The 3 steps of Psychedelic Healing: Catharsis (part 2)

The subsequent phase of the spiritual journey marks the commencement of the transformative process known as "freedom," which I have coined as the second stage. This state of freedom is attained through an essential process called catharsis, which involves the emotional release that accompanies the challenging of existing belief systems, as introduced in the first phase.

Catharsis, in its essence, signifies an emotional purification and cleansing that an individual undergoes through a variety of expressive avenues. Tracing its origins back to ancient Greek literary theory, the term was initially employed by Aristotle to depict the cleansing of emotions, especially feelings of compassion and fear, that an audience experiences when witnessing a tragic play or narrative. In this particular context, catharsis emerges as a mechanism through which the audience confronts and processes their own emotions vicariously by means of the characters and events portrayed in the narrative.

As time has progressed, the concept of catharsis has evolved beyond its initial confines, encompassing a broader spectrum of human experiences. People frequently seek catharsis by engaging with art, music, literature, physical activities, or even conversations. In these instances, the act of openly expressing and liberating intense emotions offers a sensation of relief, emotional lightness, and rejuvenation. The underlying notion is that the cathartic process can contribute to a more balanced emotional state by enabling individuals to confront, navigate, and potentially find resolution for internal conflicts and emotional strains.

I view the neural pathways or belief systems as akin to a complex wiring network, with emotions being the dynamic energy that courses through this intricate structure. However, mere rewiring of the brain's connections is insufficient. Unfortunately, many of my clients have come to realize this reality, as it appears daunting to fully rewire a system that remains under the grip of tension—often stemming from the very emotional tension that was present during the initial formation of the neural pathway. Consequently, catharsis emerges as an inevitable step within this process for those who seek progress and growth.

Practically speaking, I have observed that a majority of cathartic experiences find their outlets through two primary conduits: movement and sound. Interestingly, in contrast to the structured and artistic nature often associated with Aristotle's theories and Greek dramaturgy, these expressions of movement and sound don't always adhere to conventional order or form.

It strikes me that singing and dancing, both forms of movement and sound, stand out as among the most universally shared experiences across diverse human cultures. Interestingly, individuals who engage in regular singing and dancing tend to require less catharsis during periods of intense emotional release, suggesting a potentially alleviating effect derived from these activities.

Likewise, the practices within yoga, encompassing their physical movements (asanas) and vocal recitations (mantras), hold comparable significance as forms of movement and sound, much like dancing and singing. The principles underpinning yogic techniques were evidently crafted while considering both neuroplasticity and catharsis. In actuality, the yogic methodology, including techniques like kriya, to cite just one instance, extends well beyond any observations I've encountered thus far, displaying an extraordinary level of intricacy and effectiveness in precisely addressing this specific facet of human growth.

In this phase of the journey, an individual undergoing a psychedelic experience finds themselves endowed, albeit temporarily, with both Clarity and Freedom. However, a subsequent stage demands attention—an essential progression involving the transformation of this newfound transitory state into a more enduring stage of growth. This pivotal third phase is known as Integration.

Read next Integration (part 3)


Los Angeles, August 22, 2023