Catharsis: Better Out than In – Part 2


Catharsis and purging continued. Read on for part 2…

In part 1 of this article, I discussed about how we live in a sea of energetic influences, which we absorb into us. I touched briefly on the idea that we need to release this stuck energy otherwise it can affect our health and mental state.

The Muddy pond

Negative emotions that build up and which are kept within are like a muddy pond. Muddy stagnant ponds have a bad smell about them and the only way to get rid of the smell is to clear them out of all their gunk and get the water circulating. You may even have to replace the old water with fresh water (-  think replacing negative tendencies with a new positive mindset).

So how to we release them? Should we even try? Sometimes, these emotions are too intense. It is like stirring a muddy pond. If you try to stir a muddy pond with lots of blanket weed in it, it won’t clear. Instead, it will just make it look more dirtier. And what if there is a crocodile in that pond? So no, perhaps, we shouldn’t shake things up if they are really intense. Doing so will be majorly disturbing and some of us can’t deal with that in our daily lives. Perhaps it is best to leave it to the next life. (n.b. I suppose a crocodile is not really a good metaphor. We don’t have them in England. Not even snakes. Perhaps I should have said a filfthy toad or maybe a newt instead…)

But if our internal bad stuff is not that intense. Then perhaps, it’s worth attempting a small catharsis and to let some of it out. We could release the pressure valve slowly and gradually let more out in a controlled way. I think this is the safest way.

Catharsis: Better out than in

This brings me to the issue of purgation or of catharsis. Catharsis is a Greek word meaning purification or cleansing. It refers to the purification and purgation of negative emotions. One of the methods the ancient Greeks used to achieve this was through art, and in particularly – the art-form known as the tragedy. The Greeks are famous for the concept of the tragedy.

Usually tragedies involve horrible things happening to its main characters. For example if we look at Oedipus Rex, the story is quite extreme. A prince ends up killing his father and marries his own mother. The plot-line makes you want to retch. A play like Oedipus Rex is still taught in high schools today. It’s quite the opposite to the typical Hollywood Rom-Com, which is designed to give a warm happy glowing feeling as you look at Anne Hathaway’s perfect smile. Instead, the tragedy is an art form designed to bring to the surface strong emotions and hopefully to release them.

The meaning behind tragedy is that we come to watch with an inner intent (either consciously or subconsciously) to be cured of something. This occurs because a tragedy is able to evoke a strong emotion within us, which otherwise would be repressed deep within. By shaking it up, we can contemplate on this emotion and start the process of letting it go.

Tragedy in Japanese cinema

The Japanese use tragedy quite effectively in some of their films and drama. When done well it is an incredibly powerful medium. Some Japanese movies and dramas pull this technique off really well. For example, movies like ‘Tokyo Sonata’ make us feel the angst of a father who loses his job and can’t get another one. He is too embarrassed to tell his family, so instead he pretends to still be working. He wakes up early, puts his suit on and leaves, but then spends the day hanging around Tokyo until he can return home. The loss of a job is a major blow to a man’s sense of place in the world. Especially in Japan.

A far more intense movie is ‘Himizu’. It is set in a part of Fukushima just after the tsunami hit. A young school boy lives alone abandoned on a boating shack. His mother  is a party-woman, in a relationship with a new man and abandons him. His own violent and drunken father appears every so often to beat him, steal his money and then beg his son to kill himself so he can get the insurance money for his death. And this is just the beginning of the movie. It gets more depressing. What gives the movie even more impact is the soundtrack of Mozart’s Requiem, arguably one of his most powerful pieces of music. It was also his last  composition and was unfinished when Mozart died at a very young age under somewhat unusual circumstances. The mood of this piece fits the movie very well.

Suffice to say, these tragedies draw you in. They shake up and stir these deep strong emotions and bring them to the surface. Sometimes they make you cry. Sometimes they reawaken forgotten memories. But, ultimately, there is some release of emotion and a purgation.  This is catharsis.

The Movie: The Purge

The American movie – ‘The Purge’ is a curious violent example of this concept. It is set in a kind of dystopian future USA, where the government allows the population to commit an annual ‘purge’ on a specific date. This is where for one night each year, all citizens are allowed to commit almost any crime they wish and they will not be punished for it. So for that one night, many armed citizens go out committing murder, rape, burglary and all sorts of nasty things, whilst the rest of the population lock themselves inside, hoping to survive the night. As a result, the overall national crime rate is extremely low. By allowing this night of terror and release, it somehow purges most criminal tendencies out of the population.

Release, not wreck

For an inner catharsis, we don’t need to go as far as this kind of purge. I was thinking more of slowly realising stuff out of us, rather than to pull a Charles Bronson in Death Wish.

It is by the release of emotions, which is where real healing occurs. In this vein, I wonder if perhaps video games and especially shoot-ups are a way for young men to purge themselves of anger and tension. To me it makes sense. Games are a parents bane, however, what if all the tension and adrenaline that is produced from a game is actually helping release teenage angst and that games are actually good for them.

Continue to Part 3

Next, I will go through some basic steps to carry out a mini-catharsis. Continue on to the final part of these articles in: Catharsis: Better Out than In – Part 3


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