How can binge watching TV shows can be good for your mental health? Through cathartic emotional purging and empathetic observation, you can use your time in front of the TV to work through your issues, and here’s how…
According to Aristotle’s Poetics catharsis is the purification of the emotions by vicarious experience.
The psychotherapy definition is the process of relieving an abnormal excitement by re-establishing the association of the emotion with the memory or idea of the event which was the first cause of it, and of eliminating it by abreaction.
5 Ways to Binge Watch a TV Show for Catharsis
This is an empathic exercise wherein you experience and sit with the feelings that arise from binge watching a TV Series.
The reason I propose it as a binge is because the more time spent in another reality, the more cumulative the emotions will be.
I recommend TV Series because again, the TV show provides more time and access to characters and will inevitably put the characters through more trials than they would in one movie. (Mini-Series also works)
Keep in mind: Freud’s Oedipus Complex theory is based on Greek play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. It is not a massive stretch to propose that we make contemporary media function in the same way for us.
1. No phones, Engage
Pay attention and immerse yourself in what you are seeing AND hearing. This is an emotional process so you are also going to want to have the right time and space set aside (meaning don’t do it if you know you have to go out in an hour)
2. Take Notes and Breaks
Have a journal or a notebook and write down any important ideas, thoughts or feelings that come to mind, or things you want to remember for later. Don’t do this part on your phone because you will inevitably disengage.
If you have to reply to something or eat or take the time to process, do it!
3. Surrender and Interact
Cry if you need to, or laugh, scream, or whatever else you feel like doing. This is the purging. The show might bring up some issues that you have not fully processed so it is important to allow yourself to feel through the story you are watching. Those emotional expressions can sometimes be easier to access from a TV show, movie, song, book, whatever than they are when we are living our daily lives.
4. Maintain Some Separation
Remember: no matter how much you identify with the character, that character is NOT you. Sometimes we can retraumatize ourselves by getting too invested in the characters and events.
5. Pay Attention, Confront or Move On
What are the messages you are receiving? What are you confronting that needs healing? Sit with your feelings and listen to what they have to say. Pay attention to misunderstandings and miscommunications in particular. A well-written show will have more complexity in the drama, but sometimes major insights will come from accidental brilliance.