Catharsis –– Healing or Harming?

How Emotional Drama Influenced my Life

I was always the private drama queen, and in more ways than one. In everyday life I could create a crisis out of the littlest thing. This was very entertaining for me but not for everyone else, however, I got attention that way.

It wasn’t in tantrums and shouting and crying but in my volatile reactions to events and always thinking it was the end of the world if the slightest mistake was made, mine or anybody else’s.

I continually worried about getting things right, which was a horrible way to spend my life.

I loved drama at school and eventually took it up as a career that allowed me to express my emotions in front of everyone. I thought in some way this would prove I was worthwhile, as I thought people would then see who I really was and I was exhilarated when an audience responded to me emotionally. I learned later that this was from my need of appreciation and affirmation; that I needed an audience to feel good about myself.

I loved going to the theatre and the opera to watch and experience others acting out all the human emotions. I listened to music emotionally and viewed art the same way. Somehow I felt it helped me to identify myself and feel connected to others. I would enjoy the buzz it gave me, feel “fantastic” but then mostly end up drained afterwards, so then I would seek more of the same. This encouraged my volatile roller coaster existence, which I thought was natural.

Addicted to Drama

Now I know differently and I see that I was addicted to drama and emotion in my life. I can also see that much of our culture lives and depends on this catharsis which is the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions by continuously reliving the experience emotionally through the body and even acting it out physically. This has become an addiction. With the ‘stiff upper lip’ disappearing, emotions have become the way of expressing and are viewed as essential and often mistaken for true feeling. When I listen to any reviewer or theatre and film director, actor, painter or singer being interviewed on the radio, I hear them saying their aim is to make people go through a cathartic experience. Their measure of success is to invoke an emotional response and keep people addicted to the drama, reaction, and sensationalism.

Thirteen years of therapy and re-living my past through re-experiencing it emotionally changed nothing; it just buried my feelings deeper in my body. I would have an emotional reaction to any feelings that surfaced in order to protect myself further from the pain and then I would identify with and indulge in that emotion, thinking it was the feeling, but it wasn’t. An emotion arises in us when we feel unable to face or are unwilling to feel the deep underlying feeling; it is an escape that takes us away from our true connection with ourselves.

Looking back I can see that at the time I was immersed in pretence and protection and not living my life at all from me. I thought I was enjoying it all! I was depending on outside sources to stimulate and engage me and unable to feel what I was doing to myself. I was trying too hard to find the solutions to the problems inside me, yet mostly I was seeking outside me rather than from my own inner source.

No longer on a Roller Coaster Existence

But all that has changed. I no longer have an addiction to drama and the ensuing roller coaster of lows and highs, and I no longer need or even want my weekly thrill of theatre, entertainment, or catharsis as a way of briefly relieving my symptoms.

The dramatic moments I live in my life are lesser and becoming more subtle. I notice them as I learn to be more observant of the way I react to things. I say to myself “don’t make a drama out of this” and I turn my attention to what matters.

Meeting Universal Medicine & Serge Benhayon

This change came about when I had some sessions with Universal Medicine practitioners and attended the presentations of Serge Benhayon. As a student of Universal Medicine I have learned there is another way that is infinitely more transforming, rewarding and lasting than the emotion-laden life I was living.

Through my study with Universal Medicine I began to understand how attachment to and indulgence in emotions causes our illnesses. Then the whole picture became clearer to me about why we have inherited this way of expressing ourselves emotionally when I heard a radio talk about catharsis. It was Aristotle who claimed that re-living traumas by emotionally experiencing, then playing them out in the theatre, was the answer to resolve issues and heal. Freud was influenced by Aristotle and this influence has been fed into the psychotherapy movement, whereas Universal Medicine is a part of the continual unfolding of The Ageless Wisdom, through such teachers as Socrates and Jesus. Both were condemned to death for questioning the value of accepted beliefs and for teaching that we all have responsibility for our own healing.

What I Discovered – an End to Self-Seeking

I know where my heart lies, for since meeting Serge Benhayon, experiencing many healing sessions with esoteric practitioners and participating in workshops presented by Universal Medicine, I am learning to take care of myself in a loving way and have become aware that what I was looking for has always been there inside me, I was just not choosing to let go of my old attachments so that I could feel its presence. That has made it possible for me to understand how I can change issues so that they do not come back… unless I start choosing them again.

