When was the last time you cried for no reason? Subconsciously, the human mind ignores powerful feelings and emotions. A traumatic event stays in your long-term memory longer than you expect. These events lead to severe physical ailments because of unresolved emotions.
A close friend noticed a lot of physical changes. Despite nutritious food and rest, the situation didn’t improve. A deeper dive into his lifestyle displayed sets of stressful episodes and withheld emotions.
Catharsis is a way to let the mind relieve unconscious conflicts. In psychoanalytic theory, the term is popular. But how is it helpful?
Knowing Catharsis, In and Out
Catharsis is a concept of releasing emotions. The clogged emotions could be from past events (trauma), work-related stress, relationship abuse and more. When you don’t vent negative emotions, they become a part of your unconscious and resurface later in life.
Emotional Catharsis shows up uninvited. Maybe you yelled at your partner for no reason, or you started to cry and didn’t know why. Bottled up feelings must be set-free to maintain physical and mental stability.
Throughout history, humans have found a way to release emotions in various forms. Catharsis is an emotional and cognitive experience that has its roots in the early decades.
A Short History of the Term
The term coined from the Greek language means ‘’Purification/Cleansing’’. Aristotle defined Catharsis as “ Purging of the spirit of morbid and base ideas or emotions by witnessing the playing out of such emotions or ideas on stage”.
Later, Josef Breuer used the term in a psychological context which explained the process of involuntary experience such as crying. Our bodies are intuitive, and things just happen. Josef Breuer found this out when he used hypnosis to let his patients vent negative emotions.
Catharsis is known to have a healing effect and was used in literature, theatre, medicine, psychology and so on.
Benefits of Catharsis
Repressed emotions occur when the brain tries to self-protect itself. The longer you hold on to it, the more severe it gets. The release of emotions (Catharsis) has a cleansing effect on the body and mind. Hence, it’s called the ‘’Purging process’’.
- Positive changes in life
- Healthy emotional expressions
- Creating a balance between past and present
- Help with peace of mind
- Aids in regulating physical activity
How to Handle Repression?
Imagine a day you had to keep low and hide under your desk? People go through enormous amounts of emotions per day, and our bodies change accordingly. Try venting and allow your body to be proactive by letting your conscious takeover.
How Suppressing Emotions Pulls you Down
The deliberate bottling up of emotions might feel safe for now but could get you in trouble in the long run. As children, we learned to let others know our emotions and feelings. But as we grew, we kept our feelings locked up.
This shift causes physical disturbances – that lead to long-term illnesses like blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. And emotional dysregulation, The University of Texas’s study shows that suppressing emotions can make you aggressive.
Catharsis in Everyday Life
We experience Catharsis daily, more so during a closure. When a relationship ends, when you stop a song, when you forgive a friend and the list goes on.
Catharsis can be experienced during painting, dancing, enacting, while talking to a friend, during exercise etc. Any particular event can stir deep emotions and bring in the Cathartic experience. In other words, when you move towards a positive change in life, you are said to experience Catharsis.
Ways to Cope with Emotions
Amidst the stress, depression and mental trauma, releasing your powerful emotions can be daunting. Crying is the most common way to let go of tension and dull the pain. Cathartic crying is when you feel a rush of emotion at any point in time.
A popular comic, Anshita Koul, came up with the hashtag – #crybeforefry (https://www.instagram.com/anshitakoul/) that emphasizes the cathartic release during crying.
Often, crying is associated with weakness and sadness. Particularly, in Indian culture, men and women are not taught to exhibit emotions.
The hashtag #crybeforefry started as a movement to end stereotypes related to crying and strength. It focused on the aspects of better crying for a sound mind. It received a huge response from women who showcased their vulnerability and their ideas of strength.
Soon, there were stories about how cathartic crying made them feel better. The lesson learned – learning to cry without barriers is a step forward to a healthy life. Although crying has a range of benefits, frequent crying could be a sign of depression. At this point, it becomes important to seek a doctor or a therapist.
Below are a few ways to cope with your feelings.
- Acknowledge your emotions
- Make time for self-care
- Observe the situation
- Notice your reactions
Exercise is said to be the most effective way to cope with stress or emotional trauma. You can also get in touch with heyy helpers who are empathetic listeners and therapists who guide you through. It’s a safe space for all your concerns.
Catharsis is a blissful experience once you realise the power it holds within. Do not confine yourself since the possibilities for positivity are endless. Remember, everybody goes through a tough phase in life. To bounce back up takes courage and time but is worth the journey. Catharsis is a way to stabilise your mental and physical well-being.
In times of uncertainty, do not hesitate to ask for help. A simple heyy can change your life for good.
Esta Powell, M.A., M.S. “Catharsis in Psychology and Beyond: A Historic Overview.” The Primal Psychotherapy Page, http://primal-page.com/cathar.htm
Kendra Cherry. “Catharsis and Its Role in Psychology.” Verywell Mind,