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

1,120 thoughts on “Catharsis –– Healing or Harming?

  1. 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!!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  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. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. It can be easy to fall for the notion that when we are emotional we are alive and that compared to an empty flat feeling or misery, emotional living seems like a stimulation and a good thing. But as this blog shows is this really all it is cracked up to be?

  9. I have performed on stage many times either in drama or music and it is easy to focus on the drama as being it and in these circles it is often thought of as a good thing if you can incite an emotional reaction in the audience by immersing yourself in the emotion yourself. However whenever I used to do this I would always end up exhausted and drained at the end. These days I no longer present emotions but stillness in motion, which is a certain steady quality within me or me being me and the results both for me and the audience are very different.

  10. Not only we choose what to be addicted to, but also we choose the extent to which we want to be addicted to the addiction. Addictions are self-created paths that we create in disconnection, out of our primary addiction: not to feel energy. We identify with them, so we make them part of us (although they are not). They end up governing us

  11. Having felt myself choosing to drop back into the drama the last few months I came back to read my own blog to remind myself of the truth about emotions and feelings. I am much appreciating all the very supportive and wise comments. I can feel how the emotion is an escape, and as Fiona says, it has impacted on my body which is suffering from my indulgence. I realise even eating can be a drama if I make it so. And why do I create drama? I feel at the moment it is to stop me feeling my ongoing sense of lack of self worth, which is actually not a truth but an illusion. When I pause to feel my inner heart and connection with the All, and come away from the “all about me” consciousness, I feel the warmth grow inside and expand me, and then there is no need for emotion or drama.

  12. Emotions themselves are simply reactions. The problem is that they incite a state of being that clouds our view on life, and stops us from actually experiencing life as it could be. The more emotional you are, the more complicated life becomes. And so, under anger, there is often grief. And under grief, there is the feeling of separation, which stops you feeling how everything is actually connected. Under frustration is a need to control life to suit what you want, and so your ability to truly contemplate and understand life is diminished… Happiness or emotional love gives us a feeling of euphoria, a feeling that can never be held onto for very long without further stimulation. And so the list goes on. However, to be free of the embroilment of emotions (at least without perfection) does not mean you don’t feel anything. Of course you feel life and are actually even more acutely sensitive to other people’s emotional states etc. Only, you are clearer to actually sense what is truly going on and therefore more able to respond to life and not react.

  13. Joan, I love what you write here, isn’t it true that the aim of so much creative work is to draw out that “cathartic” response. This would be viewed as quite mad if we were to all appreciate that emotion is very harming, and that when we live free of emotion, our lives become simpler and actually much better. For me removing emotion has meant I have more energy, am more reasoned in my actions and can actually genuinely consider other in a more rationale and crucially loving way.

  14. Drama is used to stimulate the nervous system which stops us from observing and reading life. Energetically it creates a spike in the graph which effectively wipes out the possibility of stillness, consistency and true love. Why would we do it? Because it is hard at first to accept what this awareness shows us about the dire state of the world, and that we have had a part to play in it.

  15. Joan, I agree, “Universal Medicine who have offered me, along with many others, something incomparable to anything else I have ever experienced in this world,”. Absolutely I feel the same. What Universal Medicine offers feels very different and very true, what is presented makes sense and as a student of Universal Medicine my confidence has increased, I am less emotional and reactive, I’m calmer, more open and loving with myself and others. This is the only organisation I have found that has inspired me to make changes in my life that have proven to be truly loving and supportive.

  16. What if – BIG changes came from small and unremarkable steps, yet steps walked with such a solid consistency that the walk in itself becomes totally remarkable compared to the discordant pace we otherwise become so used to?

  17. Drama has been such an ingrained pattern in our lives – a way of getting attention and recognition and grabbing individuality. I had been married for many years and then left that relationship and began to live on my own and I became aware of the drama I was creating every time some ‘man job’ came up that I didn’t know how to do. Bit by bit I learnt how the deal with such jobs and emergencies, without anyone to consult, and now, due to the discipline of choosing observation I can deal with anything that comes up without drama. What a wonderful change! So much energy is wasted with drama and it prevents you from seeing exactly what needs to be done.

