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  • Writer's pictureDr. Mohita Shrivastava

Is Catharsis ‘The emotional way of venting out’ harmful or beneficial for your mental health?

Updated: Jun 4

Today’s modern era is full of ‘gung-ho’ tussle making people incessantly brawl towards

a life full of fame, achievement, and materialistic gains. Striving for these makes oneself

loaded with challenges causing stress, anger, aggression, frustration, anxiety,

depression & trauma.

These issues if unattended leads to an emotional turmoil in ‘unconscious’ echelon of mind. According to Sigmund Freud, these emotional mayhems are either suppressed or repressed in our unconscious mind. The emotional release of unresolved unconscious conflicts is known as Catharsis, a mighty way to release pent-up emotions dates to ancient Greeks & Freudian-Breuer age & if successful, is accompanied by cognitive component of gaining new insights together with a positive change. There are many ways of cathartic venting out as discussed.

1. Music is an emotional cathartic experience. When sad & listening to a sad song,

one may feel less sad or at least more understood making a route for positive


2. Dancing & learning new musical instrument is a very powerful source of cathartic

release and enhancing creativity emotionally.

3. Writing is highly therapeutic & effective. Neuropsychologists & mental health

programs encourage journaling whether in the form of writing own experiences or

creative writing or poetry to express emotions through words and images.

4. Literature reading & watching films: 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

with a well-acted movie.

5. Exercise & Sports: Engaging in physical activities improves gastrointestinal,

musculoskeletal, cardiovascular & respiratory systems by releasing stifled


6. Psychodrama where participants act out troubling events from their past by

experiencing & letting them out.

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

8. Primal therapy allows expressing the 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 & religious rituals help one to cope with mental and emotional problems.

11. Humor 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 indeed helps to inculcate learning new skills by cognitive restructuring &

forming new neural connections. Besides, intense emotions & their release help to

redeem momentum, vitality & motivation for life. It does enhance creativity.

However modern science believes that catharsis could cause potential harm on functional

mechanisms of issues like anger & aggression through cognitive processing. ‘Stuffing’

and ‘flouting’ feelings is generally not advantageous rather demands an appropriate

release at the right place to resolve the real cause otherwise manifests as psychological

& psychosomatic issues viz; chronic pain, mood disorders like depression, anxiety,

headache, arthritis & cancer.

Catharsis is widely used as a mean of modern psychological intervention by positive

psychology school of thought. Since people mostly prefer a convenient way of regulating

emotions, like catharsis, it does seem helpful to an extent but surely is not the best

solution. However, learning new skills or focusing on something else will not help ‘to

uproot the root cause’ of the problem. Conclusively, it entirely depends on people and

their choice of ‘where & how to do the emotional vent out’.


Dr. Mohita Shrivastava is a guest writer and associate trainer of Calmfidence Academy. She is an internationally trained neuroscientist & a neuropsychologist and Founder of the  ‘Cognitome Program‘. She holds a Ph.D. degree (Neuroscience) from AIIMS, New Delhi, India & completed her collaborative Ph.D. research training from Kansas University Medical Centre, Kansas, USA. She holds two master’s degrees, one in Biomedical Sciences from University of Delhi and other in Applied Clinical Psychology from Annamalai University.

She also holds an Advanced PG Diploma in Applied Neuropsychology from University of Bristol, United Kingdom. She has also completed a refresher skill enhancement training on "fMRI in Neuroscience Research'' organized by MGH Athinuola Martino's Centre for Brain Imaging in collaboration with Harvard University, MIT, Massachusetts, Boston, USA in 2021. 

She has been involved in neuroscience and neuropsychology teaching, research, projects & outreach, cognitive skills restructuring/training and brain, mind & behavior, guidance, counselling for more than 12 years. She has also published various research & review articles in international peer reviewed journals.

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