Emotional purging and catharsis. It can look very similar to being ground zero at an explosion, and then picking up the debris afterward. My family was pretty repressed in expressing feelings of a negative nature, and so this whole concept has seemed a bit scary to me. Still, I've been willing to give things like this a try. It sounds kind of logical: You have an emotion that is overwhelming, so you just let it all out, release the pressure, and then you have a clean slate to build off of. Why not give it a shot?
So I have, on a few different occasions. Here's what I've found: This is flat out destructive. Even with the express consent of the others involved to "say anything you are feeling", a "safe container", or whatever euphemism you'd care to insert for an emotionally non-stick environment, it just doesn't turn out that way. People can't un-hear things. It damages your connection. It doesn't make anything any better, and once you get a taste for explosive decompression, it gets harder to have a measured response to intense situations.
Emotional mastery is a concept that can be misunderstood to mean distancing oneself from their emotions. For me, it's about being even more deeply aware of my emotions, working to understand the underlying reasons something is hitting a hot button, and choosing actions that are congruent with who I am, rather than allowing my emotional states to determine my behavior. I'll let you know if I ever get there! ;)
Some of the ways that I might choose to work through my darker emotions include, but are not limited to: writing, listening to morbidly awful music, and often singing along, crying, exercising, bathing, talking to a friend that isn't involved with whatever I am upset about, creating a plan to improve a situation I am feeling stuck about, going to a discussion group, tossing something out into an online forum, and the medicinal application of good-quality chocolate.
If I feel a need for catharsis, I'll go ahead and do that, but not with the people or situations that I'm upset with. It's self-indulgent, and destructive. Once I have a bit more of a handle on my own emotional state, I will have an open and honest conversation, but without the hysteria, or a sense of entitlement that having an emotion means that I should express it in any fashion that feels good at the time.