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the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.
Medicine/Medical. purgation.

psychotherapy that encourages or permits the discharge of pent-up, socially unacceptable affects.
discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition.

Contemporary Examples

Sharon Begley reveals why scary flicks give us a powerful feeling of catharsis and reinforce old-fashioned beliefs about morality.
Why Our Brains Love Horror Movies Sharon Begley October 25, 2011

Encountering such exaggerations on the page serves as a kind of catharsis, and provides a kind of perspective.
Lifetime’s ‘Flowers in the Attic’ Review: The Incest Is There, The Strange Magic Is Not Andrew Romano January 15, 2014

“The word ‘Katrina’ is so close to the word ‘catharsis,'” he says.
The Katrina Divorces Nicole LaPorte August 21, 2010

He suggests that the appeal to teenagers also goes beyond thrill-seeking and catharsis.
Why Our Brains Love Horror Movies Sharon Begley October 25, 2011

But I always feel that making the film is the catharsis that stops the nightmares, if you will.
James Cameron on How to Find Flight MH370, Climate Change, Leonardo DiCaprio, and More Marlow Stern April 11, 2014

Historical Examples

He however refers only to the catharsis upon the spectator, but not to that of the author’s work upon himself.
The Literature of Ecstasy Albert Mordell

Evacuations by venesection and catharsis, and then by the exhibition of opium.
Zoonomia, Vol. II Erasmus Darwin

He had no sympathy with the poetry that had a social message and he did not understand its effect as a catharsis.
The Literature of Ecstasy Albert Mordell

There are certainly times when catharsis is necessary but “one thing is certain, the day for routine purgation is past.”
Outwitting Our Nerves Josephine A. Jackson and Helen M. Salisbury

It does not touch the ‘catharsis’ of tragedy, which is another matter.
The Comedies of William Congreve William Congreve

noun (pl) -ses
(in Aristotelian literary criticism) the purging or purification of the emotions through the evocation of pity and fear, as in tragedy
(psychoanal) the bringing of repressed ideas or experiences into consciousness, thus relieving tensions See also abreaction
purgation, esp of the bowels

1803, “bodily purging,” from Latinized form of Greek katharsis “purging, cleansing,” from stem of kathairein “to purify, purge,” from katharos “pure, clear of dirt, clean, spotless; open, free; clear of shame or guilt; purified” (with most of the extended senses now found in Modern English clear, clean, pure), of unknown origin. Originally medical in English; of emotions from 1872; psychotherapy sense first recorded 1909, in Brill’s translation of Freud.

catharsis ca·thar·sis (kə-thär’sĭs)
n. pl. ca·thar·ses (-sēz)


A psychological technique used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing repressed feelings and fears to consciousness.

The therapeutic result of this process; abreaction.

catharsis [(kuh-thahr-suhs)]

An experience of emotional release and purification, often inspired by or through art. In psychoanalysis, catharsis is the release of tension and anxiety that results from bringing repressed feelings and memories into consciousness.


Read Also:

  • Cathartic

    of or relating to catharsis. Also, cathartical. evacuating the bowels; purgative. a purgative. Contemporary Examples One hopes they will lose in court, but if they settle, may the punitive clobbering be profound—and cathartic. The Hearing From Hell Tunku Varadarajan April 26, 2010 The show offers no cathartic “gotcha” moments, no easy answers, and no rapid-fire […]

  • Cathartically

    of or relating to catharsis. Also, cathartical. evacuating the bowels; purgative. a purgative. Contemporary Examples Better still, Kill Your Friends, despite its 1997 setting, feels bracingly, cathartically, of the moment. The Sound of Violence Taylor Antrim February 16, 2009 adjective purgative effecting catharsis noun a purgative drug or agent adj. 1610s, of medicines, from Latin […]

  • Cathay

    China. Contemporary Examples One airline that has already banned shipments on its passenger flights is Cathay Pacific. Passenger Flights Must Stop Carrying Lithium-Ion Batteries as Cargo Clive Irving May 4, 2014 This is the story of the Jesuit who more than 500 years ago made himself part of Cathay. James Fallows: 5 Favorite ‘Outsiders In […]

  • Cathected

    to invest emotion or feeling in (an idea, object, or another person). adj. 1936, psychoanalysis jargon, back-formation from cathectic (1927), from Greek kathektikos, from kathexis (see cathexis).

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