Therapeutic Cathartic Movement

Guided Boxing For Therapeutic Cathartic Movement

For hundreds of clients who’ve experienced the therapeutic benefit of cathartic movement through boxing with me, there is no doubt about its transformative effects. Still, I’ve grappled with how to define what it is that I actually do for work. How can I explain that boxing is a healing modality? Over the last several years, Somatic therapy or Somatic release has become the new therapy of choice for those seeking relief from PTSD and stress-related “disorders”. Finally, a shift from outdated ineffectual talk therapies and drug pushing to recognizing the importance of the mind-body connection.

Sharing personal experiences, especially those that carry significant emotional heaviness is indeed cathartic in itself; however, without adjunctive practice, people can get stuck in their stories reliving past experiences, energetically feeding them and keeping them alive in their present. I have a significant bias regarding psycho-pharmaceuticals. Masking sensations is not healing them.

It has always been my intention to guide clients on their personal journey to feel some mastery over what feels unmanageable and be free of the energetic debris of their past.

Boxing For Cathartic Movement and Release: Personal Reflection

As a young psychology major, I rejected what was then called Abnormal Psychology. I wasn’t interested in learning about crazy people. My preferred focus was research and behavioral medicine. If it feels broken, fix it! I cut off empathy towards others because I lacked it for myself. Cathartic movement was some bullshit approach that gave people the green light to feed their already aggressive and violent tendencies. The thought of men in particular punching things made my blood pressure rise.

When I was a kid, my father would hit things and yell. He was a new age seeker of every kind of therapy and spiritual modality. I’d hear him practicing his cathartic release while swearing about the women in his life. If I had been present in my body, I may have been scared. This embodiment of machismo and false sense of superiority achieved through the aggressive acts of hitting and yelling is what I believe is conjured in the minds of many people when they think of boxing. Clearly, this is true for some.

Angry People Want You To See How Powerful They Are. Loving People Want You to See How Powerful YOU are.

Chief Red Eagle

Unbridled raging, without focus, groundedness, and intention is what I thought of cathartic movement and release. It wasn’t until my early 30s that I had my first experience with moving my energy with focus and awareness.

Bypassing my experiences, moving straight into practical tools for managing my inner world, and intrusive thoughts worked for a long time, but I was never fully present in the now. I believed I didn’t need to revisit any of my past to have a quality life, but then I never knew what it was like to be free of the inner discomfort that was my baseline. The energy of my life experiences unspoken, tamped down, and denied, gave me chronic migraines, sleepless nights, and worst of all a broken connection to my higher self.

What Therapeutic Cathartic Movement is NOT

After 15 years of offering my version of boxing for therapeutic benefit, I still hear the same things after people learn I instruct boxing or martial arts as a healing modality. It usually begins with recounts of a person’s martial arts experience from their earliest elementary school taekwondo class to the name dropping of every random person they’ve known or heard of that have black belts or fighting experience. It’s funny, kind of, and tiresome.

Cathartic movement and release can be achieved through various modalities. Boxing, martial arts, and seemingly more action-oriented practices are certainly viewed differently than yoga, breathwork, or strictly spiritual practice. The practice does not equate to a specific result and will depend on the individual practitioner and student. Somatic therapies, such as relaxation techniques and breathing exercises without proper adjunctive cathartic movement may do much for awareness and present-moment coping tools but have little transformative effect.

The adapted practice of boxing I offer is not designed to feed a desire to be physically powerful, or a deluded sense that one’s skill set can defeat any offender. On the contrary, the emotional release achieved through guided boxing often leads to many cognitive insights. It does not come from an intellectual or psychoanalytic exercise but from the experience of the cathartic movement itself. This often carries a profound and pronounced positive change over time. Allowing for a new empowered energetic message of self-respect, personal boundaries, awareness of inner truth, and unapologetic acceptance of self.