The one thing I can trust is my inner essence

I know that just being me by trusting my inner essence and living my life every day in consistency brings a lasting healing. By continually observing the quality of my body, letting the feelings surface and then choosing not to indulge in any emotions that arise in reaction to them, there is no need for a catharsis which takes me away from myself, suppresses the feelings again and locks the emotions in my body. Slowly I am learning to stay with myself and put these things into practice.

I have changed in the seven years since I first met Universal Medicine practitioners and was introduced to the teachings of The Ageless Wisdom and The Way of The Livingness.

The way I live my life is so different, enormously more enjoyable and with so many benefits. I have more vitality than I did ten years ago, I feel more in charge of my life, I have a rhythm that is a long way from the roller coaster of drama and emotions I was on in the past and my relationships are deeper and less emotionally charged. I appreciate how much Universal Medicine has assisted me to feel and listen to that deep innermost self and participate in my own healing. I have been supported lovingly all through my journey, which is always evolving.

And the Love continues. I feel so thankful I was around to connect with the deeply inspirational work of Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine who have offered me, along with many others, something incomparable to anything else I have ever experienced in this world, and which is worlds away from the cathartic world of emotions and drama that I lived in the past.

By Joan Calder, Frome, Somerset

1,073 thoughts on “Catharsis –– Healing or Harming?

  1. We have a responsibility in how we express as it not only has effects on our body and health but also impacts others. Even our body language has the potential to heal and inspire or harm. Drama and emotion makes it look like we are purging and freeing ourselves – but when done out of indulgence or dumping on others, there is no true healing.

    1. very true Rachael, yet to accept that we would have to take responsibility for the way we have lived and the way we will choose to live from here on in. This takes dedication and commitment and I have found this is what we lack. We lack the ability to understand the harm it does on such a deep level that we choose never to contribute to that again – and to choose it consistently. It seems we (myself included here as I continually discover a new layer) can do short term change but consistency and commitment to be willing to see the rot and not perpetuate it is a smidgen harder.

  2. Today I have had a chaotic drama filled day. Looking back over the last week it’s been much the same. But in the midst of it all, I can see I have a choice to stop and see that it’s all not real – but just an addiction like any chocolate, sweet or drug that we take. Thank you Joan for this beautiful blog, and helping me see that beneath the drama, the anger, the sadness is the issue free, real me just waiting to be embraced.

  3. To realise there is no need to focus on issues but rather develop a relationship with our bodies that have innate wisdom and understanding of how to return to the beauty of our truth.

  4. Any form of drama in our lives is totally exhausting, sure life can be difficult and tricky at times but it’s possible to continue moving forward in live and take them in our stride, rather than harming ourselves by getting emotional or blowing it out of proportion.

  5. When we surrender to life, we are saying: I trust you life, I know you are there for me. Show me all that I have to learn and I will get on with it. This feels to be a very freeing, without protection but a constant relationship.

  6. The cathartic sensation people get from being a drama queen and indulging in the emotional extravaganza it entails only serves to feed the roller coaster that can go in one direction only – a vicious circle.

  7. It is interesting how you say you got attention by creating the drama. That alone shows how loving it is to not pander to such dramatic escapades. When we create drama, it is a creation, it is not real. Holding someone to the truth of who they are is indeed a loving act.

    1. So true, taking a moment to not buy into the drama of a situation but to listen, feel and discern what response is needed from you – if any – is a great support to the other person because it offers a reflection that has the potential to stop the momentum. Said in deep appreciation for all the reflections in my life!!!

  8. It was liberating for me to understand that emotions have no place in a truly well and healthy body, without saying that we should never have them. But to understand that they are the cause of all disharmony within the body and that by nature we are absolutely still and harmonious, was a revelation to me. Today I know it to be true from the way I feel in myself when I am free of emotion, to when I am reacting to something and have become emotional in some way. The two states are like chalk and cheese, and the latter is distinctly disturbing and draining.

  9. The world of addictions is a vast one. We tend to reduce it to the obvious: alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc. But it goes well beyond this. We can become addicted to anything and everything. The question is why? And why is that common and easy? It is only because we are all addicted to creation as a way to avoid feeling the energetic truth in our bodies. We all know addiction. How we counter feeling what we do not want to feel is up to each one of us.

  10. Thank you for sharing so honestly Joan! I agree that to continually rehash events and situations that are emotional and dramatic only drains us and we continue to do this time and again to our detriment.!

  11. I wonder how many people would be drawn to acting or being a musician if they could feel this desire comes from a need of appreciation and affirmation; that I needed an audience to feel good about myself. It doesn’t sound quite so glamorous anymore!

