Few of us live a light-hearted life. Our nights are troubled by repressed fears and worries. Catharsis can cleanse you and help you revive.
We fill our lives with noise, colours and activities, keeping ourselves ever busy. We avoid being alone with ourselves for a few moments of silence. Why? For silence is the key to the door of your mind. In silence, you cannot help but remember what you were trying to forget with all that noise. In an unexpected burst of stoical insight, writer and humorist Mark Twain, once wrote, "It (silence) is a time when one's spirit is subdued and sad, one knows not why; when the past seems a storm-swept desolation, life a vanity and a burden, and the future but a way to death."
Does that seem reminiscent of your own life? Even if you are not completely down in the dumps, many a time, the happy-go-lucky faï¿½ade is only an illusion. When you come home, you may sigh and sink down on the couch. You may have a familiar ache in your neck and shoulders. When you sleep, you never rest absolutely. Why is this? Why do we carry around so many unexplained tensions and burdens?
Catharsis and Burdens
The word 'catharsis' is Greek for cleansing or purification. Just as the rain pours down and sweeps the earth clear of all impurities, catharsis seeks to flush your mind and soul of all their accumulated burdens. What do these burdens consist of? Every humiliation that you have ever suffered, every rejection thrust upon you, every sorrow or loss that ever invaded your life, every jab you received as a child, every time your heart broke, every time you witnessed tragedy, these literally weigh you down if you have not learnt to move on entirely.
So many times, such experiences are merely brushed aside and interred under time, only to resurface in your life many years later as ghostly remnants of pain. They prevent you from reaching out to the peace and happiness that can be easily yours. They create emotional strain, which is intensified if these worries are buried in the subconscious. Emotional pain can be a strange thing. It leaves an imprint on the mental surface even after the storm has settled down. And this imprint haunts every other experience that is deposited on that surface. The worst part is that you are not even aware of the imprint.
The problem of not being able to let go is more serious than just a lack of life skills. It is a source of mental maladies. Dale Carnegie, writer and lecturer of personality development and leadership coach has expressed, "One of the most appalling comments on our present way of life is that half of all the beds in our hospitals are reserved for patients with nervous and mental troubles, patients who have collapsed under the crushing burden of accumulated yesterdays and fearful tomorrows." You can unburden yourself consciously in various ways.
Deepak Chopra, doctor and spiritualist, has written about this technique in one of his books. It is a form of cathartic meditation. On a quiet afternoon, lie down in a silent room, or even outdoors if possible. Shut your eyes and simply observe your breathing. Do not try to control it. Let the inhalations and exhalations happen naturally. You will find thoughts rising into your conscious. Stay calm; do not try to wish away the thoughts, observe them. As you surrender yourself completely to the feelings of deep relaxation you may encounter old thoughts of painful or embarrassing experiences coming up. You may even fall asleep from pure exhaustion. As you recall forgotten details of excruciating experiences, try to look at them in a better light. Understand that they were meant to happen and that they only brought you more learning. Practice rationalisation. For instance, if it is the death of a loved one that torments you, accept that death is inevitable May be it taught you to be more independent and to value the people around you better.
For some people, reliving a repressed memory helps diminish its pain or discomfort. If there is something that you have avoided confronting, do so now. Go through the experience as many times as it takes to become completely desensitised. Cry if you must. We are conditioned to believe that tears are a sign of weakness but nothing could be further from the truth. Tears are fundamental to catharsis. As the tears flow out, your pent-up emotions find release as well. Let everything flow out. Hold nothing back.
Another great aid to catharsis is art. Sometimes catharsis occurs naturally. When you hear some very beautiful music, you may cry for no reason and feel rejuvenated at the end of it. People have this experience with movies as well. It is seen that movies and books depicting great suffering and tragedy often attain the highest success. This is because you let go of your own burdens in witnessing the catharsis experienced by the characters. Great suffering often brings great purification. For artists, catharsis is easy for it happens through their paintings, their music, and their poetry. For lesser mortals, passive use of art can help. Some youngsters experience a liberating feeling when they listen to rock music. Find your own aid, perhaps writing a diary where you relate all your troubles and triumphs. Or perhaps you can get drenched in the rain and let the cold shock your mind into throwing up its repressed fears.
If every individual underwent real catharsis, we may have a carefree, pure world that mirrors Paradise. As classical poet, Walt Whitman has written:
War, sorrow, suffering gone, the rank earth purged—
Nothing but joy left!
The ocean filled with joy, the atmosphere all joy!
Joy! Joy! In freedom, worship, love! Joy in the ecstasy of life!