  18. We don’t get taught growing up just how draining drama is on our body. We accept it as part of life, but once we realise that what we have been living and accepting is a big fat lie, and that drama isn’t actually part of the true recipe of life, a different way presents itself, and then life becomes far simpler and more enjoyable!

  19. Reading this today is the best dose of medicine I could have taken. “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 received an today email in which I felt my body surrender to the next stage of living that it offered, and then I let what would be determined a normal reaction to what I had read cloud what I had felt. Very beautiful, as in this whole experience I can now choose to stay with my initial feeling, opening gracefully to whatever that means.

  20. I am learning to observe life. This supports me to be less likely to choose to join the dramas and emotions that surround me and the world. To simply observe situations supports me to not react and become defensive or judgmental but stay steady, loving and connected to my essence.

  21. Awesome Joan, thank you for sharing your evolution here. What you share about emotions feels very powerful. Emotions are not true feelings but reactions or reinterpretations of true feelings that remove us from the opportunity to heal, but instead leave us in a circular self-repeating movement of drama. We actually indulge in emotions when we do this and as you experienced, heal nothing. Emotions create another layer of energy that allows us to appear to be making progress and releasing our pain when we are not dealing with anything real at all. ‘All the worlds a stage…’.

  22. I have known a good few people over the years that I would judge and could see that they needed the drama, and that when things got too quiet they would kick up a ruckus and off we would all go again. And yes I would judge them and think to myself how tiresome it was, and that I didn’t do that, but on closer inspection I could feel the hook of being pulled in and that by contributing to it kept the cycle going – so yes, I also needed the drama.
    Thank you Joan for highlighting that drama does not have to be dramatic, it can also be subtle.

  23. You say being a drama queen was entertaining for yourself, but not everyone else – well, once I was in a group process set up, sharing and expressing my anger and I actually started feel that I was entertaining others in the group. There was this hooking energy working in both ways – from me to them, and from them to me. As soon as I clocked that, I was no longer interested in ‘releasing emotion’ – which was actually not releasing, but magnifying and stirring.

    1. True Fumiyo for when we are caught up in the emotional haze of our drama queen reactions we should never underestimate how debilitating the ripple effect that these emotional reactions can have on others.

  24. It’s so awesome to start being honest with myself about dramas I create. So calm on the outside but so much drama in a day – will I get something wrong? will someone take offence at me? etc. ‘The one thing I can trust is my inner essence.’ Love this. As I am beginning to do so and trust my inner essence the drama is less, I’m not choosing it as much and instead and choosing to be there for myself and I can now see that my essence doesn’t go anywhere and is steady and can always be relied upon should I give it a chance.

  25. When I react to certain things and people those are the moments I remind myself to stop and not be further led into the pit of emotion. As these points when I am willing to stop allows me a deeper awareness into what my hurts are and so I can be honest about them, appreciate them and be more understanding towards myself.

  26. The amount of energy we spend on drama can be really exhausting. The less drama I have in my life the more energy I have.

  27. Emotions and feelings are often referred to as being one and the same but what I have learned is that there is a clear difference between the two. I very much appreciate the clarity with which Serge Benhayon presents on the topic of our emotions and the greater awareness and understanding this brings to my life.

  28. How freeing to accept that emotional drama serves no purpose whatsoever. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for emotions, because of course there is….but understanding that dwelling on those emotions only creates more harm for the body is a huge realisation and life changing too.

  29. Drama takes us further away from who we are, because we end up indulging ourselves with what is going on outside of us, and not connecting to what is within.

  30. All I could feel while reading is how invested we can become in drama and emotions, clinging to them for identification. A very sneaky side road to avoid feeling truth of a situation.

  31. When we feel dead, emotionally frozen, given up… drama and catharsis can make us feel very alive, but when we feel true love, harmony, joy the emotions produced when acting out in drama and catharsis are killing any true feeling and get exposed for being nothing but a devastating and empty surrogate for the lack of true connection with oneself.

  32. There is a huge difference between emotional love, and love. Both are “feelings”, one could say. But the former is like a suffocating blanket that is imposing that does not allow you to “feel anything else in that moment, whereas true love is light to the touch, expansive, and completely non-imposing. As such it allows you to feel all of life concurrently, not just love. In other words, it still leaves you free to choose your state of being, and to choose to align to what it offers, or choose another way if you prefer.

