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Why You Should Practice Catharsis: Catharsis is like turning a pressure valve in order to release pent up emotions. It’s crucial for establishing emotional equilibrium


What Is Catharsis?

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“A Catharsis is an emotional discharge through which one can achieve a state of moral or spiritual renewal, or achieve a state of liberation from anxiety and stress. Catharsis is a Greek word meaning “cleansing.” In literature, it is used for the cleansing of emotions of the characters.”

At some point you need to vent. Life has a way of producing an unlimited amount of pressure. If you don’t address the pressure of this build up itself, you will eventually get sick.

We hear about the single parent who has to balance: homeschooling, working from home, all while doing laundry, taking the trash out and making dinner. It all adds up.

Many of the personal development content out there focusses on treating the root cause of this pressure build up. That’s all good and well but you also need actionable ways to deal with stress as it comes.

Yes, you can take the stoic approach and change the way you think about events in your life but at some point it’s not going to be enough. There’s always going to be a lag in the way you process everything that’s happening to you.

It’s not always practical for you to take a step back to think on every single thing that happens to you.

Why Do We Bottle Up Emotions?

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As mentioned above, life comes at you fast. This is why you get overwhelmed. So many things happen at once then you end up just bottling things up, filing them away, thinking you can deal with them later on. That’s called repression and I’m familiar with it.

There was a period in my life when so many things happened at once that I didn’t bother dealing with them. I just bottled them up. I put them away until later.

This is just one reason you bottle emotions up. There’s not enough time for you to deal with them.

The Hydraulic Model of Emotions & Venting Theory

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The hydraulic model of emotions and venting theory uses the analogy of fluid flowing through an enclosed system. When emotional turmoil is not expressed, pressure builds within this system. Based on this model, “venting” should “release pressure,” providing relief.

The greater the magnitude of expression of negative emotions, the greater the relief.

Now, there are contexts other than self-repression that play a role in bottling of emotions such as childhood trauma. Crying is a natural, unlearned, survival mechanism. We came out the womb crying. It’s a mode of expression.

When a parent suppresses a child’s mode of expression, whether it’s crying, using his words to express a need or want, the child learns to bottle their emotions up, carrying this learned behavior into adult hood.

Suppressing emotions interfere with ones ability to think and perceive, hence stunting their ability to weave themselves into society in a healthy way. This effects their future adult relationships with a romantic interest and co-workers. Not ironically, this also causes them to hold others in contempt. They then harbor an inability to empathize and tolerate strong emotions in others.

This is where we see gaslighting come into play whether it’s a romantic relationship or a friendship. For example, in the romantic sense we could observe someone who has been emotionally abused, abuse their spouse by denying their spouses grievances. They will refer to their spouse as: crazy, accuse them of overreacting or straight up ignore their pleas for them to acknowledge any wrong doing.

Health Problems Associated With Bottling Up Emotions

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By now we know that mind and body are connected. When you bottle your emotions, you’re creating a situation for yourself to get sick. Referring back to the hydraulic model, when enough pressure builds within the system, somewhere within the system there’s going to be some sort of herniation due to overwhelming pressure.

Similar within yourself, when you bottle emotions, this pressure will manifest itself as:

  • Insomnia
  • Hypertension
  • Mental health issues
  • Muscle tightness
  • Various metabolic issues such as diabetes

How To Practice Cathartic Release

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We can practice catharsis in a multitude of ways:

  • Physical(Exercise)
  • Mental(Solving puzzles)
  • Emotional(Crying)
  • Spiritual(Religion/Faith)

Some methods include:

  • Journaling—A great way to release pent up tension in your system is by writing first thing in the morning. Every morning when I wake up, I like to write for a period of time. This is a great way to get that emotional gunk out before you even remember who you are.
  • Crying—You might not be a big crier and that’s precisely why you need to cry. A lot of us have had things happen to us and the people we love and we just never cried. A normal reaction to sadness is crying, not dissociating.
  • Strength Training—Lifting weights means you can take it out on lifting. You can lift heavy weight to put that physical tension to use. After words allowing yourself to relax will come much easier.
  • Boxing—Hitting is just straight up primal. You can print out a picture of someone who’s harmed you in some way and punch the hell out of it.
  • Contact Sports—You take it out on others(legally) but just don’t hurt anyone.
  • Trauma Release Exercises— I saw a video by Elliot Hulse some years ago that at first seemed quite odd but after watching it for a bit I’ve come to understand what he was doing. Trauma release exercises such as screaming and shouting and yelling is the primary way for you to vent. The more you vent these negative emotions the more relief as the hydraulic model suggests.
Trauma Release

Catharsis May Not Be For You

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Sometimes doing nothing at all is the best route for some people. This may be the case for you.

In this study, three groups of participants were created: a rumination group, a distraction group and a control group.

In the rumination group, participants were allowed to hit a punching bag while thinking of the person who angered them. In the distraction group, the participants were told to think about becoming physically fit so as to take their mind off of anger. In the control group, the participants did nothing.

The study concluded that those who were allowed to hit a punching bag while thinking of the person who angered them(rumination group), were angrier than the distraction and control groups.

From this study, we can probably conclude that performing this particular form of catharsis may not be for everyone. At times it may be better to just count to ten.

Potential Benefits Of Catharsis

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Catharsis has some great benefits that will add to your worldly success.

Some of which include:

  • Reestablish creativity—When you finally get out of your own way by venting, you open up and re-establish channels of creativity. Built up emotional activity causes you to be blinded. Clearing all of that out, releasing it, allows your true creative abilities to shine through.
  • Start to attract better situations—the release of negative emotions means that you’re no longer charged with negative energy that attracts more of the same. Just like a piece of iron can be charged with a specific polarity, so can you.
  • Helps to cope with difficult situations in life—Having channels to express emotions through keeps you balanced throughout life’s trials and tribulations as they come. You don’t have to worry about taking the cerebral approach of stoicism and all that other esoteric stuff. Having a hands on, physical way for you to deal with it provides relief in the moment. Not after 365 days of 20 minute meditations.

Summary

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You come into contact with many emotional and mental toxins day in and day out. You soak it all up just like a sponge soaks up water. Catharsis allows for you to detoxify your systems of these harmful emotional agents to bring about balance.

Or you may be the type of person to count to ten and let it pass.


Sources:

Catharsis in Psychology and Beyond: A Historic Overview

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-catharsis-2794968

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167202289002

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