  12. “Thirteen years of therapy and re-living my past through re-experiencing it emotionally changed nothing; it just buried my feelings deeper in my body”. This is a profound realisation and has a huge impact on the way we do counselling and psych-therapy. We currently do not realise that going over and over our issues without clearing it from the body just cements them and our identity with them even more.

  13. I think what is so exposing is that looking at and ‘dealing’ with our issues by focusing on them only supports us to become completely identified with them as if they are the sum total of us, whereas we are actually divine and that divinity cannot be touched by the traumas of life, but what we do by focussing on them is what we feel is a form of protection but the inner heart does not need any protection.

  14. Oh Joan I very much relate, as I was so controlled with my emotions and indulged in the drama. That is long gone I am happy to say, as I prefer a simple life, my commitment to life has deepened and all my relationships have improved now that I love and appreciate myself and all I bring. This did not happen over night, I had lots of deep issues to clear and heal, and thanks to Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine, for their amazing courses and presentations which have been super supportive to heal my past.

  15. “I needed an audience to feel good about myself.” This is the cause of the outplay of our abuse of social media, we need an audience to feel good about ourselves.

  16. I have just been writing an article on Shakespeare’s Othello and the whole play is full of turbulent emotion, jealousy, prejudice, and deception. This is why it is called ‘The Tragedy of Othello, moor of Venice’. When we get caught in the turbulent emotional roller coaster it is indeed a tragedy and there is no saving grace – everyone loses.

    1. How true Lyndy that everybody loses in emotional drama of any sort. It is quite strange then that a lot of so called entertainment is based on drama, emotional turmoil, sensationalism, abuse and conflict. This simply adds to the unease.

      1. Totally agree Victoria. Most entertainment (which we look to to quell the unease) actually adds to the unease. It is a ‘comfort’ for us to see that others are having problems and ‘suffering’ too. And hence we can say; “Oh well, that is what life is’ – when it isn’t! The beauty of the way that Shakespeare presents ‘drama’ is that it is from the observer position and so highlights the folly, the illusion of our habitual reactive behaviour – spread there before our very eyes if we are willing to see.

  17. “Thirteen years of therapy and re-living my past through re-experiencing it emotionally changed nothing; it just buried my feelings deeper in my body”. For 15 years I was a kinesiology therapist and believed I was bringing about healing. However, after experiencing true healing at a Universal Medicine Sacred Esoteric Healing Level 1 course I realised that what I was doing on a physical level was a no different to an emotional cathartic experience -burying the root cause of the problem deeper into the body.

  18. I used to think it was necessary for healing to go through a cathartic experience and it was encouraged and facilitated in the various new age workshops I went to. If you didn’t partake you were holding back and resisting healing.
    The truth is there is no true healing in catharsis, just the relief of an emotional buildup, ready for more to accumulate and the same pattern underlying it to carry on. Healing does not require this… merely the nomination of an ill-pattern and all it contains, the release of this energy (which may involve some short-lived emotion) and a connection to the truth that was once left. Simple, clean and done.

    1. Ah Jenny, your comment just brought back some bad memories about some of the cathartic experiences I witnessed in similar new age courses. Emotions gone wild with no healing in sight. As you say healing doesn’t require catharsis, we simply need to be honest and express what we feel without all the fan fare.

      1. Yes exactly Victoria, I have actually seen someone go into psychosis on two occasions as a result of letting themselves go to the intense emotions that were facilitated. The responsibility of practitioners of any sort under these circumstances is very high, and it is no wonder the medical profession do not endorse the spiritual new age. I am in total agreement with them on this front, having seen the harm that can come to those who are undiscerning.

      2. This feels so irresponsible and I know I have been involved in extreme therapies as a patient and felt how unnerving the encouragement and techniques were. It has also resulted in people being weary of any mention of energy so people avoid what is actually there to feel and discern in order to heal.

  19. I have been in situations where ‘catharsis’ was required and I could never come up with anything – if I had I would have been making it up. But I have been a drama queen. The literary scene that I inhabited for large part of my adult life was full of drama queens (both genders) and story -tellers, so I felt I and to join it to belong. What a terrible club that was!!

  20. Living in the emotion of life is reflected everywhere around us and it is a big momentum to break free from. I can feel how I have taken on many pictures that I measure myself against and this does not truly support me. However, when I connect to my essence I can feel a grace and simplicity with which to approach things. It is trusting and staying with this that is the key.

