How Catharsis Helps, Works and Why It Is Important

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Bani Singh

08 October 2021

6 Mins

Speak your mind even if your voice shakes. Maggie Kuhn

What catharsis means

In its simplest form, catharsis is releasing. Letting out all the pent-up emotions and feelings.

Think singing at the top of your lungs when driving back home from work.

“In therapy settings, catharsis is more than just venting anger. Instead, it's a re-experiencing of a traumatic event and expressing the strong emotions that are associated with them.”

~Peggy Olsen,

Catharsis could mean different things to different people.

For some, it might be penning a poem. For others, it might be grooving to Daddy Yankee.

Whatever your medium might be, here are some of the reasons why catharsis is beneficial and why you should try it out too:

Pain is morbid only if denied.

Disowning our pain makes it dysfunctional, resulting in “numbness and feelings of isolation and impotence.”

Repressed pain, (eco-philospher and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy) Macy believes, makes us seek out scapegoats and turn to depression and self-destruction.

Unblocking repressed feelings releases energy and clears the mind. Macy writes, “Repression is physically, mentally, and emotionally expensive; it drains the body, dulls the mind, and muffles emotional responses.” Unblocking our despair can lead to catharsis and release energy in us.

Kenneth Worthy

Kenneth Worthy, Ph.D., is the author of Invisible Nature, and a research associate at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Source: Psychology Today

Talk About Your Problems, Please

Talking helps you see how to get through a problem.

You may find that brainstorming with another person or even a group will help you find new ideas to help you move forward. When you know someone has your back, that emotional support can make all the difference.

If you have been sitting on your stuff to the point where it's starting to hurt, it's time to let it out. How you choose to do it is up to you, but just keeping your pain inside will eventually lead to some kind of a meltdown.

Learning that it's okay to talk about our problems can feel a bit like a trip to the dentist. You know that the discomfort will stop once you get the tooth fixed, but you don't want to go through the process because it hurts too. And sometimes, with emotional issues, you may be embarrassed to share what's really going on for you. That's why it's so important to talk with someone who is comforting and nonjudgmental.

There will always be problems in our lives, but sometimes we don't have the capacity to handle them all by ourselves. Getting a 360-degree view is impossible when all you can see is what's going wrong. And talking with another person can give you perspective.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith

Dr. Barton Goldsmith is a multi-award winning psychotherapist, a syndicated columnist, author and radio host, as well as an international keynote speaker.

Source: Psychology Today

You too can get emotional peer support on Now&Me

Whether it’s sorrow, anxiety, anger, or frustrations in general, repeatedly holding in what may need to come out has been related to compromised health-physical, mental, and emotional.

The immediate feelings of relief derived from such letting go can hardly be overstated. Doubtless, at some point in your life you’ve benefited from the comfort and consolation of another person's supporting and validating you when you shared some distressing experience with them.

The mere act of venting to a compassionate other has its own gratifications. All the same, there are times when your friend might be able to suggest potentially productive actions that, in your agitated state, might never have occurred to you.

Venting helps to restore your equilibrium. When your emotions have catapulted to the ceiling because you’ve let something get to you, your higher neo-cortical functioning goes offline. And with that impairment, your mental faculties can become addled-discombobulated. But if you have a trusted confidant(e) to assist you in regaining control of these rattled feelings, you’ll be able to think more logically. And hopefully, you’ll then be capable of viewing the disturbing situation from a less exaggerated-or distorted-perspective.

Changing the negative assumptions or assessments you attributed to whomever, or whatever, instigated those feelings. But at times you may need to vent to another to get assistance in reinterpreting what you may either have taken too personally, or perceived erroneously. Your over-the-top feelings could relate specifically to anxiety and fear, guilt and shame, sadness or despondency, or anger and rage. But in any case, it can be invaluable to have another person-with their own vantage point and authority-help you to relieve, release, or resolve such pestering feelings.

Leon F. Seltzer

Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D., holds doctorates in both English and Psychology. Formerly an English professor, he now lives in Del Mar, California, where he has maintained a general private practice since 1986.

Source: Psychology Today

The psychologists investigated the effect by inviting volunteers to visit the lab for a brain scan before asking them to write for 20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Half of the participants wrote about a recent emotional experience, while the other half wrote about a neutral experience.

Those who wrote about an emotional experience showed more activity in part of the brain called the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, which in turn dampened down neural activity linked to strong emotional feelings.

Ian Sample

Ian Sample is science editor of the Guardian. He has a PhD in biomedical materials from Queen Mary's, University of London. Ian also presents the Science Weekly podcast.

Source: The Guardian

Expressive writing can be a constructive alternative to verbal venting because it can give you a better understanding of the cause of your feelings. Participants in the study who had written about the anger they had as a result of their pain reported less depression and greater feelings of control.

Stephanie Vozza

Stephanie Vozza is a Detroit-area business writer who focuses on productivity and work-life balance. She is the founder of The Organized Parent and the author of The Five-Minute Mom’s Club: 105 Tips to Make Mom's Life Easier.

Source: Fast Company

Try expressive writing as a cathartic method on Now&Me.

Writing can help to clear the overwhelm of information in your head. It allows a pouring out of what is going on inside. Once you’ve written all you can, some things will still stand out or certain feelings may still be felt strongly. These are the largest lessons in the situation. Writing provides a great clarity that other ways may not give. You can easily reflect on what you were feeling in the situation once the emotion has passed in an effort to keep the lesson fresh in your mind and heart.

Source: Lifehack


Positive psychology encourages a positive approach to life, resiliency in the face of obstacles and adjusting perspective in order to do so. Yet, acceptance is integral in order to move forward. Acceptance that, yes, life can knock you down. Acceptance that harsh realities do exist; realities that are beyond your scope of control. It’s healthy to acknowledge less-than experiences and acceptance is key.


It could be challenging to examine a situation when you’re deeply engrossed in the matter. Sometimes an outsider’s point of view can be grounding and helpful.

Lauren Suval

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications.

Source: Psych Central

What is your way of releasing all negativity? Have you tried venting on Now&Me? You can share all your thoughts here, and you can also post anonymously!

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