Search Results for Catharsis
The term catharsis has deep literary roots, and goes back to Plato and Aristotle.¹ In everyday contemporary usage an experience is called “cathartic” if it helps us release a good deal of pent up emotions. Usually some kind of enhanced intellectual understanding follows.
Catharsis is also used in the arts with much the same meaning, where some dramatic performance – be it theatrical, visual, poetic or musical – compels us to release feelings, this usually followed by some insight into ourselves or into life in general and the human experience.
Today, the term crops up time and again in the arts and music.
¹ See this good discussion, “Plato and Aristotle on Tragedy” about the complexities of catharsis: http://classics.uc.edu/~johnson/tragedy/plato&aristotle.html
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Delphi was the site of the most popular sanctuary in ancient Greece, located on the slopes of mount Parnassus. Originally the oracle at Delphi was a sanctuary to the deity called the Python. In time it became the chief centre for Apollo.
The oracle at Delphi was regarded as the omphalos, the great mystical navel of the world, marked by carved circular stones.
The oracle was presided over by a priestess known as the Pythia, who for a fee foretold the future while in a state of ecstasy, believed to be induced by Apollo, possibly aided with the ingestion of psychoactive drugs. This priestess remained chaste throughout her lifetime of service.
Delphi was also linked to the cult of Dionyius, which featured ritual purification known as katharsis. The famous Pythian Games helped to promote social unity among a somewhat divided population always at risk of conflict. The entire cult was shut down by the Christian Theodosius in 390 CE, although it was endorsed by the Christian Emperor Constantine and his sons Constantine II and Constans shortly before that time.
Delphi was still honored even by Christian emperors into the fourth century ce, as is revealed by a series of dedications in the names of Constantine and his sons Constantine II and Constans from 317 to c.338 ce , which describe Delphi as “the sacred city.” The oracle appears to have ceased to function by the end of the fourth century, when the site was abandoned.¹
¹ Hugh Bowden , John R. Hale “Delphi” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Ed. Michael Gagarin. © Oxford University Press 2010. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome: (e-reference edition). Oxford University Press. Toronto Public Library. 4 July 2012 http://www.oxford-greecerome.com/entry?entry=t294.e355-s1
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Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was a Jew of Austrian parentage and the founder of psychoanalysis. He studied medicine in Vienna and then neurology and psychopathology. He was marginalized by the medical community for his interest in the idea of infant sexuality. Today he, perhaps ironically, is often frowned on as a reductionist.
Freud remains one of the great innovators of the modern age. He attempted to scientifically outline the idea of the unconscious which formerly had been represented in literature, philosophy and nineteenth-century occultism.
His psychoanalytic techniques of free association and abreaction were influenced by several other contemporaneous “doctors of the mind,” most notably Jean-Martin Charcot, but Freud made them uniquely his own.
His works were almost entirely destroyed by the occupying Nazis. In 1938 he reluctantly withdrew from Vienna to London, leaving behind several sisters, all of whom died in concentration camps.
A habitual cigar-smoker, his relationship with his daughter Anna became extremely close; she acted as secretary, friend and confidant. Freud eventually contracted jaw cancer but refused pain-killers because they dulled his mind and interfered with his work.
After Freud’s death Anna further elaborated on the idea of defense mechanisms, distinguishing herself as an important thinker in her own right.
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Abreaction A psychoanalytic term which refers to a discharge of emotion attached to a repressed experience.
In contemporary psychoanalysis the analysand tries to not only feel but also intellectually understand the emotion, that is, the why and how of its repression.
According to the theory, emotional experience and intellectual understanding together bring about a therapeutic result.
In the early days of psychoanalysis, however, it was not deemed important for the intellectual component to be present for successful therapeutic progress. » Catharsis, Cathexis, Freud (Sigmund)
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