  21. When you consider that everything we express as a quality of energy we magnify throughout the body, it really exposes the harm that emotion and catharsis propagates. It makes us sick and pollutes the environment.

  22. Having a ‘stiff upper lip’ isn’t healthy and nor is indulging in our emotions! But it is possible for us to be aware of what we’re feeling emotionally – to observe it and recognise what is it showing us so that we can truly resolve what is there, without drama, and with that deepen the love that we bring to life instead.

  23. This is such an apt article for me – I can really feel my addiction to drama in the past and still get big waves of it when I don’t choose to be with myself. I so thought that cathartic experiences were the way but like you I also did years ‘of therapy and re-living my past through re-experiencing it emotionally changed nothing; it just buried my feelings deeper in my body.’ Reading this I can now feel how the burying really was a part of it all and I could not understand why, when I was doing therapy all right, that I still got bothered by the smallest things. Today I still can get bothered but I respond by reconnecting with my body and feeling what is really going on – am I attempting to avoid how amazing I am?! I am uncovering the beliefs I’ve had, the emotions I’ve buried that I identified as me but is just energy I’ve consumed in some way. So there is less having to purge myself of these emotions through cathartic motions, just a simple coming back to being me and accepting how lovely I am and that this never changes, though my choices haven’t always honoured myself so.

  24. Although not a thespian myself I too have been addicted to drama for most of my life. This has gone hand in hand with being in a constant state of emotional overwhelm, and half the time they were not even my own emotions, I was taking on everyone else’s as well! Be that through situations, conversations, music, art etc. I was absolutely filled to the brim of these things. Through a process similar to what you are describing here Joan, I have come to realise that absorbing the emotions of others is a poison to the body that if not dealt with will seek to be vented – which explains my emotional outbursts I was so frequently prone to. Fortunately the antidote to all this is LOVE. True love is not an emotion but a light that lives deep in the core of our being and is designed to be expressed out through our every pore, if we so allow it.

  25. How liberating it is when we stop the drama and stop the game playing. We are free to be who we are, to allow the truth of a connection with another and be in the joy of that.

  26. “An emotion arises in us when we feel unable to face or are unwilling to feel the deep underlying feeling; it is an escape that takes us away from our true connection with ourselves.”
    I have often used emotions for relief when the deeper issue is too difficult for me to face, its almost like creating a diversion so as I can avoid the deeper more painful reason I am feeling something.

  27. It is very interesting how we often seek emotional attraction in artistic expression and/or entertainment, and how we resonate with and get hooked by it. The Internet is also full of such snippets feeding that constantly.

  28. We can easily see drama for what it is, when other people play it out. When they enter into a huge speech or outrageous outburst, it might even be hard to restrain ourselves from laughing out loud. But contrast this when it is us, whom are the ones ‘acting up’ and then our story and intrigue seems ‘so real’. Thank God then, that we have other people around to show us this is not true, and that the key thing to know is simply that the drama drug has got a hold of you. Thank you Joan for inspiring me to finally kick my habit. This indulgence in emotion isn’t the kind of play for which this beautiful man was made.

  29. When we focus on our issues we become self-absorbed and loose our connection with our true selves and also with life in general.

  30. Letting go of patterns we have relied on to manage life, not only free us from the shackles of the illusion but also allows space for a deeper connection with that which is of truth within our bodies.

  31. “always thinking it was the end of the world if the slightest mistake was made, mine or anybody else’s.” I can so relate to this. It’s incredible how much I would fly off the handle at anything and everything, drama for me kept me going and whilst today my addiction has faded it still rears itself when I choose complexity over simplicity.

  32. I’ve been through living the whole emotional drama… wondering why, being a bit confused, but gradually realising that it is something that gives us intense false feelings that we feed off. Its weird because as a young boy/man life felt very very simple, and that is exactly how it can be if we allow it, and if we live it.

  33. If the true meaning of Cathar was universal man, and if it comes from the same Greek root than catharsis, things do not add up if we are speaking of emotional purging. Could be that catharsis is not about that but to live in a way that discards anything that does not allow you to live and reflect your universality (e.g., emotions)? If so, this would another example of how we engage in some actions based on the accepted meaning of words, that are harming to us.

    1. Love the truth in word Eduardo and what a beautiful way of looking at Catharsis – to live in a way that discards what is not true. It is the way we live that addresses what is not true purely because the solidness in that does not allow for what is not true – what is not true cannot coexist with truth.

