New Year's Eve: Making It A Genuine First Step
by robert aziz
Revised by Dr. Robert Aziz from his 2009 Huffington Post article of the same title.
It is a curious fact that New Year's Eve is synonymous with getting wasted. How do I define wasted? Technically put, it would denote party-related excess that leaves one feeling like crap (ill and depleted) the next day.
Now it goes without saying that getting wasted would seldom be the intended outcome of cultural and religious rituals. Typically their objective would be to strengthen, rather than deplete the spirit; their objective would be to create connection with, rather than undermine connection to the life energies; their objective would be to align, rather than misalign one with the powerful, collectively-charged life energies of transpersonal moments such as the New Year; their objective would be to hold open transformative space to support the gathering-in and cultivation of life forces, rather than sponsor their dissipation. So why, we rightfully ask, do New Year's Eve celebrations so often regress into mere dissipative, rather than cultivative rites? Why during New Year's Eve celebrations does the sacred so typically succumb to the profane? In order to answer these questions I need first to explain the following.
When people, for whatever reason, are unable to meet and move through life challenges, psychic tensions are created within the personality, which in turn seek to be discharged physiologically, typically through the dissipative abuse of food, sex, drugs and alcohol. Psychic arrest creates psychic tension; unresolved psychic tension seeks physiological discharge. So exactly how does all of this connect to the problem of dissipative New Year's Eve rites?
We like to idealize New Year's Eve as the most hope-filled, forward-looking event of the calendar year, but the harsh reality, I would suggest, is that it is the one occasion when people are led to face, willingly or unwillingly, their shortcomings, failures and limitations. Both consciously and unconsciously on New Year's Eve, people are called to account for what they failed to achieve in the previous year, perhaps even for things they failed to achieve for several years. Most punishing of all is that these shortcomings, failures and limitations are not just being qualitatively identified and measured, but quantitatively, no less, in terms of an absolute timeline. Far from being simply about holding open ritual space for the 'new,' New Year's Eve, for the vast majority of people, has to do with desperately fleeing, by way of dissipative acts, the painful, throbbing tensions that attend the unresolved 'old.'
Now given the experience of my professional practice, I am certainly not inclined to imagine that the unresolved 'old' can be quickly and easily resolved, even when we apply ourselves directly and fully to our development. Progress takes personality strength. Indeed in order for progress to occur one will at times need to be very strong to keep the tensions associated with the unresolved old from regressively leaking out as one goes about doing the required work to move one's life forward.
Concerning New Year's Eve specifically, I would suggest there is so much more we can do when it comes to creating and holding open ritual, transformational space. There clearly is a reason why cultural and religious rituals seldom proceed in the absence of prescribed acts of personal preparation, such as prayer, confession, fasting or ablutions. These preparatory acts are indispensable to ritual process, as they ultimately serve to release the attendees from that which would keep them from being present to and moving with the transformative energies of the moment.
So this is our task on New Year's Eve: it is the psychological/spiritual work of keeping in check the regressive pulls of our yet to be resolved challenges; it is about containing and letting go of all that we must in order to open the requisite space for the 'new' to present. Happy New Year!
Click here to read this article on the Times of India, Speaking Tree.