Define the psychological term "catharsis" and explain Joseph Breuer's theory of how it impacts individuals with a "troubled mind."

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goreadabook eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The psychological term catharsis is associated with psychodynamic theory and is described as the experience of intense emotional release.  In psychoanalysis, therapists encourage patients to confront painful or traumatic past experiences in order to psychologically heal from them.  They suggest that reprocessing and reexperiencing the emotions and sensations related to the experience will result in an emotional release that will reduce or eliminate related symptoms.  According to Joseph Breuer, tension and anxiety that can lead to neurotic thinking and behavior is released when a person experiences catharsis.  Individuals with a "troubled mind" experience unconscious tension and anxiety that causes them to develop defense mechanisms to combat those feelings.  These defense mechanisms are called neuroses and can lead to pathological thinking and behavior.  Through cathartic therapy, the tension and anxiety can be released and the neuroses can be reduced or even eliminated.