Catharsis: the process of emotional liberation

Catharsis is a Greek word that refers to purification and is used in psychology to explain the process of releasing negative emotions. The term became popular in the psychotherapeutic field thanks to Freud’s psychoanalysis.

Catharsis of psychoanalytic theory

catharsis is the emotional release that occurs with the free association method. In psychoanalytic theory, this emotional liberation refers to the “purging” of unconscious conflicts. The free association method or cathartic method was originally created by Breuer, a friend of Freud, but the latter developed it as part of his psychoanalytic theory.

Repressed traumas and impulses

First, the free association method was part of hypnotic therapy, in which the patient was subjected to the memory of traumatic experiences from his past, in order to release these emotions or repressed impulses. The evolution of psychoanalysis has detached this method from hypnosis to integrate it into psychoanalytic therapy.

At the start of psychoanalysis, Anna O, a hysterical patient from Breuer, invented the cathartic method as “fireplace cleaning” or “word care”.

To learn more about psychoanalytic theory, we recommend our article “Sigmund Freud: the life and work of the famous psychoanalyst”.

Origin of the word catharsis

The word catharsis comes from the Greek term κάθαρσις (kátharsis) which means “purification” or “purge”. Aristotle used the word in his work The Poetics. According to him, catharsis occurred in the Greek tragedy due to the effect it had on the spectators, since the performance (tragedy) it caused feelings of compassion and fear, And the spectators left the theater with a feeling of cleanliness, with a better knowledge of the ways of men and gods.

Therefore, the term refers to a process of purification of our feelings and values. At the time when we need to reflect on human life and thoughts beyond the here and now, we are able to value things in a different and renewed way. It is therefore important to understand that emotional catharsis is an ideal that can be achieved through self-reflection and direct contact with our condition as thinking beings.

Catharsis Theory: Media and Violence

In psychology, the use of the word catharsis is known for the concept used by psychoanalytic theory and its function in psychotherapy. But from social psychology the term has also been used in the “catharsis theory”.

The assimilation of certain ethical values

For several decades, there has been a debate about the influence of the media on viewers and their relation to the development of violence in childhood. No one denies the role of the media in socializing people since they participate in the interiorization of values ​​and norms, And in the way that individuals relate to the world around them.

But the media often distort reality and create an invented world, fictional stories that attempt to influence our tastes, interests and opinions, which is called media reality. This constructed reality it has a very powerful effect on the creation of the mental world of modern society.

Many theorists, like Albert Bandura, believe that most media consumers absorb social representations of “mass media” without discriminating against them. This view, shared by other authors, is known as mimetic theory. Faced with this scenario, catharsis becomes a complicated process, because there are a lot of entries that we internalize automatically. if we hang around media content backpacks, The catharsis process can be compromised.

Another point of view: passive catharsis in front of television

On the other hand, and contrary to this point of view, there is a current which defends (or at least excuses) violence in the media. For proponents of this view, the spread of violence in the media functions as a form of catharsis, known as the “catharsis theory”. For example, according to the cathartic theory, violent scenes on television would be a way to unleash the aggressiveness that nests viewers.

Although the debate has lasted for several decades, and despite the interest of many theorists in proving that the catharsis theory is true, research has not shown any results that support this position.

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