The Cry-It-Out Plan That Helps Adults Heal Past Trauma

Photo: Aleshyn Andrei / shutterstock 
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Once we reach maturity, most of us have endured at least one crisis or life pivot.

If you’ve lived through a painful relationship, a bad breakup, a serious diagnosis, or the common roller coaster of finances, any of these creates an emotional shockwave in your body.

For most of these experiences, you will be tempted to shut the door on the fear, anger, and grief you felt. You may want to slam the door on your memories.

However, if you are serious about coming out the other side, catharsis can offer in speeding the process of healing.

If you ignore trauma, that often becomes the recipe for more suffering. Just as heartburn is caused by a lack of proper digestion and could cause pain after a meal is finished, the emotional and physical effects of trauma reverberate in your mind and body unless you learn how to gently process the experience and turn the corner on it.

I've found the best way to heal trauma is to use a process that includes catharsis.

Further down in the article, I have shared the exact process that I've found most helpful — for myself and others who've tried it.

RELATED: How Gratitude & Forgiveness Can Help You Let Go Of The Past And Heal Trauma

What is catharsis?

Merriam-Webster defines catharsis as a purification that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension. 

After surviving an extreme trauma, I used these techniques and they worked faster and more thoroughly for me than the countless strategies I had tried.

Since then, I have taught this to thousands of people, and if you have endured a trauma yourself you may find this very helpful.

When we survive a trauma, we know with our rational minds that we have to begin again, yet, often we’re not ready, so we feel stuck.

The situation seems hopeless because every time we try to imagine our future, it looks dark, and everything seems like a dead end, reminding us of the trauma. The most dangerous aspect of this phase is that we often end up in similar situations again and again until we learn how to heal and move on.

Some people feel so overwhelmed by fear, anger, or grief after a tragic experience that they become afraid to feel anything.

They stuff their feelings down by ignoring them or by dangerous distracting behaviors of too much alcohol, food, or using drugs, and when they finally realize the cost to their body, they have to spend a long-time recuperating.

Instead, you can use these catharsis techniques now.

RELATED: How The Impact Of Trauma On Your Brain Helps You Heal

Five beneficial ways to release pain using catharsis:

1. Observe and name your pain

Notice the pain and grief in your body and give it a name.

Is it Rage, Panic, or Agony, 3 of the 7 Stages of Trauma© that I discovered? Is it something else? When you write it down, noting exactly what you are feeling, it allows you to begin the process of catharsis. 

2. Be in the present as much as you can

Have you seen children “cry themselves to sleep?” While adults may cry for hours or days, children are able to be so present with their pain that once the tears start, their crying usually ends quite soon.

Children are able to be present in the moment and without extensive life experience, they don’t invent terrifying imaginary stories about the future.

As adults we often imagine a single crisis multiplying again and again. It is essential to your overall well-being that you learn a new way of looking at life so that you are pragmatic about the situation and control any tendency to hold on to suffering which is one benefit of catharsis.  

RELATED: 5 Mind-Blowing Tips For Finding Inner Peace

3. Surround yourself with the people who are true supporters

Perhaps your family congratulated you when you separated; that’s not support, that’s cheerleading!

Or did your family and friends report to you what they never liked about your “husband”, job, house, etc.?  None of that helps; support after a loss is empathy and it heals the superficial pain and allows you to begin to do the deeper healing that’s required.

4. Have empathy by using needs-based words

It can be easy for many of us to show emapthy toward other people, but what about ourselves? 

Empathy If you’ve lost a job:

“Oh, Barbara, I am so sorry to hear that; I know you must feel shocked and you need to heal; what can I do to help?

Empathy if you’ve lost your relationship:

You must feel heartbroken that this happened because you loved him and wanted to spend your life with him; right?

You can learn to do this for yourself, and self-empathy is the most powerful gift to ourself as you can do it anywhere and at any time to self-generate inner peace, even at 4 a.m. when trauma often reappears.

RELATED: 4 Strategies To Build Resilience & Find Peace In Stressful Times



5. Schedule a time and place for your catharsis 

Select a time of day or evening when you are usually home and you can be alone. For me, the perfect time was 4:30 p.m. As one’s blood sugar often drops then, it is a convenient time to allow yourself to briefly descend into intense negative emotions.

I set aside 30 minutes to feel every feeling of fear, grief, and anger, however, I controlled the old habit of making up stories about my situation because those stories can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

I allowed the fear or grief to arise from an invisible place and like exposing certain bacteria to sunlight; the pain, the grief, and the fear dissipated more and more each day.

Sit in the same place.

Choose a space that is not your bedroom every day so that you entrain your brain in this habit and so that you avoid creating an association with extreme suffering in the room where you sleep.   

Create a visual or experiential memory.

Select one that triggers crying and instruct yourself that it is safe to cry and beneficial for you to cry.

Remind yourself that you are doing this for only these 30 minutes every day.

Daily practice will be helpful to you and this is how to access and heal emotional pain.

RELATED: 7 Proven Physical And Mental Health Benefits Of Crying

Cry for only 30 minutes.

By doing so, you program your mind and body to return to life; you are activating the life force that wants you to thrive, and day by day, you are further along the road to recovery.

Be prepared to use other things to help heal any deep trauma.

I used herbal supplements and other products to support my physical healing and eliminate the PTSD symptoms and I encourage you to work with an expert or medical professional so that you heal your body, mind, and spirit!  

Catharsis is part of every child’s life and if this process seems too emotional to you; please consider the training you may have experienced in which experiencing feelings and expressing feelings may have been discouraged.

As adults, we can “re-parent” ourselves with all the tools that are available so that we create the most peaceful and powerful lives and relationships.

I have found catharsis to be exceptionally beneficial as part of the healing matrix for speedy and complete emotional healing after trauma. I hope this works for you, as well.

RELATED: The Secret Way I Found Happiness After Major Trauma (And You Can, Too)

Susan Allan is a certified mediator and coach and the founder of the Marraige Forum Inc and creator ofThe 6 Part Converstation©  and The 7 Stages of Marriage and Divorce training to help people understand their own needs and their partner's.