While some will tell you catharsis is usually achieved through art, there are other ways to experience it. When I was in college I had friends who relieved pent up feelings by riding a roller coaster and screaming at the top of their lungs. And, of course, most males will swear by engaging in some form of extreme athletic activity or by pounding away on...well, just about anything. But for me, there’s no more effective way of bringing feelings back into balance than a good ol’, hold-nothing-back wailing session.
So, you ask, what sparked all this ruminating about a term few people know and even fewer care about? It was an article I found while thumbing through an outdated magazine. It announced 2012 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the play SteelMagnolias. Oh my gosh! How did I miss that??? Had I known in time, I would’ve thrown a Steel Magnolias party, complete with “cuppa, cuppa, cuppa,” and sweet tea—“the dinner wine of the South." Besides having great dialogue and zingers—“You are a boil on the butt of humanity”—Steel Magnolias is the mother of all tear-jerkers. Talk about catharsis. If you aren’t emotionally drained after watching this play/movie, you have some serious sensitivity issues going on.
I vividly recall the first time I saw the movie. Because I had heard it was sad—a jumbo-box-of-hankies sad—I purposely went alone at a non-peak hour so as not to embarrass myself. It proved to be a good strategy. In the darkness of the almost deserted theater, I didn’t even try to hold back my sniffling, sobbing, out-n-out blubbering. I’m sure if I had, all the backed-up tears and snot would’ve caused my head to explode. As it was, I left the theater with both my emotions and my sinuses completely “purged.”
If you’ve never seen the play or movie—and I can’t imagine there’s anyone over the age of twelve who hasn’t—don’t be put off by my post. Yes, the story is sad, no getting around it. But Robert Harling, who wrote the play, ingeniously balanced its seriousness with laugh-out-loud moments. As Truvy says, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” And “laughter through tears” is my favorite way to experience a catharsis.
Now it’s your turn. Have a favorite way of experiencing a catharsis? Or how about sharing a favorite line from Steel Magnolias?