The word Catharsis comes from the Greek katharsis, which itself is derived from the two other Greek words kathairein (which means “cleanse”) and katharos (which means “pure”).
Today, the term Catharsis is commonly used to indicate the process of a powerful release of emotions, and as such providing relief from strong, usually negatively perceived suppressed or repressed feelings for the person involved.
In fact, the idea behind the need for Catharsis is that certain life experiences (such as an accident, work, a relationship, divorce, abuse, and so on) can cause structural, unventilated stress, tension, anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, and/or trauma, which subsequently can become an inhibition for normal physical, emotional, and/or mental functioning.
In order to induce positive change, and restore healthy function and happiness, it’s thought that release (or purge) of these bottled-up emotions is of utmost importance. Typically, the moment of Catharsis is accompanied by deep cognitive insight in one’s (sub-conscious) situation and drives, and an overall feeling of being “reborn.” It’s often also experienced as a moment of “closure.”
Catharsis generally also expresses itself in a physical way. That is, the person going through it may start to cry, tremble, shake, experience muscle spasms, feel hot or cold, vomit, shout, scream, or laugh, and whatnot.
However, there are many ways and techniques through which Catharsis can be achieved, which typically depend on one’s capabilities, inclinations, and interests.
Think, for instance, of engaging in intense physical activity, doing sports, taking psychotherapy, consuming psychedelic substances, or practicing Breathwork, music, massage, meditation, dance, or Yoga, to just name a few activities.
An important therapeutic practice to achieve Catharsis is so-called emotional dearmoring (also written dearmouring). The concept behind dearmoring is that a person “stores” traumatic emotional experiences in the body as physical manifestations and tensions in the form of a so-called body armor (also called character armor or muscular armor), which is a physical defense mechanism to keep unresolved emotions in check, that is, suppressed.
This body armor then keeps that person living in psychological falsity, and in chronic physical and emotional distress. Subsequently, by deliberately releasing or alleviating the person’s body armor (i.e. through Catharsis) one can heal emotionally from traumatic experiences, and physically relax by letting go of tensed body parts or areas.
Some examples of therapies and practices used for emotional dearmoring are Tantra Massage, Genital Mapping, Reichian Breathwork, and Sexological Bodywork. In a more general sense, one could say that dearmoring concepts and practices are used in a range of Body-oriented Psychotherapy modalities.
In any case, mind that Catharsis may be an experience that is consciously sought for through therapy (for instance, by engaging in Breathwork, psychedelic substances, bodywork, or psychotherapy), but it may also come about unasked during a massage session or perhaps during a conversation with a friend in which certain traumas or emotions are spontaneously triggered and released.