This informal CPD article on Healing Catharsis was provided by Tatiana Vorontsova director at Pro-Age Aesthetics Academy, a wellness and beauty education clinic in London.
What is a catharsis?
One of the most powerful, yet humble and noble experiences to go through as a therapist is witnessing a healing catharsis in clients. We often talk about this with our students during class time. So, what is a catharsis? The term itself comes from the Greek katharsis meaning "purification" or "cleansing." A catharsis is an emotional release linked to our need to relieve unconscious conflicts. Stress, grief, anxiety, struggle, fear, anger, sadness, and trauma can cause intense and difficult feelings to develop over time. We literally become walking-talking containers for this emotional residue! “You issues get stuck in your tissues” – the phrase our students get to understand really well.
Many clients report begin feeling “emotional”, “being tearful”, and “thinking more about their lives' past and present”. They can experience explosive release of deeply rooted suffering and pain – sometimes surprisingly for themselves! Imagine yourself going to a beauty treatment or face massage and ending up crying! Why does it happen? Is it a good thing? What do we do when a client goes through healing catharsis?
We know that emotions are body reactions to the outside triggers, they are very visceral in nature, meaning that emotions are a full body experience where brain produces certain biochemicals activating different parts of the body to respond to the trigger. Although it is very healthy to be naturally self-expressive, there are situations where our emotional reactions are inappropriate, embarrassing, unhelpful, hurtful to others and produce negative consequences resulting in social isolation. As children, we were natural at expressing our feelings – we cried when we were hurt, we threw tantrums when we wanted attention, we laughed out loud when happy, but overtime we learned that expressing our true feelings and emotions was not to our best advantage. We might have been shamed, ridiculed, punished, isolated. We were hurt.
As part of growing up, we learned to hold on to certain feelings, especially those with negative and destructive connotations like anger, prostration, fear. We learned to either bottle them down, suppress them, or deny and repress. NEITHER approach is healthy. NEITHER approach serves us in the long term.
Luckily, there are plenty of healthy and ethical ways to deal with emotional release – all sorts of dance, therapeutic art, mindful breathing, vocal therapy, martial arts, and many forms of body-oriented techniques – all of which are designed to shift “stuck” energies located in different parts of the body as primal reaction to trauma and pain. When your spirit is restored - your true beauty shines.