Think back to your last cathartic moment. Maybe you enjoyed a good cry. Or screamed into a pillow. Laughed until it hurt. Tossed unwanted clothes dramatically out the window. Or, in recent times, deleted all messages from a certain someone or even blocked their number.
It feels good – as it should.Catharsis comes from the Greek and means purification, cleansing and releasing. It has its origins in the world of theatre, where the audiences in ancient times would go see a tragedy in order to experience catharsis and emotional release. In early psychology, catharsis was the act of provoking a repressed emotion in order to confront it – and ultimately be free of it.
Catharsis essentially helps us make space in our minds and hearts. Whether consciously or not, it puts us in touch with intense emotions so that we can process them and let them go. It’s a healing process, but one that many still view as a kind of “last resort”: They let (often negative) emotions build and build until they cannot be contained any longer and then they explode. You may feel momentarily better, but repeating that process over and over again is a very unkind thing to do to yourself.
In the spirit of promoting positive, caring catharsis, here are three a little bit different releasing rituals. Not only will they help remove built-up tension, but when practised regularly, they can also teach you something about your mind and soul which you have yet to discover.
For those who want to experience the benefits of “sweating it all out” without actually having to exercise, a visit to the sauna or a hammam is a great choice. Often accompanied by purifying and invigorating scents like eucalyptus, rosemary and birch, a relaxing sweat and/or steaming ritual is the perfect thing to help you let go of the negative emotions that might be building up inside you. Toxins and toxic thoughts be gone!
The ancient idea behind catharsis is that, when watching a tragic play, you were able to purge all the bad feelings from your body. It’s the same reason why crying or even screaming can feel so freeing. Perhaps you’d like to channel that idea into something beautiful like singing. Regardless if it’s in the shower, in a choir or at karaoke, getting your emotions off your chest with a song can be a great release – without having to reapply your mascara afterwards.
There’s a reason why art, especially painting, is used in therapy more and more often. Similar to the idea of singing out what’s weighing you down, painting your feelings can be a productive and creative form of emotional expression – no talent or skill required. There are countless ways to "let it all out”. A hundred different colours and brushes and shapes can reflect what’s coming to the surface. In the end you will even have a piece of art to always remind you of your journey.