On Blogging – From Catharsis to Hope

posted in: chronic illness | 10
Bleeding Heart © 2012 Jane Waterman
Bleeding Heart © 2012 Jane Waterman

I once heard it said that catharsis, on its own, does not lead to relief from our sufferings. I don’t think I truly understood that statement until last night.

In the small hours yesterday, I took the opportunity to blog anonymously on a writing prompt related to something difficult, and thereby obtain catharsis in doing so. It had rather the opposite effect.

What is meant by catharsis? There are endless dictionary definitions, but I had presumed that catharsis meant releasing something, leading to relief. Writing about suffering, however, does not lead to relief, even if it may lead to release, if we omit the element of hope.

Last night I was unable to sleep, worrying about a loved one and the dangers she was courting in her life. Of course, we cannot protect those we love when they are adults and capable of making their own decisions. However, some of those decisions were causing me grief, and making me question the rightness of my own decisions in life. So I availed myself of the opportunity to blog about it, anonymously, as per the invitation.

I don’t think I was ready for what this kind of writing would make me feel. Today, I felt a raw mix of depression and anger – not about my loved one or her situation, and maybe not even about me and my situation, per se. However, I felt there was no hope.

The problem with catharsis as framed is that it can lead to hopelessness. It’s one thing to express our feelings, our fears, our sadness, and even our anger about something. However, there’s the rub. Talking about it doesn’t lead to any kind of resolution, and without the right support, can lead to greater despair.

I always thought of anger as the flip side of depression, but I now recognize anger in myself as a kind of hopelessness – recognition that often there isn’t justice in life, that there are things you can’t control, and that there are people who will judge you (and often you are that person).

Catharsis opened the hopelessness of the situation to me, and therefore opened stronger feelings of sorrow, anger and helplessness.

I understand better now that piece of wisdom about catharsis. The conclusion of my early morning catharsis was only an acute sense of how little I could do about the situation that faced me. It also reminded me that I was responsible for my feelings, and the suffering they caused me. This is the kind of philosophy that is promoted freely by many: that negativity attracts negativity, and likewise, positivity attracts positivity.

However, reviewing my situation a day later, now that the depression and anger stirred up by my cathartic writings have settled, I realize that catharsis is not just about release, it is about relief. To me, that means acknowledging, but then accepting; despairing, but then comfortinging; helplessness, but then hopefulness.

The most important part of catharsis is moving from release to relief. Both come when you face your suffering with a compassionate heart, without self-blame and self-recrimination, by just by accepting “what is”. It is important to give ourselves the release of talking about our burdens, but it is even more important to deal kindly with ourselves, and to handle the consequences of our emotions and ourselves with compassion.

Positive and negative implies judgement. Compassion comes with just accepting what is, without blame. Compassionate thinking is what will heal us.

Blessings,

Jane

10 Responses

  1. Barbara
    | Reply

    Excellent observations and understanding here – letting it all out doesn't always make you feel better. I've experienced this myself, and unless there's some kind of "plan" as to what to do with the feelings that get stirred up, it just makes me feel worse. A lot to contemplate here. Thanks, Jane. *hugs*

    • Jane
      | Reply

      I'm sorry for the delay in replying, hon. I am slowly practising making time for my blog – it's so important to me. I'd be interested to hear if you've found any ways to successfully deal with the turmoil stirred up by catharsis. Many blessings! *hugs*

  2. Carmen Waterman aka
    | Reply

    I love the painting and where this has taken you. I know and saw how much it was all hurting and truly believe that the capacity to heal begins with loving compassion. You are my love, my life and have always brought hope to me and the world we live in.

    You have so much wisdom to share.

    ♥♥♥

    • Jane
      | Reply

      Thank you as always for your loving support. I hope that in future I can develop more loving ways to handle the turmoil, and show myself the loving-kindness I feel so readily for others. Lots of love, xxxx

  3. Grace Cherian
    | Reply

    Beautifully written piece, Jane. You're absolutely right. Ultimately what I'm called to do is exercise compassion towards myself despite the choices or decisions I've made in life. The strange thing is it's often easier to be kind to others than to myself. May you continue in your journey of self-acceptance. By the way I love your painting. It's vibrant, beautiful and radiates so much hope!

    xoxo

    Grace

    • Jane
      | Reply

      Dear Grace – I so understand the dilemma of being kinder to others than I am to myself. A lot of it is bound into our history, I wonder, but I think we would find the source of love and compassion would just blossom into something even greater if we could show it to ourselves. It takes practice and I believe it is worth it!

      Thank you for the feedback on my painting. I love your work, so I'm very pleased you enjoy my work too!

      Many blessings!
      Jane
      xxxx

  4. jessi michaels
    | Reply

    I can relate so well to what you wrote. It is interesting that catharsis is equated with release and relief but sometimes, at least for me, that relief is not immediate. It is not a cure-all but rather the road to some relief which often can get worse before getting better.

    As you wrote, finding yourself in that position without the proper support can be like trying to stay afloat amidst very strong undercurrent. You did that though, you found your way through and I am going to say that the strength you have, in order to have gotten beyond so much, is something that is an inherent part of you. You are amazing!

    Jessi Michaels

    Mind's Dance

    • Jane
      | Reply

      Dear Jessi – I didn't tell you at the time that I loved hearing from you, and seeing the new name of your blog. I love it! I hope to spend more time reading other blogs as I feel a little better.

      As for the strength you describe, I must have it, I know! I also know that it's in you, and if I could reflect back to you all the marvellous ways you have not only survived, but thrived, I know you would see yourself as amazing too. It's how I see you, Sweetie.

      Lots of love,
      Jane

    • Jane
      | Reply

      I'm sorry to see your blog isn't there – I do hope everything is all right, Sweetie. I know I have been out of touch. Know that I am thinking of you with lots of love and gentleness. Please take care and stay in touch. xxxx

  5. Jane
    | Reply

    I will reply more to you all soon, but just wanted to leave a note that I'd read your replies, and am so grateful to you all for your wisdom and compassion.

    Love and blessings,

    Jane

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