Do you have a propensity toward anxiety? Or maybe a tendency to feel emotions deeply and then “deal with them” by pushing them so far down that they appear to no longer exist?
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You’re not alone. We adults fall into this difficult cycle all the time!
We use the term “adults” because, well, think about it. Does your 3-year-old quickly conceal her emotions when she doesn’t get her own way? Or internalize the hurt for weeks until she eventually lashes out?
Chances are, the answer is no. That’s because that’s not how kids handle their feelings!
Children tend to react to unfavorable situations immediately and intensely. Whether it’s a brief tiff or a loud tantrum, nine times out of 10, if you let them simmer for 30 minutes and then return with a napkin on your head, you’ll instantly win them back. Why is that?
Although there are other factors in play, a good bit of it might have to do with catharsis. They’ve taken an opportunity to purge their emotions, vent their feelings, and clear their heads in a tangible way.
As it turns out, we could all benefit from a little catharsis! We need healthy ways to release our feelings and cleanse our emotional palates before they build up and explode into an all-out adult tantrum.
So how do you reach catharsis in a safe, healthy, and effective way? Here are four tips to get you started!
1. Verbal release.
Translate a toddler’s outbursts into adult terms, and you’ve got a constructive “verbal release.” There’s a reason the phrase “get it off your chest” exists. Sometimes you have to actually experience releasing a source of anxiety to be able to mentally accept its release.
Try it out in the safety of your car, or grab a friend and let out a unified yell as a booming train rolls into the subway station.
Or, as writer Jerico Mandybur told Healthline, “Karaoke is especially cathartic in this way. I’ve booked a private karaoke room in the middle of the day and spent an hour singing or screaming the lyrics to angsty songs. … Suffice to say, you feel different when you step out.”
2. Get moving.
Do not underestimate the power of getting your feelings out through a burst of physical activity. Go on a run, play soccer or another sport, or, perhaps the best of all, try an adrenaline-inducing activity like rock climbing or roller coasters.
Your movement can also include destruction and creation. Help a friend with the demolition of their house, or experience constructive catharsis by creating a painting, sketching a family member, or taking your emotions out on a ball of clay.
3. Get writing.
There’s a reason why we loved writing in our diaries growing up. Sure, we enjoyed the excitement and secrecy of it all, but it was also therapeutic to get our words out of our brains and look at them straight on.
Whether you need to vent, make a confession, or work out a problem, you’ll be amazed by how much writing can help you physically release thoughts from the confines of your mind. It also helps you let them go.
4. Try Aristotle’s catharsis.
In Aristotle’s original definition of the word “catharsis,” it related to releasing emotions by watching them play out onstage.
As Mehmet Eskin, a clinical psychology professor and the author of “Problem Solving Therapy in the Clinical Practice,” wrote, “If cathartic reactions are evoked by observing emotional scenes and processes in the environment, this is called dramatic relief. The individual’s experience of catharsis by observing the scenes in the external environment and feeling a great relief as a result is as old as the history of humanity and it is very common.”
Activate your own emotional release by popping on a movie or series featuring characters who are going through the same types of emotions as you are. A good old secondhand catharsis!
No matter how you choose to go about it, the ultimate goal is to remove any inhibitions surrounding the activity and allow yourself to let it all out. At the end of the day, it certainly can’t hurt to try!
Reach your emotional catharsis by giving these tips a trial run, and share them with a friend.
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