If you've ever felt like there's a lot of repressed emotions bottled up inside you, you may have experienced catharsis. You might feel a sense of emotional release when you express those feelings, or achieve insight into how your past experiences have shaped your current outlook. The word cathartic is derived from an ancient Greek term that means purging or cleansing. It's been used in modern psychology to describe a process that relieves anxiety and stress, helps people become more effective coping mechanisms, and allows the unconscious to become conscious.
There are many ways to experience catharsis, and it can happen in a variety of settings. For example, you might be able to achieve catharsis when you discuss a difficult event or experience with a therapist in person. You could also have a cathartic experience when you read a novel that touches on the same kind of emotional experience you've had. Or you might have a cathartic moment when you help out a stranger in need through an act of community service.
It's important to note that the cathartic effect is only achieved when the expression of emotion or the achievement of insight are combined. For example, if you were to describe that your talk with your friend was cathartic, it would only be cathartic if the discussion led to a positive change in how you think about and deal with your situation. If you were to describe that your cathartic experience was seeing a tragic movie, it wouldn't have the same impact if you hadn't been able to connect with the characters in the film.