Is emotional hyperventilation good for mental health?

Catharsis is believed to lead to new insights

By Mohita Shrivastava

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Published: Thu 9 Mar 2023, 5:27 PM

Fame, achievements, materialistic gains. Who doesn’t want these things, right? But striving for these things means one lugs the burden of challenges, causing stress, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression and trauma. These issues, if unattended, lead to an emotional turmoil. According to Sigmund Freud, these emotional mayhems are either suppressed or repressed in our unconscious mind. The emotional release of unresolved conflicts is known as catharsis. Catharsis can lead to new insights and may even drive positive change. There are many ways cathartic venting can be discussed…

1.Music is an emotional cathartic experience. When sad and listening to a sad song, one may feel less sad or at least more understood, making a route for positive emotions.


2.Dancing and learning new musical instrument is a very powerful source of cathartic release and enhances creativity.

3.Writing is highly therapeutic. Neuropsychologists and mental health programmes encourage journaling — whether in the form of writing one’s own experiences or creative writing or poetry — to express emotions through words and images.


4.Sometimes, one may find after reading a book or article that the author expresses a familiar feeling so clearly that it brings up feelings you thought had long been buried. The catharsis can be the same whilst watching a well-acted movie.

5.Engaging in physical activities improves gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems by releasing stifled emotions.

6.Psychodrama, where participants act out troubling events from their past by experiencing and letting them out, is considered helpful.

7.Volunteering for help to others in need can boost positive feelings.

8.Primal therapy allows expressing hidden feelings by directing their anger toward an imaginary parent or family sitting in an empty chair.

9.Psychotherapies to relive traumatic events under the supervision and guidance of a professional.

10.Spiritual and religious rituals help one to cope with mental and emotional problems.

11.Humour can help people release their emotions, often in a raucous burst of laughter or crying.

12.Creating art can have a cathartic effect, too, by spattering paint on a canvas or drawing a heavy black slash with a charcoal pencil.

Catharsis helps to inculcate learning new skills by cognitive restructuring and forming new neural connections. Besides, intense emotions and their release help to redeem momentum, vitality and motivation for life. It does enhance creativity. However, modern science believes that catharsis could cause potential harm on functional mechanisms of issues like anger and aggression through cognitive processing. ‘Stuffing’ and ‘flouting’ feelings is generally not advantageous and demands an appropriate release at the right place to resolve the real cause otherwise it manifests itself as psychological and psychosomatic issue, viz; chronic pain, mood disorders like depression, anxiety, headache, etc.



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