Getting It off Your Chest

Carrying around a secret shame will weigh you down. Let’s face it: we all have our faults and we all screw up. Confessing our shortcomings helps the body, mind and soul. By admitting, out loud, that we have at times failed to measure up to our own standards, we can realize the universal nature of failing and free ourselves from the weight of guilt.

In psychology, this effect is called catharsis. The word catharsis is derived from the Greek word for cleansing or purification. Crying, screaming, punching the air, these are all physical manifestations of negative emotion leaving the body. When we confess, our internal guilt and shame is leaving our body through our words. Through reliving, acknowledging, and analyzing traumatic events, we can begin to overcome them. From Aristotle to Freud, philosophers, theologians, and psychologists have all touted the positive power of proper confessions.

Emotions are often likened to liquids: they can build pressure and boil over. This is called the hydraulic model of emotions. As pressure from negative emotions build, they need to be vented to prevent the whole system from exploding. Repressing the thoughts or emotions cause them to build and fester over time, which ultimately results in psychosis and cognitive impairment.

In Christianity, the act of confession is sacred. In the Catholic Church, it is one of the seven sacraments and is recommended once per year. It is an acknowledgement of the flawed nature of humans, but our willingness to try our best. Through admission and acts of penance, we can achieve forgiveness from God and ourselves.

So go ahead, admit it. Shout it out. Own it. Yes, I did something I’m not proud of. But you know what else? I learned from it and I’m a better person now. I’ll probably do something else wrong in the future. But I’ll grow and become better from that experience too.

Additional Resources

Catharsis In Psychology And Beyond:

Psychology Today Anger and Catharsis:

Catholic Guide for Confession:

The Awesome Power of Confession:

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