Catharsis (from the Greek katharsis) is precisely defined as a cleansing, with no substantial consensus in regards to its exact meaning. [1] Generally, this effect is a form of emotional insight. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] The process typically starts off being difficult to fully face and is sometimes accompanied by physically intense sensations which typically lead into pronounced emotion enhancement, deep introspection, and an analysis of one's character and past events. [24] During this experience many people describe reliving traumatic events, witnessing painful memories, having enhanced mental imagery, reliving of past experiences, painful feelings in general, and a release of previously repressed emotions. [4] [6] [24] This process of integrating manifestations of conflicts and traumas into long-term stable memories is often described as feeling very natural.

This effect can be helpful in aiding an individual overcome conditions such as addiction, [4] [7] post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other personal afflictions relating to suffered past traumas. [8] After this experience is over, most users report feelings of increased life satisfaction, rejuvenation, and spirituality enhancement which may last days, weeks, or even years after the event is over. [6] [9]

Catharsis is most commonly induced in therapeutic settings under the influence of moderate dosages of psychedelics compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline. [8] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of entactogens, dissociatives, [8] [12] [13] and meditation.


The culturally dominant definition of catharsis, releasing the pressure of negative emotions, was popularized by both Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud as the hydraulic model in psychoanalysis [16] [17] and Jakob Bernays's purgation theory in philology. [1] [18] [19] There is a large amount of discussion of these theories' unsuitability towards the emotion of anger, showing that acting aggressively produces more aggression. [16] [17] [20] [21] Aggression studies' applicability towards catharsis can be called into question though, specifically regarding the nature of security required to experience this effect. [22] It is also notable that Freud himself abandoned this model in practice, favouring the psychoanalytical technique of free association. [23]


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  2. Roseman, L., Nutt, D. J., & Carhart-Harris, R. L. (2018). Quality of acute psychedelic experience predicts therapeutic efficacy of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. Frontiers in pharmacology, 8, 974. |
  3. Tesser, A., Leone, C., & Clary, E. G. (1978). Affect control: Process constraints versus catharsis. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 2(3), 265-274. |
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    Gasser, P., Kirchner, K., & Passie, T. (2015). LSD-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with a life-threatening disease: a qualitative study of acute and sustained subjective effects. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 29(1), 57-68. |
  7. Belser, Alexander B.; Agin-Liebes, Gabrielle; Swift, T. Cody; Terrana, Sara; Devenot, Neşe; Friedman, Harris L.; Guss, Jeffrey; Bossis, Anthony; Ross, Stephen (2017). "Patient Experiences of Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 57 (4): 354–388. |
  8. Bogenschutz, M. P., & Johnson, M. W. (2016). Classic hallucinogens in the treatment of addictions. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 64, 250-258. |
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    Garcia-Romeu, A., Kersgaard, B., & Addy, P. H. (2016). Clinical applications of hallucinogens: A review. Experimental and clinical psychopharmacology, 24(4), 229. |
  10. Carbonaro, T. M., Bradstreet, M. P., Barrett, F. S., MacLean, K. A., Jesse, R., Johnson, M. W., & Griffiths, R. R. (2016). Survey study of challenging experiences after ingesting psilocybin mushrooms: Acute and enduring positive and negative consequences. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 30(12), 1268-1278. |
  11. Winkelman, M. (1991). Therapeutic effects of hallucinogens. Anthropology of Consciousness, 2(3‐4), 15-19. |
  12. Hartogsohn, I. (2018). The Meaning-Enhancing Properties of Psychedelics and Their Mediator Role in Psychedelic Therapy, Spirituality, and Creativity. Frontiers in neuroscience, 12, 129. |
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    Wolfson, P. E. (2014). Psychedelic experiential pharmacology: pioneering clinical explorations with Salvador Roquet (How i came to all of this: ketamine, admixtures and adjuvants, Don Juan and Carlos Castaneda too): an interview with Richard Yensen. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 33(2), 11. |
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    Kolp, E., Friedman, H. L., Krupitsky, E., Jansen, K., Sylvester, M., Young, M. S., & Kolp, A. (2014). Ketamine Psychedelic Psychotherapy: Focus on its Pharmacology, Phenomenology, and Clinical Applications. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 33(2), 8. |
  15. Gasser, P., Holstein, D., Michel, Y., Doblin, R., Yazar-Klosinski, B., Passie, T., & Brenneisen, R. (2014). Safety and efficacy of lysergic acid diethylamide-assisted psychotherapy for anxiety associated with life-threatening diseases. The Journal of nervous and mental disease, 202(7), 513. |
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    Bushman, B. J. (2002). Does venting anger feed or extinguish the flame? Catharsis, rumination, distraction, anger, and aggressive responding. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 28(6), 724-731. |
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    Bohart, A. C. (1980). Toward a cognitive theory of catharsis. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 17(2), 192. |
  18. Golden, L. (1973). The purgation theory of catharsis. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 31(4), 473-479. |
  19. Porter, J. I. (2015). Jacob Bernays and the Catharsis of Modernity. Tragedy and the Idea of Modernity, 15-41. |
  20. Bushman, B. J., Baumeister, R. F., & Stack, A. D. (1999). Catharsis, aggression, and persuasive influence: Self-fulfilling or self-defeating prophecies?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 76(3), 367. |
  21. Bushman, B. J., Baumeister, R. F., & Phillips, C. M. (2001). Do people aggress to improve their mood? Catharsis beliefs, affect regulation opportunity, and aggressive responding. Journal of personality and social psychology, 81(1), 17. |
  22. Geen, R. G., & Quanty, M. B. (1977). The Catharsis of Aggression: An Evaluation of a Hypothesis. In Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 10, pp. 1-37). Academic Press. |
  23. Nichols, M. P., & Efran, J. S. (1985). Catharsis in psychotherapy: A new perspective. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 22(1), 46. |
  24. Belser, Alexander B.; Agin-Liebes, Gabrielle; Swift, T. Cody; Terrana, Sara; Devenot, Neşe; Friedman, Harris L.; Guss, Jeffrey; Bossis, Anthony; Ross, Stephen (2017). "Patient Experiences of Psilocybin-Assisted Psychotherapy: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis". Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 57 (4): 354–388. |


psychological state


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