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

1,144 thoughts on “Catharsis –– Healing or Harming?

  1. Living in a subdued emotional turmoil would be how I would describe my existence before Universal Medicine so thank you Joan, I now have a deeper understanding of how much we can be subliminally influenced and not understand how to get out of the mess we were in before the presentation by Serge Benhayon.

  2. My god, 13 years of psychotherapy and re-living past experiences. The things we put ourselves through because of lack of awareness, we can be lied to and think that we are healing ourselves but without the real connection with our hearts there is no real discernment whether something is true or not.

  3. Is it possible that the excess emotions in our bodies is why as a culture we like drama, the theater and entertainment so much? Perhaps we are drowning so much in it that we need a let-out, and therefore we go to the theater for a good cry & create little dramas in our life so that we have the right to explore and let some of it out.. but that doesn’t lead anywhere, does it?

  4. We all have our own versions of low self-worth, we play various games to get attention and feel like we are valued. We may think we are different, but underneath it all it’s all the same.

  5. “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”, Joan this is an absolutely priceless piece of information.

  6. I think that the concept of ‘purging our emotions’ is a false one. In fact I would go so far as to say that when we are emotional, rather than this getting rid of the emotion, the act of being emotional guarantees that more emotion will follow.

  7. Thanks for sharing your story Joan, I have come across the idea of catharsis through reliving emotions before but didn’t realise where it came from, I was interested to see the link to Aristotle and Freud. I can see the foundation of such a philosophy doesn’t hold people as divine or as souls, but identifies them with their emotional experiences without discerning the quality of energy that the person is experiencing. We know Jesus was a great teacher and some of his truths remain untainted such as “The Kingdom of God is inside you”, which is much more than reducing human life to the rehashing of emotions, and directs us to our divinity within.

  8. “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.” An accurate description of addiction to any poison to the body.

  9. ‘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.’ Your experience and wisdom is gold. I’m studying counselling and nothing I’ve come across is so wise and clear.

  10. I used to have emotional highs and lows and although I didn’t enjoy the lows, the thought that being on an even keel would feel boring. How wrong I was. I love the steadiness I now feel and am more open and able to give and receive love than ever before.

  11. I too remember being in a roller coaster with my moods, yo-yoing up and down. The steadiness I now feel, thanks to Serge Benhayon and the Universal Medicine modalities, I would never have hoped was possible twenty years ago.

  12. Being on an emotional roller coaster can offer moments of relief or feed our identification in some way and yet do nothing in allowing us to acknowledge the original feeling or reaction that we had avoided in the first place.

  13. Emotional drama is both intoxicating and stimulating but as you have so honestly shared Joan is ultimately unhealthy for our bodies and well-being.

  14. When we live from and for the drama of life we are in fact living in our own bubble which we take to and engage with the world. Therefore we not truly living in the world and meeting people for who they are.

  15. The word catharsis comes from the Greek word ‘katharizein’ which means to make clean and ‘katharos’ meaning pure. It is not the word catharsis that is evil (void of truth) but more so the meaning we attach to it when we think it is about having an emotional experience/indulgence that has little to do with cleansing and everything to do with adding more poison to the tank, so to speak. A true cleansing and purifying comes from the simple act of reconnecting to our Soul and letting this love be our guiding light through life in a very real and human way.

    1. Thank you Liane for the true meaning of catharsis – yet another bastardisation and mis-interpretation of a word that is healing and evolutionary.

  16. How informative, I studied psychology for four years and have been very interested in what goes on underneath the surface, why do people behave in the ways they do. I always thought that Freud was a bit crazy, and all of his theories are too out there – but it makes sense, we can only teach what we live and perhaps that’s exactly what happened in his case.

    1. There are many ways we think we should live but only one way that can truly be lived if we want to evolve. This evolution is not being bigger and better; it is simply about reconnecting back to our innermost self (soul) and allowing this essence to express forth in all our daily deeds. This way of life is not prescribed by an outer doctrine but is informed by the inner heart and all the love and wisdom contained therein.

  17. Could it be that as a society we’re so overstimulated and overloaded with information and noise that we switch off, and then crave feeling some kind of emotion to make us feel more alive? Most of us are familiar with this roller-coaster existence; trying to find ways to create excitement among the mundane. Eventually it starts to feel like nothing on the outside quite cuts it, and the only way to ease the tension we feel is to go within. To start to connect to all that we can feel, including the tension to start with, but also the sense of space, and all that we really are, underneath that surface layer.

