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What is the Difference Between Catharsis and Psychoanalysis?

Catharsis and psychoanalysis are both associated with the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud and the unconscious. They also involve in-depth talk and are instrumental in helping patients with psychological problems. Specifically, catharsis is the process of releasing strong emotions while psychoanalysis is a set of therapeutic methods and psychological theories which aim to make the unconscious conscious. 

What is Catharsis? 

“Catharsis” came from the Greek word “kathairein” which means “cleanse”.  It is the process of releasing strong emotions; catharsis is associated with relieving unconscious conflicts. This was first used as a therapeutic term by Josef Breuer, an Austrian physician and a colleague of Freud, who used catharsis.  

Breuer’s patients recalled traumatic experiences while they were under hypnosis. One of his patients, Anna O., was diagnosed with hysteria; her symptoms included headaches, hallucinations, partial paralysis, blurred vision, inability to drink liquids, and loss of consciousness. Anna began telling stories about her experiences, particularly about her father’s illness and death; after several narrations, her condition eventually improved. She called the technique “talking cure” or “chimney sweeping”. 

However, Breuer was keen to end the treatment due to Anna’s proclamation of love to her physician; she then offered phantom pregnancy as a final symptom. Breuer then immediately dropped the case and avoided using catharsis. After some time, he mentioned Anna’s case to Freud who also used the technique with his patients (Feist & Feist, 2008). 

In everyday life, catharsis may occur when one is discussing a problem with a friend, while listening to a song, when creating or viewing art, or during exercise. Activities which help you release emotions can spark insight, foster restoration, and work through repressed thoughts. Catharsis is a crucial tool for coping with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression (Cherry, 2020).  

The following are some of the suggested ways in achieving ‘emotional catharsis’ without having a meltdown (Beyer, 2019): 

  • Move your body: Go for a walk, try martial arts, ride a roller coaster, etc. 
  • Muscle Relaxation: Bring your attention to the different parts of your body and notice the difference when they are tensed and when they are relaxed. For instance, gently shrug your shoulders, feel the tension for a couple of minutes, then release and be aware of the relaxation.
  • Make Some Noise: Scream into a pillow, book a private karaoke, or shout in your car while the music is blaring. 
  • Use Words: Try journaling, free writing, talking to a trusted friend (or even to a pet). 
  • Watch Videos, Drama Series, or Movies: Your pent-up emotions may be released when you watch funny or emotional scenes. 

What is Psychoanalysis? 

Psychoanalysis is a set of therapeutic methods and psychological theories which were established by Sigmund Freud in the early 1890s. Its core assumption is that individuals have unconscious feelings and thoughts. People are often motivated by wishes and desires which they are generally unaware of.  It then aims to help patients by releasing repressed experiences, through catharsis, the unconscious my surface to the awareness. 

The psychoanalyst listens to the patient as he talks about his experiences, dreams, and fantasies while discerning patterns and underlying behaviors. This form of in-depth talk therapy has been used to help those who are struggling with depression, neurotic behavior patterns, relationship issues, and other pertinent conditions. 

The tenets of psychoanalysis include the following (McLeod, 2007; Cherry, 2020): 

  • Psychological problems stem from the unconscious 
  • Observable symptoms have hidden or latent causes such as traumatic experiences or unresolved issues. 
  • Insight can be achieved by making unconscious thoughts conscious. 
  • Early childhood significantly influences personality development (Freud believed that personality is set at 5 years old). 
  • People utilize defense mechanisms in response to anxiety. 

Difference between Catharsis and Psychoanalysis

Definition 

Catharsis is the process of releasing strong emotions; catharsis is associated with relieving unconscious conflicts. On the other hand, psychoanalysis is a set of therapeutic methods and psychological theories which were established by Sigmund Freud in the early 1890s. Its core assumption is that individuals have unconscious feelings and thoughts which motivate behavior.

Etymology 

“Catharsis” came from the Greek word “kathairein” which means “cleanse”; through this method, the patient may be “cleansed” from internal conflicts.  In comparison, psychoanalysis came from the Greek word “psyche” which means “soul”, “mind”, or “spirit” and from the German word “analyse”, also from the Greek word “analysis” which means “solution of a problem through analysis”. Hence, this therapeutic technique employs analysis in solving problems concerning the mind.  

Who Coined the Term? 

Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and polymath in Ancient Greece, coined the term “catharsis” to refer to the release of pent-up or strong emotions that he believed people went through when watching dramatic tragedy. This term initially pertained to the ability of art to stimulate and express feelings. As for psychoanalysis, this was coined by Sigmund Freud in 1896; it refers to the therapy or theory which examines unconscious elements. 

Tenets  

In therapy, the principle behind catharsis is that it will be helpful for the client to express intense emotions which are associated with a traumatic experience. Regarding psychoanalysis, the tenets include: psychological problems stem from the unconscious, observable symptoms have hidden causes, insight can be achieved by being aware of the unconscious, early childhood significantly influences personality development, and defense mechanisms are utilized in response to anxiety. 

Scope 

Catharsis is basically a method concerned with the release of strong emotions while psychoanalysis has a much broader scope; it is a set of therapeutic methods and theories which incudes catharsis. 

Catharsis vs Psychoanalysis

Summary 

  • Catharsis is the process of releasing strong emotions.
  • Psychoanalysis is a set of therapeutic methods (including catharsis) and psychological theories which were established by Sigmund Freud in the early 1890s. 
  • The core assumption of psychoanalysis is that individuals have unconscious feelings and thoughts which motivate behavior.


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    References :


    [0]Beyer, A. (2019). 7 ways to achieve emotional catharsis without having a meltdown. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/7-ways-to-achieve-emotional-catharsis-without-having-a-meltdown

    [1]Cherry, K. (2020). The influence of psychoanalysis on the field of psychology. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-psychoanalysis-2795246#citation-8

    [2]Feist, J. & Feist, G. (2008). McGraw Hill.

    [3]McLeod, S. (2019). Psychoanalysis. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/psychoanalysis.html

    [4]Image credit: https://cdn.pixabay.com/photo/2018/07/22/11/58/perception-3554418__340.jpg

    [5]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:%D0%9A%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B0%D1%80%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%81-%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BF.jpg

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