Emotional catharsis: what it is, types and examples

We all suffer from internal conflicts. Emotional catharsis is a form of liberation which has a name from the Greek and its literal meaning is 'purification'. In this way, we bring out negative emotions from within.

Emotional catharsis became known in the psychotherapeutic field thanks to Sigmund Freud, one of the most representative figures at the intellectual level of the 20th century. The purpose is turn the page and to be able to assimilate those negative emotions or episodes that happened as part of life.

What is emotional catharsis?

Although Sigmund Freud was the one who developed emotional catharsis as part of his psychoanalytic theory, earlier it was Josef Breuer who created the cathartic method, also known as free association. We can understand, then, that It is the process through which negative emotions that are repressed are released. In fact, it was used in hypnotic therapy.

Here we show you the exact definition that Sigmund Freud gives to emotional catharsis:

"The process by which we reduce or eliminate conflict by activating it in consciousness and allowing it to express itself”.

According to the father of psychoanalysis, those emotions, feelings and thoughts that are kept as a reserve in the unconscious They can influence the decisions we make, as well as behavior. Hence the importance of freeing ourselves and being able to have well-being, starting from the balance between the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious.

Within hypnosis therapies, Freud used emotional catharsis.

Also read: What is the importance of expressing our emotions?

Types of emotional catharsis

There are several types of emotional catharsis. Because it is a process of liberation, can be applied in various areas of life and right there is that the fact of being able to divide it falls.


When we speak of emotional catharsis in religion we can refer to positive or negative experiences that are expressed through rituals, beliefs, preaching or prayers. All of them end in a release of emotions, either by crying or by other signs.

Regardless of the religion that is practiced, it is always common to see manifestations of this type that can be both individual and collective.


Has a song, movie or series ever made you cry? This is recognized as an emotional catharsis of an artistic nature.

The emotions that you have repressed arise through crying. Hence, many people like to play sad music if they are going through some spite; or happy if they are living a moment of celebration.

Discover: When we eat our emotions


Aristotle was responsible for including emotional catharsis as part of a philosophical process, which is characterized by representing the purification of the soul. How is it achieved? Through the visualization of theatrical works.

The theory is based on the fact that, through the emotions expressed by the actors or actresses, people can also release their own. It is said that this was the main type of catharsis that gave rise to all the others.


The concept of emotional catharsis changes when it comes to the educational type. Its principle is based on the assimilation of skills to improve as citizens. It also seeks to develop an ability to reflect on the ways of acting.

In the literature

Finally, we can describe another type of emotional catharsis that is experienced by lovers and fans of reading. Who has not cried for the death of their favorite character in the book or has felt emotion for the achievement of one of them? All of this is considered a liberation process..

Why is it so important to express our emotions?

Emotions are not just that. With them we have the possibility of obtaining lessons that guide us to greater personal growth. However, not all people have the ability to express them.

When you repress an emotion, be it positive or negative, it will be guided into the unconscious and will explode at the moment you least expect it.

Thanks to the emotions that are expressed, we can get to know each other better, since they are part of the essence of every human being. Expressing and releasing your emotions is very important because you will have control over yourself and you will be balanced, mature and able to take them as an apprenticeship.

According to the group of psychologists Amparo Calandín, expressing our emotions should be a fundamental part of life and relationships, both with others and with ourselves. They add that the difficulty in identifying and expressing them can represent problems and great discomfort.

Examples of emotional catharsis

Without knowing it, many people have experienced emotional catharsis at certain times in their life. Some common scenarios that you may have lived through and have been very helpful in releasing repressed emotions are the following:

  • Feeling of fear watching a horror movie.
  • Feel compassion for a moment of sadness that a literary character is living.
  • Listen to a song and come crying.
  • The cry produced when a character risks his life to save others.
  • Get excited, to the point of explosive crying, when a loved one has a dream or goal fulfilled.

Tips to achieve emotional catharsis

The important thing, as we mentioned before, is that identify the emotions you feel in order to express them and free yourself from them. Here are some practical tips to achieve emotional catharsis and learn from those experiences.

Crying is not always sadness. It is a moment of release of emotions that can be well managed.

Ritual of confession

As strange as it sounds the confession ritual can be of great help to make emotional catharsis. You should start by expressing your emotions either through words, writing them down on an agenda or a simple piece of paper, or telling them to someone you trust. The key is not to inhibit yourself.

Practice any sport

Some choose to play a sport. The idea is that you like it and that, through it, you feel that you free yourself from those emotions that you repress during the day. For example, martial arts work excellently to generate cathartic impulse.

Take advantage of the noise

Another tip to be able to do an emotional catharsis is to take advantage of the noise. Yes, listen to loud music, shout if necessary, sing at the top of your lungs. Take out all that you have inside you one way or another!

Do not let yourself be inhibited by yourself or by others. It only allows emotions to flow.

Better quality of life with emotional catharsis

There are people who reach emotional catharsis as a way to seek a better quality of life, thanks to the ability to release repressed emotions. Purging the centers of emotion is a practice that should be part of your day to day to avoid a decrease in your mental health.

Do you like social networks? Take advantage of it and look for funny videos that make you explode in laughter. Laughing, crying, yelling, and even moving around are contributing acts. You will see how your life will take a 180 degree turn with this new habit.

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