Sometimes, we experience one of ‘those’ days, when the weight of responsibility weighs you down, a heaviness in your heart, a dark cloud hanging over your head. Minor inconveniences you would usually brush aside now take their toll on you. You really wish no fights today. Perhaps something triggered this, perhaps it’s just a feeling you unexplainably woke up with today. But you feel it – all the stresses mount and it feels like your head could explode any moment.
That’s when you pick up your phone, plug in your headphones, and listen to some music to heal your heart. Goosebumps rise on your skin the second the first note is struck. As the singer belts out a couple of lines resonating with how you feel, your heart lightens a little. Tears well up and just as the chorus approaches, a rush of emotion washes over you and you feel some relief from the pain. All that tension and inner discord lessens. We have all experienced this or something similar. This is what I call a Cathartic moment.
Catharsis is the release of emotions. The word itself originates from the Greek word katharsis, which means ‘cleansing’. Psychologists believe catharsis is needed in resolving conflicts buried deep within the subconscious. Many a time that which has been repressed over the years.
The core component of therapy involves talking with a psychologist. The very act of expressing yourself and sharing your thoughts is a powerful method of emotional release. In 1999, Kennedy-Moore & Watson established a ‘venting hypothesis’, which suggested that the expression of emotion leads to reduced negative emotions and physiological effects. Clinical psychologists seem to agree with this, believing that venting can help in the reduction of anxiety and other negative emotions.
A couple of years ago, I invited Miss Rukhsana to get ‘really angry’. A big bolster pillow was put in front of her and a bat was thrust into her hands, with permission to fully express years of repressed dark emotions. This was such a foreign concept to her that she felt major embarrassment, awkwardness, and fear.
We are not taught how to express our anger in a safe way – let alone have it be an acceptable thing to do. We learn to be ashamed of our anger – we make ourselves bad or wrong for feeling it. We also learn to cover up, brush over and smile. We are incredibly great at being ‘fine’… until we’re not!
On that day something inside of her said, “C’mon Rukhsana, it’s now or never,” and she went for it. The tiger was released from the cage and years of pain finally brought out that day. She bashed that cushion as a woman possessed. A noise escaped through the mouth that came from the deepest pit of the stomach – it was a wail that went on and on and on endlessly until she felt sick and sure that she would die. Surely, she couldn’t survive this pain. Surely, she would never emerge from this darkness. Bash by bash, tear by tear, scream by scream, she was unloading years of pent-up grief, frustration, and powerlessness.
Eventually, the roar relaxed. Her body released. She sat and sobbed with relief. Her face was covered in tears and snot, her hands red with little traces of blood. It was literally blood, sweat, and tears experience. She had survived and it felt great!
Emotions pass when we allow them. On the other side lies our empowerment. I have always been fierce about inspiring people to accept the truth of how they feel because it is the core of our existence at that moment. When we ignore our truth, we ignore our soul and there is nothing more painful. What’s not healed within you, gradually destroys you!
It’s time we learnt a new way of life that honours our truth, and the best bit is that the people we love most, no longer have to walk on eggshells around us because we are emotionally responsible – we know how to take care of ourselves first, so they get the best of us.
When Rukhsana first walked in as a client, she was adamant that she couldn’t feel. She said it was like that gene was missing in her. She didn’t get angry. She never cried. She wasn’t particularly happy either. She felt frustratingly numb without any love for life. She also had some worrying health concerns. And, her career as a professional had her working 12-hour days.
While she believed she couldn’t feel, it was her experience. We get what we believe. She was numb because of emotional repression that may lead to depression. We cannot selectively switch off emotions. When we ignore/repress/push down our ‘darker’ emotions we also miss out on experiencing our lighter ones – the longer we do that, the more numb, and eventually the more depressed we become. When we ignore the truth of how we feel, those emotions don’t just disappear because we chose not to feel them. They get blocked in our body, become stagnant and toxic, eventually becoming a health hazard/disease.
Her career was the perfect excuse not to have time to address how she felt – it was a coping mechanism to avoid having to feel because to feel can be scary when we have never been shown how to do it safely. Her health was slowly deteriorating because her body was screaming to get her attention. It was a signpost that things had to change!
It was time to find her significance, love, acceptance and approval from within – not just from her career. It was time to drop the perfectionism and experience the self-honouring self-honesty.
Through transformational coaching and catharsis work (the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions) she was able to take a significant sabbatical (once deemed ‘impossible’) – she got well, found her joy, met a Bawa (also once deemed ‘impossible’) and now soon going to have a beautiful baby. A new career with work/life balance is being carved too.
She was once petrified of ‘going there’ with her feelings. With support, she discovered the healing power of feeling. NEVER underestimate the power of feeling. It’s a total game-changer!
Face it, feel it, heal it! God bless!