Why Write? Catharsis 24

This post is the first of a series titled “Why Write?”

IF YOU’RE READING THIS, it’s likely that you have some experience with journal writing or are at least attracted to the idea of writing on a regular basis. Perhaps you already journal regularly and are looking for fresh inspiration. Perhaps you’re a fiction or nonfiction writer who doesn’t keep a personal journal but thinks it might be beneficial.

So, I thought it might be helpful to look at all the reasons for writing daily — or as daily as possible. And not only to write in our personal journals but to take the content of those personal journals one step farther and use them to grow as human beings and, if we love to write, to inspire creative writing.

Reason to Write #1: Catharsis

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of keeping a personal journal is catharsis. The word “catharsis” originates from the Greek language and means to cleanse or purge. In psychotherapy, catharsis refers to the process of consciously experiencing deep emotions that have previously been repressed, thus moving them to the surface and allowing them to come out. I use the term in this sense of emotional cleansing or clearing — a release of pent-up emotional energy through experiencing and expressing emotions.

When you write for yourself, and only for yourself, in a personal journal, you allow yourself to express feelings and thoughts that you might not want or dare to tell anyone else. You might write about things you hate to admit even to yourself, such as, “I don’t really much like being a parent,” or “sometimes I question my marriage,” or “I feel like running away.”

Writing your feelings allows you to air them (albeit privately) and so, rather than pushing these feelings down inside yourself, clogging your emotional being with pent up frustrations, fears, and doubts, you acknowledge them. And in so doing, you honor yourself. You acknowledge and allow these feelings to have their full run.

You can choose to really delve into a fear, for example, to feel it fully, to write about it, and to discover its source. You might find, for example, that your fear of meeting strangers has a solid base of past experience, is not so “silly” as you judged it to be. Acknowledging and honoring that fear may then allow you to follow up with an action that ensures greater emotional or physical security in your life.

On the other hand, you might discover through writing about a fear that the fear itself dissolves in the clear light of day. Just bringing it out into the open through the act of writing is sometimes all that needs to be done to clear your emotional space enough to move forward in your regular writing or life in some way.

When you write honestly and unreservedly, not only about the events in your life but also about your feelings, you unburden yourself of emotions that bog you down and keep you from accomplishing what you want to accomplish or of being the sort of person you’d really like to be.

Even if you do nothing else with your writing, but write your honest feelings, you will experience the benefits of catharsis: cleansing, a sense of purification, and relief.

Share your comments and stories with us using the comment form below. How have you experienced catharsis through writing?


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24 thoughts on “Why Write? Catharsis

  • Archer Rae Bryan

    Its true, I write, for all the above reasons.
    And there is another reason I journal, I am, inclined to be a “glass half full” type, it takes a daily effort and a daily practice, to keep my perspective on the blessing’s of life.
    Journal writing is a way for me to look back and see those blessing’s recorded.
    My journaling helps me maintain a healthy perspective on life.
    Anyone else?

  • troy richards

    writing is something I like to do, I don’t presume to be a good writer, but I hate stiffling things I have a need to let things out, out safely so not to hur others, or worrys about reprecussions if I say something really off base which I am no doubt capable of , so I think I will start writing a journal as a catharsis and self improvement and even if that does not work, I hate most television, I find it difficult to find good books, once in a while I find one but their is lots of garbage out there and I cannot deal with anymore garbage. So thank you for how you put it has given me the push I may have needed to go on and do it.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Troy, Thank you for your comment. Yes, journaling is great for getting things off your chest without affecting anyone else. It’s also a great way to clarify how you’re feeling. I hope you took a moment to get my free e-book on Journaling Basics to help get started. If you didn’t just enter your name and email in the form on the sidebar, and enjoy. Keep in touch, and let us know how it’s going.

    • Mike Kraft

      Why do we normal, run of the mill people presume that professional writers, authors, celebrities, and teachers are the only ones who can and should write? A well-formed essay can close the power gap that silences the hoi polloi in relation to any institution. We not only have the right, but the duty. I think of it as therapy and catharsis. The only problem is that many people are not people of letters, and do not appreciate the thoughtfulness of writing. Write, anyway.

    • Anna

      Although journaling is an interest of mine, I don’t do it. I started out writing fiction. I have this issue where my writing, or anything I do, needs to be for a goal, which is usually monetary. It’s not all about the money. I do enjoy writing. I want it to have more purpose, though. I don’t have any published work. I’m attempting a book-length memoir, currently. Any suggestions or feedback on how I can overcome this need to share what I’ve written? I read this book – DIY MFA – and in it tbe author says community is an important pillar. Could it be that I need to find a community?

  • Wilma Gibson

    I am so bound!
    After reading this article I believe journaling would help me to un-ravel some things in my life. But I’m note sure how or where to start.

    Please send me your free e-book on Journaling Basics.

    • Amber Lea Starfire

      Hi Wilma,

      Thanks for commenting. I no longer offer my e-book, Journaling Essentials, for free. Currently, I’m in the process of revising it for a new edition. However, I encourage you to enroll in my free online course, Journaling 101. Simply complete the form in the upper left side of the web page, and you’ll receive 4 weeks of journaling instruction to get started.

  • Taylor

    I absolutely LOVE this. I have been writing specifically for emotional catharsis since 15 (27 now) and I credit my success to my writing practice. I’m trying to turn that practice (which is a journaling/diary practice more than anything) into writing that allows others who can relate to benefit from this same catharsis you write about.

    Thanks for this post! It really helped to read something like this, it’s helping me move forward with my writing 🙂

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Thank you for sharing your story, Taylor. You may be interested in my Journaling for Memoir series, which focuses on how to use our journal entries for other forms of life writing – memoir, specifically. But you could also use your journals as a starting place from which to write your story to illustrate and promote the emotional health benefits of journaling.

  • Professor D,Raja Ganesan Ph.D

    The experience differs from person to person. Sometimes writing out a traumatic experience may aggravate it. It depends upon the author’s raw experience and the purpose–conscious or unconscious–in undertaking writing.

  • Veena Garella

    For me writing poetry is cathartic. Doing quotations based on experiences in life also become a big release. When I write it doesn’t reflect negative emotions about how I’ve received life’s bashings , but how. I handled them, looking at them as an examination of my acceptance of some situations (that of course have been extremely hurtful to me) that a higher power(God) has imposed on me to adjudge, how I, having been an achiever in many walks of life, now take the test and come out with flying colours.

    This concept has led me out of troubled times and been a succour.

  • Cheryl

    Really helps,I think I vent by writing,that way I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings with my words,because although it is the truth you dont want to be too brutal to someone in person it relaxes me.

    • Amber Lea Starfire Post author

      Valerie, often, writing things down helps us release them. But if they are not fully processed, either emotionally or intellectually, we will continue to “chew” on them. We are simply looking for a solution. It may be helpful to journal in an exploratory way to discover what kind of solution your mind is looking for. That may help you move forward.

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