  33. Recently I have become aware of how I can sometimes go into overwhelm and then although I have felt the overwhelm and know it is there, I have chosen to ignore it by distracting myself to further delay the commitment to myself and therefore to life. It is quite interesting what we will do to distract ourselves because we simply do not want to face or feel what is happening within our body in the present moment.

  34. Tricky situations come up all of the time. Over the years I’ve seen how I have sometimes contributed to the drama with my reactions. We can’t stop uncomfortable and distressing things happening, but we can control how we respond to them and that has been a great lesson for me to learn and put into practice.

  35. As I read this article, acceptance is what stands out for me. Everything Joan shared here about needing drama is simply halted in its tracks when we accept what is there behind the need for drama. Acceptance, brings more of its self and with acceptance we become very still. Drama gets exposed very quickly as the diversion away from our stillness it actually is.

  36. Emotions are so ingrained, a reaction to the feelings we have constantly to not truly deal with them but to let them surface for a bit before putting them down deep inside not to feel. As you share, this is far from healing what is going on seeing the feelings for what they are letting them come up and show their head, clear them. To truly let go.

  37. Joan the steps you took to let go of these harming behaviours and to begin to truly heal is deeply inspiring and supportive for us all. I also learnt to let go of drama in my life with the support of Universal Medicine and life has become more simple and certainly more joyful this way.

  38. It’s great how you expose just how much we indulge in emotions and essentially a life of misery, to the point we actually enjoy misery, yet when the simple principles of love and self care are applied we really start to see what we’re missing out on by making our lives so emotional and tumultuous.

  39. Are we playing out the emotions or are we being played? I have observed the journey, an emotion one can take us on, which adds to the original drama and so it will build until we exhaust every avenue and ourselves in the process. On the other hand being the observer, not being drawn in allows our inner clarity and wisdom to be present and the drama can fade away very quickly, often like a spot fire that without fuel will dye out, add fuel and it will rage.

  40. The destructive and unhealthy effects of sugar and caffeine are these days becoming more and more well known. But little is said it seems to me of the horrible and damaging consequences of emotional drama. We can give up certain foods and take healthy supplements, but are we willing to step off the emotional rollercoaster? For as you show Joan, this diet of ups and downs is nothing compared to the steady stillness of knowing the Love that we are.

  41. A beautifully honesty sharing Joan, coming home to the true you after the rollercoaster ride of a life of emotions, what more could be better than living from your own divine essence.

  42. “I know that just being me by trusting my inner essence and living my life every day in consistency brings a lasting healing” We can’t go wrong if we truly listen to our body and our innermost. No emotional drama there – just stillness, love and healing.

  43. I also knew drama and would revel in talking it through, this came all from my head an I’d have to say indulgence…it didn’t get me out of it…learning to stay with body, and specifically take responsibility, this has enabled me to not go into drama. Every now and then it pops in and I can see it now for what it is, a distraction and a need for emotional turmoil rather than true healing.

  44. It is to our great detriment that teachers such as Socrates and Jesus ‘were condemned to death for questioning the value of accepted beliefs and for teaching that we all have responsibility for our own healing.’ So much of the emotional drama roller coaster is built on the ‘blame game’ but it is only when we are willing to look at our own part in our issues that we are able to bring true healing and find vitality and joy in our lives.

  45. Thank you Joan I can relate to being addicted to having drama in my life as an escape from my constant underlying feeling of ‘Is this it’ and general disappointment in life. If I didn’t have any drama in my life I would get caught up in someone else’s and I can remember a friend whose problem got resolved remarking to me that I almost seemed disappointed and although I denied it I knew she was right, it felt awful but without the emotional rollercoaster of trying to sort out her problem I was left with the emptiness at the core of my life… until I found something else to distract me. It was only once I started attending Universal Medicine presentations that I was able to work through my issues rather than burying them and to recognise and connect to my inner essence and deeply appreciate that all the answers are within me if I only stay still long enough to listen.

  46. So much of theatre, opera and music is about evoking emotions in people or taking us on an emotional journey – it’s a great point you raise here Joan. But do we stop to consider what ‘journey’ our body is being taken on by this or how it affects us after the moment?

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