The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Catharsis is a sudden emotional breakdown or climax that constitutes overwhelming feelings of great pity, sorrow, laughter, or any extreme change in emotion that results in the renewal, restoration and revitalization for living.


Catharsis in psychotherapy

Catharsis is a form of emotional cleansing first defined by the Greek philosopher Aristotle. It originally referred to the sensation that would ideally overcome an audience upon finishing a tragedy. The fact that there existed those who could suffer a worse fate than them was to them a relief, and at the end of the play, they felt ekstasis (literally, astonishment), from which the modern word ecstasy is derived. While seemingly related to schadenfreude, it is not, however, in the sense that the audience is not intentionally led to feel happy in light of others' misfortunes; in an invariant sense, their spirits are refreshed through having greater appreciation for life.

The term catharsis has been adopted by modern psychotherapy to describe the act of giving expression to deep emotions often associated with events in the individuals past which have never before been adequately expressed.

Catharsis in medicine

Catharsis is a purging of the body. Typically used in connection with substances that result in the purging of the bowels, or laxatives.

Catharsis is also the name of:

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Last updated: 05-14-2005 06:46:11