Whenever I got angry, I avoided how I felt. “I’m fine,” I’d say to anyone asking how I was. Now I do something different thanks to an emotional release technique I’ve been practicing. When I feel anger burn inside my chest, I step into another room and scream into a pillow. It’s primitive, a bit juvenile, and one of the most transformative things I do for myself.
This personal technique is part of what Katherine Petrullo calls emotional catharsis, which she considers an integral part of healthy “emotional mastery”—how we gain control over our emotions so we can let them authentically guide us. Petrullo, a quantum healer and the founder of Luminate, believes that when we allow ourselves to fully feel the emotion coursing through our body—be it anger, sadness, fear, joy, frustration—we open ourselves to greater clarity and vibrance. “Our joy is clearer, our happiness is clearer, our truth is clearer,” says Petrullo. “Then we can fearlessly step in the right direction.”
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It sounds simple, and it is, but there’s an even deeper reasoning behind Petrullo’s thesis. In the western world, we avoid our emotions and charge through them with our heads held high. “The way society teaches us how to manage emotions is a bit neglectful,” she adds. This is to our detriment because our emotions are like a personal compass guiding us to our truth, says Petrullo.
A healthy way forward calls for an emotional release technique practice. As Petrullo illustrates below, this allows us to go deep and honor what we’re feeling so we can then walk the path we’re meant to.
The Benefits of Emotional Catharsis—and How to Practice It
Why is emotional catharsis so important?
It isn’t something we’re taught. When we’re toddlers, we experience what we feel as it comes up. If we’re feeling overwhelmed, we’ll burst into tears. But as we grow up, we’re taught emotional mastery mostly by parents who don’t have a healthy emotional release system [or emotional catharsis]. So it’s a lot of, “stop crying,” “you’re okay” or “don’t feel bad.” If it were all that easy, we could just move on with our lives. But when we repress our emotions, it’s like mucus building up in the lungs and your expansion can’t get as big. When you practice emotional catharsis, it’s like you’re letting the phlegm come out so you can continue breathing in a healthier, more productive way and expanding into all that you can do.
What happens when we don’t fully feel our emotions?
Emotions are magnetic poles of our internal compass. When we don’t know how to navigate our emotions, we get stuck in anxiety patterns, which is often when a lot of fear will come up. Fear can be a very productive emotion; sometimes it genuinely saves us. But other times, fear leads to limiting beliefs, which we need to expand beyond. We also risk burning out our nervous system because we keep pushing down the fear. In mastering the release of these heavier emotions, we’re able to make better decisions that are authentic to us and keep our bodies more open for expansion. It’s a better hygiene system for maintaining our nervous system.
“I view it like a breath. We’re inhaling and we’re exhaling, we’re expanding and contracting. That’s what we do in life is going through periods of expansion and contraction, and healthy emotional catharsis helps guide this expansion and contraction.” — Katherine Petrullo
How do we practice emotional catharsis?
There are three components:
First, it’s about navigating the root, which I call low-frequency work. You need to discover: What is the core emotion that I’m feeling? A lot of times when something is layered and impacted, we’re not even sure what emotion is there, especially if we grew up in a world where we weren’t taught to vocalize or release our emotions. So to do this we can start by sitting with ourselves and asking What do I really feel? Then we invite that emotion to come up.
Then we move to the somatic element. We know the emotion that’s in our body and it’s time to move and release it in a variety of different ways. This is about finding the formula that works for you. What I’ve noticed is that my emotions take on different notes. When I am ready to release anger, I like to blast, like rock and roll. I’ll create a 30-minute playlist of high-energy music then I’ll move my body to shake it out of my system. Setting that time limit allows you to understand that it’s not going to be forever. You feel it then you come out of it.
Other practices that are helpful include:
- Breathwork or breathing then releasing into a scream.
- EFT tapping while claiming “it is safe to feel my feelings” and then allowing yourself to release the emotions as they come up.
- Repetitive movement. When we repeat the same physical movement, we are working to ground and release energy held within the body. Try doing two minutes of squats or a brief Kundalini asana to call forth emotion within the body and then allow release following the exercise.
The final piece is what I call the expansion point or high-frequency practice. This is where you bring yourself out of the emotion so that you don’t stay with the residue. You’re going to be going deep into the emotion, maybe you’ll be crying, so you need to calm down afterward. You can do this by taking a box breath, which is exhaling and holding and inhaling and holding at an equal count. I also love creating another playlist that includes light fun songs. This helps shift your energy so you feel good and safe.
What are the benefits of emotional catharsis?
We release low-frequency options based on shame or fear. These are limiting beliefs such as, I’m not good at this or I don’t have self-worth. When we practice emotional catharsis, it allows us to move forward without these limiting beliefs. It also allows us to orient our authentic selves and be more attuned to high-frequency energies. It’s empowering, we’re clearer, and we’re more directed by joy.