Catharsis; It is defined by Dictionary.com as:
1. the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, esp. through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.
2. Psychiatry .
a. psychotherapy that encourages or permits the discharge of pent-up, socially unacceptable affects.
b. discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition.
Catharsis is one of the ultimate goals of the psychologist or therapist and can be obtained in many ways, including through the use of different forms of art therapy. Besides actually creating one’s own drawing or writing one’s own monologue, I am of the opinion that listening to or singing to the right music can help a person achieve a type of cathartic reaction. Why do I say that?
As some of you may have read in a previous article, I have been dealing with some severe anxiety and depression from the revelation of my molestation from my childhood to my family. Of course, I have been seeing a therapist and psychiatrist and taking my medicines faithfully. According to many studies (and personal experience), such as the one in 2005 from Roy et. al., it is important to be in compliance with ones medicines to assist an effectual recovery.
My therapist asked me an interesting question. Who am I? I had no good answer for her. However, when she asked who I was a decade ago, I had a ready answer tied into my days as a musical theatre performer. I knew every emotion I felt intimately and where and whence they came. Not so much now that I’ve been out of acting for a while.
During my days as a performer, there were often pieces I would perform that would leave me feeling a little numb, yet high… kind of a cleansing feeling. If the piece I was performing was something I could and did feel a close association to, such as abuse, the greater the feeling. I am trying to give you an idea of what this feels like. My therapist told me to revisit my days, in any small way I could, my days as a performer and see if I can find a peaceful refuge there. So I did.
This past evening, Friday the 13th of 2010, was spent in the company of friends who took out guitars and drum and had an impromptu jam session on their front porch. The raucous sounds of music of every genre, Jazz, Rock and Roll, Blues and even some Gospel could be heard until the wee hours of the evening… and I sang. And I sang. And I feel better, happier and freer at this moment than I have in weeks. It is an incredible lightness of being when you release your emotions out into atmosphere. Now I know this is just temporary, but it is a start. Catharsis doesn’t mean a person is cured necessarily. But for just an evening to feel so unbelievably light and unbound by negative emotion; I owe my therapist a debt of gratitude.
So what do you love to do? Run? Dance? Draw? Put your emotions into it and you may just experience your own catharsis. Find that song you relate to and sing it out loud and sing it until you laugh or cry or whatever. But find that moment that makes your heartache and headache ease.
Rekha Roy, Masroor Jahan, Sushma Kumari, & Prashant Kumar Chakraborty, Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, January – July 2005, Vol. 31, No.1-2, 24-28.