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12/7/2013 8:39:26 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
I was discussing the term "catharsis" over email with a friend and I wanted to get the DDO community's ideas on the term as well. Listed below is our conversation, ending with a conclusion of mine:


"Catharsis (originally Greek meaning "purification" or "cleansing") is the purification and purgation of emotions, especially pity and fear, through art or to any extreme change in emotion that results in renewal and restoration."

There's another meaning for "catharsis" in psychology, which is the form I usually use and has a similar meaning. It has to do with venting anger to dispel it. For instance, hitting a punching bag when you are angry to "use up" the anger in a non-negative way. Research seems to indicate that it is never good to try and "take out" your anger in a benign fashion, because it only makes your anger come on stronger next time. Anger should be stifled, not vented - even if it seems to make it easier for you in the short run. I've seen parallels of this in other areas as well. Eating sweets makes me more likely to want them the next day (even though it seems like I'm just taking the edge off and perhaps won't want them as much afterwards, once I sate the desire). Drugs obviously work like that too.

Well it seems that 'venting anger to dispel it' would fall under the category of purging/releasing emotions wouldn't it? :)

Our definitions of "catharsis" suffer from a philosophical failure to adequately define :the term. There are many terms like this; one of the most famous is the term "justice." :Plato used the entire "Republic" to define "justice" and didn't finish the job!

"Catharsis" also has roots in Plato as well. Plato did not like most music and other forms of drama and such, and believed that the emotional releases involved were not a good thing (to put it shortly). Plato was actually pretty strict about what music you could listen to, what
stories you could tell your children, etc. Aristotle, his student, disagreed and made :arguments to the contrary (which I am as of yet not very familiar with yet). Then we get :into Freud and his hypnotizing of people to relive traumas to quell negative feelings :associated with them, and finally into modern psychology where my introduction of the :term actually began (in a backwards fashion I suppose). This involves venting anger to :relieve it (it's called "catharsis theory" in psychology). So if we have a person with :anger issues, should we teach them to wait them out using patience? Or vent the :anger by using a punching bag until they feel better?

Generally speaking, "catharsis" involves the act of, yes, purging emotions, expressing :emotions, or reliving past events (with the intent on re-experiencing the emotions :involved with it). The discussion revolving these concepts is millenia old and there are :a bunch of ways to have that discussion. Perhaps we could discuss listening to a sad :song or story to release tears. Personally I think that's a great idea, once in a while I :watch this when I'm in a depressed mood ( Plato :would disagree with me listening to a sad song (i.e., creating art simply to provoke that :emotion) but I cannot imagine how he would argue with the video I just listed for you :which is a true story. Perhaps the difference he saw was with creativity and reality, :leaving reality the only worthy candidate for our emotional release. There is certainly :some sense in this, as fictional material can be created with an intent in mind (i.e., :promotion of a religious or political goal by creating a false scenario that really does :not exist in the real world).

The way we both used the term is essentially the same, but the difference lies in :whether the emotion is being expressed by experience or by action. Let's say I am :trying to help you because you are angry. Perhaps one thing I could do is play you a :movie to make you angry. A conspiracy theory documentary, if you're of the right :political perspective, could hypothetically rile you up something fierce. Now, let's say :after the video, I give you a punching bag to hit with Obama or Bush's face on it (or :both lol). There's a difference between having the emotion inspired within you, as :opposed to committing acts to simply indulge the emotion. Combining this with Plato's :ideas, we get the arguable conclusion that it is beneficial to experience dramatic non-:fiction, potentially damaging to experience fictional drama, and utterly detrimental to :mindlessly indulge in (modern psychology's) physical cathartic release.