  34. Emotions can be a wonderful place to hide in – there can be an illusion of feeling “alive” as everything is colourful and eventful. Emotions are a distraction from life and keep us on a roller coaster ride – which can be exhilarating. Living with the steadiness of simplicity can seem boring from the outside but it is only when you give it a go that you realise the joy in living this way.

  35. What strikes me when reading your words Joan is that we not only made emotions and drama part of our lives, we have made it our entertainment and with that are letting everything revolve around emotions. So we keep ourselves constantly busy with emotions with never a chance to be still with(in) ourselves.

    1. Great point Esther. What better way to keep ourselves entertained than to constantly fuel dramas and emotions to keep them alive in us. All the while hiding the truth from ourselves – that we are magnificent and divine.

      1. Yes, and with that we are missing out big time on the beauty that is around us all the time and especially in and with each other.

  36. I used to think talking and talking about my issues, hurts etc was really helpful, I used to like a glass of wine with it as we’ll….both habits have fallen by the wayside as I realise I was perpetuating behaviours, not shifting anything. I share honestly, but I am certainly not feel sorry for myself and I make choices to shift what is not working rather than keep circling the issue.

  37. The momentum of drama can be strong if we lived it for long. Then it takes a while to get the drama out of our pattern. Absoluteness in the choice to break this pattern is the key.

  38. “An emotion arises in us when we feel unable to face or are unwilling to feel the deep underlying feeling; it is an escape that takes us away from our true connection with ourselves.” I agree Joan. It is an escape which in truth is simply absolute irresponsibility. By indulging in emotions and seeking catharsis we keep ourselves in the comfort of not having to step up. We can say to our selves we already are stepping up because we’re dealing with our issues when in reality we are just recycling them round and round in our bodies.

  39. It is very beautiful to start feeling again or more so to allow oneself to start to feel again. As oppose to emotions to feel allows for the fullness of oneself to be. I would describe it as a deep settling in one’s own body which gives space to observe and compassion.

  40. It is a human trait to use drama and the tension it creates in order to feel ‘alive’ because we have overridden our true source of vitality, which is to live from our hearts and all the love that lives therein.

  41. How much of the feeling better after a catharsis is simply due to us being tired afterwards and is there a permanent healing from catharsis? In my experience it just reinforces what we don’t want there to be.

  42. Incredible to read Joan. It’s a simple science we all need to know – the difference between emotions and feelings and, emotions cause illness and disease.
    It was one of the simplest first truths I heard – emotions are a reaction to our feelings. It’s a great known principle of the Ageless Wisdom that will change Medicine as we know it today.

  43. I agree Joan living trying to get everything right is exhausting and no fun! So much more wonderful to be in your body feeling the lovely yumminess that is our essence and living from there.

  44. Joan I have learnt not to go into those emotions that you speak of. I have seen others do so as well and it just serves to make one live through this emotional pain over and over. It is not until we give up on the drama and take back being responsible for our lives that we grow.

  45. Great article and this, “An emotion arises in us when we feel unable to face or are unwilling to feel the deep underlying feeling; it is an escape that takes us away from our true connection with ourselves.” is so true. We can’t live from emotions they just keep us on an endless loop of playing. I remember how this looked for me and the ’emotional rollercoaster’ as it’s called was ageing and closing me down quickly. It’s a great way to look at any emotion or reaction, a point that is there from which there is something you are not willing to truly feel. The fact is at this point or moment you need not do anything else but simply be, in other words called a stop to the emotion and let you body truly go. Bring awareness to what you are truly feeling and as you can give it a voice. I have found this extremely helpful and settling and it’s not something I did, it’s now the way that I am.

  46. Through my study with Universal Medicine, I have come to understand that everything I ever need is within me and how to access that wisdom is how we live each day – do we live in contraction, in hiding, in protection and keeping the world out, ( my old life!) or do we live in a way that we fully express and share ourselves and let others in? Connection with oneself and then all others is how we access all that we are.

  47. What you have exposed here is the very understanding we need when treating all addictions and emotional issues. Without it it is like treating the issue with band aides in the hope it heals without truly addressing the root cause of the matter.

  48. I love the honesty of what is shared here, and this encapsulates what emotions are so clearly ‘ … An emotion arises in us when we feel unable to face or are unwilling to feel the deep underlying feeling; it is an escape that takes us away from our true connection with ourselves.’ … so any reactions fall in here too, and of course we avoid feeling and accepting that feeling. This understanding will totally change so much of our counseling and therapies over time, and allow us to come back to a clearer, simpler way of how we can live.

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