although illegal persists in secret, using rituals whereby girls under the age of 10 years are chosen to become Devadasis, meaning handmaidens of the goddess Yelamma, but when they reach puberty they became human trafficking victims.[6]

4. Canada. Women speak of suffering ritual abuse-torture that began in their childhood and/or continued into their adulthood, meaning they explained there were times when their perpetrators secretly gathered together in groups, coding their violent gatherings as a ritual or ceremony. Their true purpose was to inflict acts of 'classic' torture with sexualized tortures being the climatic focal point of their ritualized-shaped torture gatherings.[7]

Where to next?

Building on the intent that New Year's resolution rituals are for the purpose of being helpful and respectful, I end this Blog by focussing on the relationship with/to/for Self that reflects freedom from guilt that has been unjustly imposed by torturers. These, I suggest, would read:

1. I begin the New Year by accepting I was lied to by my torturers who, when I was a child or adult, I was supposed to trust to respectfully care for/about me as a person but did not.

2. I will try to keep reminding my-Self that it was not my fault they tortured me because I know I would never have chosen to 'land in' relationships where torture was the normal ritualized practice.

3. I will try to shed the emotional guilt they forced me to internalize because now I know I did not cause and am not to blame for their acts of torture they inflicted onto me.

4. Therefore, I will try to begin the New Year in a more just relationship with my-Self. I do this for my-Self because it is important to my-Self to make a healthy relational space to nourish,
a. My Self-respect
b. My Self-dignity
c. My Self-confidence
d. My Self-esteem
e. My Self-love and Self-caring

Relational Healing

Relational healing of one's relationship with/to/for Self is about finding ways to 'let go' of the destructive impact of lies that torturers inflict that caused those so victimized to internalize beliefs that were not true and that cause so much pain and suffering.[8] Relational healing of one's relationship with/to/for Self is about finding ways to develop Self-belief, Self-values and Self-voice—that is, to believe in one's personhood, worth, equality and dignity and one's human right not to be subjected to torture.


[1] Neilsen, A. (2012, January 5). Stick with those resolutions results will be worth the effort. Colchester Weekly News, p. 9.

[2] Ruth. (2012, January/February). Dear Reader. The Country Register, p.3.

[3] McGary J. (2002, April 1). Can the church be saved? Time, 17.

[4] Appleby T. (2006, May 4). 'I was held hostage by a monster'. The Globe and Mail, pp. A1, A13.

[5] Houreld K. (2006, October 2). Sordid sex-trafficking tale starts at Nigerian shrines. Available

[6] Reuters NewMedia. (1997, January 22). Indian Cult Supplies Child Sex Trade.

[7] Sarson, J. & MacDonald, L. (2011). Sexualized Non-State Torture—Inflicted in the Private/Domestic Sphere against Girls/Women: An Emerging "Harmful Practice". A paper submitted to the United Nations Joint CEDAW-CRC General Recommendation/Comment on Harmful Practices ( For paper see

[8] See 'Relationships Cartoon' at


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