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I love the word “cathartic.”

It is so perfectly specific.  I like a word that doesn’t have a good synonym; a word that when I need it, I need it.

Catharsis is cleansing and purging and emotional and relief and breathing again.
It is overwhelming, like drowning in healing.
It is intense and vulnerable and freeing.
It grounds me, centers me, rebirths me, makes me new.

“Purgative” just doesn’t carry those same connotations.

I was thinking yesterday about the things that are the most reliably cathartic for me.  The things that make me feel something so deeply that it reboots everything inside of me that has gone off-kilter or cynical or self-piteous or numb.

I believe that the following are my top 4, in no particular order.

-Hard rain.  Driving, hurts-when-you-stand-in-it, overflows-the-rivers rain.  And hard wind.  Wind strong enough to press your weight into, and were it to stop short, you’d fall flat on your face.  Wind that whooshes and rushes and howls.  I like weather that makes me feel small; I like to be overwhelmed.  It makes me feel like even my biggest, scariest, deepest, most out-of-control emotions will get carried away with the tide.

-Giving things away.  Or throwing things away.  Things I thought I wanted or even thought I needed.  Things “everyone” has or “should have.”  Books I thought I’d read or re-read.  Clothes I thought I’d wear.  Candles I thought I’d burn, coasters I thought I’d use, frames I thought I’d hang, kitchen gadgets I thought I’d use – all of which ended up being things to clean around and live around.  When I practice the discipline of letting things go, I give myself room to feel.  I can breathe in the space and freedom of their absence.

-Driving.  Driving someplace far enough away from my every-day routine to let my hair down for a minute.  A highway or a back road:  all the windows down, music that suits me, head tilted back, my hand out the window, making waves.  Feeling the notes and the air and the nature on my skin and just – breathing.

-Running.  Running until it hurts everywhere.

What experiences or sensations are cathartic to you?  What provides you with psychological relief through the expressing of strong emotions?




  • Kate Conner

    Honorable mention: MUSIC. Classical music scores, large and sweeping, that break over me like tidal waves and speak for me when there are no words.

  • Jonathon Isaac

    I found myself sitting on a pile of large rocks with the wildness of the Oregon coast crashing below me. The Pacific Ocean feeds all of my senses at once and lets me know that although I’m not in control of everything in my life, God is. The constant roar of waves overlapping waves steadily washes out the distracting noise of the world, both outside and inside, of my mind. Who doesn’t get a bit excited when that first hint of briney air hits your nose when driving to the coast? Then to be close enough to such awe inspiring power to feel the spray from waves relentlessly hurling themselves against the rocky shore, and to think that I’m safe here, but only for so long. “Yeah, that one was a bit close, I should probably go now.”

  • Whitney Coffman

    Playing piano until my hands hurt. I think the longest I’ve done that was 7 hours…I just needed it.

  • Lyndsay Borchardt

    I loved this post, and stole the idea for my blog. Taking walks was the first thing that came to mind for me.
    My favorite time to take a walk is at sunset, just
    after a storm. The water colored and ink penned world’s colors are bleeding and
    blended from the rain. The sky is painted coral and orange. The smell of wet
    grass is pungent. The oceany wind whistles through the palm trees and my hair. I
    never wear shoes, I prefer walking barefoot at the edge of the grass and the
    road in the puddles. Or is it more like wandering rather than walking? Sometimes
    I feel like I have little choice in the matter, it’s as if the rain beckons me
    and I must answer it. It’s during wanderings such as this when my soul finds
    healing. Most of the time I don’t even know that I am in need of healing. It
    just happens, and when it does and the weight is lifted from my shoulders and my
    worries are washed away and I feel the lightness and peace and quiet contentment
    come sweeping over me…I wonder how I was ever able to breath under the weight before.

  • Annie

    Cold. Air so cold it hurts your lungs. And dark nights outside. I want to look up and see the stars. all of them. To remember that my God is bigger than the sky, that he holds all those stars in place and names them and still says that I am worth knowing and loving and my problems are all well within His control.

  • Marissa Kletter

    Playing the clarinet or just listening to classical music. Also walking/running preferably in the cold. Driving. Terrible weather. Sitting somewhere comfy with tea.