|Cathartic Scrabble - the angry geek's release|
Noun. In sense 2 also katharsis. Plural -tharses. Early 19th century.
[modern Latin from Greek katharsis, from kathairein cleanse, from katharos pure. In sense 2 also from Aristotle's Poetics.]
1 MEDICINE. Purgation. E19
2 (A) purification of the emotions by vicarious experience,
especially through drama, or, in psychotherapy, by abreaction. M19
Raaaaarwgh! Have you ever been so angry that you could just ... just ... just ... rraaaargh! That's it - let it all out. Don't keep all that negative energy bottled up inside you. Release! Punch a cushion. Scream at the top of your lungs. Throw a banana. Poke a stranger. These will cathartically release your rage, giving a much needed vent to energy that would otherwise overload your synapses and discombobulate your chakras. Or so the theory goes ...
If we're talking about Freudian and not Aristotelian catharsis (Aristotle posited that witnessing a tragic play gives release to the pent up negative emotions of the audience), it's the theory that negative emotions should be vented, otherwise the pressure will gradually build up and cause psychological harm to the individual. To vent these emotions, Freud first used hypnosis and then later a technique called free association, in which subjects talked through and relived bad experiences so that they could again experience and give vent to negative and long repressed emotions (a process called abreaction).
It's an elegant and appealing notion; all of us are familiar with the cathartic experience of "letting it all out" or "having a good cry," and the Greek root of catharsis appropriately links it to the feeling of being cleansed, purged of all this negative energy. The scientific evidence for catharsis, however, and particularly the aggressive offloading of negative emotion, does not support the theory. While cathartic actions often feel good, studies suggest they're merely triggering the brain's reward mechanism, thus making later outbursts even more likely. Thus, it seems, aggression and violence beget more aggression and violence. Who'd of thought? So stiffen that lip and repress those negative emotions, for, as my dear mother always said, "A situation is never so bad that losing your temper won't make it worse." Well said, Mum.
Is there anything you do for catharsis?
Do you feel better or worse after you've punched a cushion?
Unrepress those memories and blow off some steam by leaving a cathartic comment in the box below.