    1. Most TV shows and movies are emotional rollercoasters and entertainment is based on what Joan talks about, experiencing emotions of some kind which can be very stimulating.

  18. This just goes to show we can have an addiction to anything .. even drama!! I can really relate with what you have shared regarding emotions as when I was younger I felt being ’emotional’ was the way!!! As crazy as it sounds because if I showed emotion then that meant I cared. But it was exhausting and as you share incredibly draining. Years ago when attending a workshop with Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon it was mentioned that ‘there is not an once of emotion in love’. This woke me up and not only could I feel it was a truth it was also a relief as it then gave me permission to just be – I did not have to be or prove or try to love or show that I cared through emotion. Since then I have not looked back and have felt a lot clearer within myself and all other relationships.

  19. ‘I know that just being me by trusting my inner essence and living my life every day in consistency brings a lasting healing.’ Very true Joan, it is when we get caught up in creating drama in our lives that we leave our essence and as a result we harm ourselves and others.

    1. All drama bar none is completely fabricated by us. There is no truth in it whatsoever, it is literally just stuff and nonsense that we conjure up purely as part of our arsenal of delay tactics. We have so many different variations on delay but they all basically do the same thing and that is to delay our return to being the almighty truth that we already are. It’s simple, if we didn’t constantly invest in not being the truth of who we already are then we would simply be the living truth and that quite simply is that.

  20. What I can feel is how we make use of anything to be and feel an individual, whatever turns us on, and be recognized by. Recently I had a few moments where I was able to observe what was going on and sensed how there was almost like a switch waiting to be flicked to let emotion run if I chose to, and it was looking very enticing and sticky. Once in that drama, I would become that, and oh how so appealing that once used to be, it was ‘my’ world.

  21. ‘I know that just being me by trusting my inner essence and living my life every day in consistency brings a lasting healing.’ Beautifully said Joan, when we connect and live from our essence we offer the body a way to truly heal.

  22. Like you Joan, I was always looking for the “solutions to the problems inside me, yet mostly I was seeking outside me rather than from my own inner source.” It’s rather crazy when you see it written so clearly that we choose to look outside of ourselves for the answers when the problems are within. It has been literally life saving to finally know that I am a source of amazing wisdom but if I still find myself stuck sometimes there is always support from those who are also students of Universal Medicine as I discover the answers for myself.

  23. “I would have an emotional reaction to any feelings that surfaced in order to protect myself further from the pain…” This feels very freeing to know we don’t have to be emotional to be real, alive etc. as it is just an distraction and delay of what we are truly feeling in our bodies.

  24. When we cathart we spend a huge amount of energy and we would be quite tired afterwards with little energy for further problems. We can label that as a success until we recover …

  25. If we get attention we pay attention to what works and take note and use it (extensively) until we realize that we were not paying attention to the harm we got from what ‘worked’ for us.

  26. Catharsis reinforces some of our worse tendencies and we mistake the resulting exhaustion as peace. At times it can be an unburdening but there are other ways that work better – understanding what is happening being one of them.

    1. Ts a really good point about the unburdening, that we can unload our experiences n conversation but not truly heal them, only experience relief.

  27. I can relate to your drama queenitis Joan but can honestly say I am still mastering that wiley part of me that loves being a public as well as a private drama queen.

  28. This is so awesome I love what you have shared about the influence of Aristotle rather than the ageless wisdom lineage of Plato. So interesting.

  29. A roller coaster of emotions is such a horrible way to live yet most of us love our emotions so much we won’t let them go regardless of how harming them may be to both ourselves and others. Whether I am Mr Angry or Mr Sad I get identified by this and so it makes me somebody. But we don’t realise we are already everything.

  30. Great blog Joan; the world is full of emotional drama and we thrive on it. When we are addicted to dramas it keeps us locked in certain patterns that we think we can’t get ourselves out of, and then when it is lessened or seemingly resolved we think we have moved on but really we have just stopped that particular momentum.

    1. We are most certainly addicted. I know I have been and still are to a certain extent. I notice the kick I get out of it.