Sometimes I’m stunned by the perception of what it is that I actually do. After having a rich spiritual conversation with a woman I was coaching I suggested she try a movement session. She paused thoughtfully and said she would but was worried that she may break her nose. I looked at her intently and asked “Would I ever let you be physically harmed?”. She smiled and said, “Of course not.”

Catharsis is about cleansing and healing at one and the same time – healing memories and attitudes, healing the spirit and the heart.

Desmond Tutu

Cathartic Movement and Release: What it CAN be

So I’ve tried my best to reframe and explain my boxing practice as a means of self-mastery and empowerment with a few key points, that it can be:

  • a way in which an individual may tap into and reaffirm a connection with their higher self.
  • an opportunity for a grounded embodied experience that in time overrides intrusive thoughts, and allows for inner connection apart from the thought world.
  • a tool to create new neural pathways that are counter to old fight or flight brain wiring, helping to establish body awareness and a memory of a new calmer, more relaxed feeling in your body.
  • a way in which unexpressed thoughts and emotions are released and transmuted.

Therapeutic Cathartic Movement as a Means to Achieving Corrective Emotional Experiences

Over the years I’ve had many people express a desire to box specifically to release pent-up emotions and “stress”, or to relieve feelings of being emotionally jammed up or anxious. Many of them, believed there were no new insights to be discovered after the release. That is until the conversation about the sensations happen. For most, once the channel for emotional release is open, guided prompts and coaching lead an organic process of self-discovery. This is where I’m happiest working with you. This is how connections happen and a deeper understanding of your experiences is made.

Conversation (sometimes about hard things not shared before), followed by grounded movements apart from those thoughts, helps you to experience your body in a new way. This provides corrective emotional responses to earlier experiences as your posture and presence are grounded in the moment free to release what is conjured within, but not had the opportunity for expressions. This is counter to an earlier reaction that may not have been self-protective or honoring of your actual emotional response. These cathartic movement opportunities will eventually create an embodiment of self that no longer bends or conforms to any outside expectation if it leads to self-abandonment.

When someone finds out that you box or practice martial arts, you will hear the cliched comment:

“I wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley!” My nervous system liked that for a long time.

Maybe that’s part of it. That is, how putting on hand wraps or boxing gloves gives a person a corrective thought process that overrides feelings of physical vulnerability and powerlessness. The script is flipped and now says, “No one is going to mess with me again!”, “I’m safe in my body now”. “I can defend myself against attack!”. Whatever the perceived attack is doesn’t matter. It is a powerful shift in consciousness to know that you, above anybody else, have your back.

Therapeutic Cathartic Movement as a Means to Achieving Greater Wholeness, and Integration with One’s Higher Self

Therapeutic Cathartic Movement has the potential to bring forth awareness of how disconnection from your physical body has led to a separation from the truer part of yourself. Reconnection is not achieved through force nor through the desire to fight, overpower or punish that which has caused harm and detachment from yourself. There may be a realization that the anger is towards oneself, for not having honored the sacredness of all that you are. The higher part of you is the awareness of your divine birthright to be free from harm and judgment.

Returning to wholeness is an actual energetic shift that allows for guidance to be brought through this higher connection. It has always existed but may have been based on a shaky foundation, severed during times of discord or trauma.

With connection, the details of life become less complicated and the concerns about how best to live one’s life are more easily surrendered. Recognize that there is a higher guiding force that when connected to it, helps our lives to unfold with less effort and greater ease. Here is where I hope to continue my mastery and lead others toward maintaining their connection, as a way of living life.

Know This: I AM and YOU ARE a sacred power, presence, and authority.

Clear your energetic channel with a cathartic movement practice to allow for greater integration with your higher self. Everything gets better from there!

Additional thoughts on this topic may be found in my blog: Release of Suppressed Emotion Thru Movement.

For more information and supportive services on how to release suppressed emotion, please visit my Transform Energy With Movement and Coaching Services pages. Wishing you much growth, healing, empowerment, and peace as you work toward releasing the emotions and energy that is blocking you from living your best life.

Estelle Bonaceto
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