  31. This blog helped me have a revelation about my own use of drama in my life. For as long as I can remember, I have re-enacted different events in my life that were emotionally charged or disturbing to me in a way that I felt hurt, and have actually physically re-lived it through body movements and the tone of my voice when describing the situation to other people. I realise now just how harming this has been for not only my own body, but everyone around me when I went into this dramatic re-enactment. No wonder my partner never liked it when I would do this, as the yucky emotional energy of the situation that I aligned to in the act came right back through me to her too! It feels like a great opportunity to let go of this pattern. Thank you Joan for sharing your experience!

    1. Absolutely the leaking of all this horrible hyped up – often victim energy is what fuels the world to keep going around and around as it does, further deepening and entrenching us in harmful activity.

    2. Thanks for sharing this Michael, it’s a practical example of how we rehash emotions, sometimes in our own thoughts, and other times in conversation.

  32. I feel that an emotion is a reaction to what we are already feeling and hence it is created on top of what is already there. It’s rather like creating a big distraction so we ‘forget’ what we were feeling in the first place. Getting caught up in the emotion is never going to heal the original hurt, just occupy us elsewhere.

  33. ‘I needed an audience to feel good about myself.’ I can relate to this even though I also wanted to keep hidden – now there’s a great source of conflict and drama just in that! There’s an emptiness felt beneath any attention gained and a drive to keep the attention going – even if that’s the attention of just one person. Learning to love myself and appreciate me for being me is what brings me a consistency of presence that I then bring to others.

    1. Yes, but needing that audience means even ‘feeling good about myself’ was never enough as insecurity kept creeping in as well.

  34. This feels like the solution to climate change. Less hot air being steamed off the human beings by lessening or removing out addiction to the highs and lows of emotional living.

  35. There is not one ounce of emotion in True Love or Joy. Once we have experienced the real thing it becomes very clear and even at first shocking to experience how AWFUL emotions feel and the harm and abuse we cause ourselves with them. We have sold ourselves a huge lie with our addiction to emotions and completely bastardised our language and words as is shared here: http://www.unimedliving.com/unimedpedia

  36. This is fascinating Joan the link you make here between Aristotle and Freud and psychotherapy – I did not know this before. It makes sense to me that if we indulge in and focus on our emotions as a form of therapy or entertainment we are merely relieving ourselves of an inner build up of tension no different to alcohol or drugs but not dealing with the underlying cause of the emotions being there in the first place.

    1. I have always struggled with Freud, feeling that he simply made up whatever he felt to make up. I feel that once we grasp our multidimensionality we will have a new much deeper and true psychology to help us understand ourselves.

  37. When we live in fear of ‘getting it wrong’ we allow ourselves to become crippled by the belief we have to get it ‘right’ because it stops us from living what is true. In-truth there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, only what is true and what is not and thus our inclination to lean toward either side of the equation at any given point in time.

  38. Being buffeted and controlled by emotions is exhausting, but when we choose to feel the messages from within our own body, we have a marker that gently tells us the truth.

  39. Fascinating the part of Aristotle in the way of modern therapy and understanding of going into the story and drama of our lives being the way to heal. When I haven’t met anyone who has truly healed in this way only found ways to function better.

    1. Life indeed becomes very simple, if dramas are not let it. If we, as Joan states, continually observe the quality of our body, letting the feelings surface and then choosing not to indulge in any emotions that arise in reaction to thee, then drama stays out. And yes then life becomes very simple: a deep connection with ourselves through our body.

  40. Anyone that knows you these days must find it hard to believe that you were the drama queen herein described so well. Living life in the thrall of emotions is so destructive to all and it is hard to see the pay back although I am sure there is one. Interesting that all the years of therapy did nothing, yet the simplicity of The Livingness turned your whole life around. Truly awesome.

    1. Agreed Doug, it shows that we don’t have to carry those labels with us for life but can choose to change how we go about life to enjoy life to its full and inspire many others in the process.

  41. Actually you can say that looking for emotions is a distraction from going deeper into what life in truth is asking us to learn and heal. And by choosing emotions, which instead does not heals anything, we bury the hurts we have incurred by living this physical life deeper and deeper in the body, which in turn will clear what does not belongs through illness and disease.

  42. A lot of people are addicted to having drama in their life and it is often challenging to face the fact that we would prefer drama over harmony. Eliminate drama and we are left to deal with anything that is unresolved within us and that is what we avoid by constantly creating drama.

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