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Catharsis is described as "providing psychological relief through the open expression of strong emotions; causing catharsis"

An online resource mentions "The Buddha has thus presented the principles of the catharsis of emotions..."

It is my understanding that gossip is not looked upon favorably in Buddhism. I am unsure why though.

Rightly or wrongly, i practice catharsis through open dialogue with others. This may be in relation to others or myself. For example, if i am faced with a challenge which i am aware and mindful gives rise to emotions such as frustration, anger, helplessness, etc, i often discuss these with close family.

Working with a real-world example, currently i am faced with someone who simply does not wish to work with others in a meaningful way nor takes proactive steps to work with others. Often this is seen as being a roadblock of sorts and more than often, there is little trust in working with the person. I have attempted on multiple occasions to work with this person in a way to go beyond the trifles and historical 'negative' experiences which has been less than successful. Now i undertake catharsis by discussing the concept of 'how it blows my mind" that someone is not willing to work in meaningful ways.

  • catharsis may not have easy parallels in Buddhist terminology. Skimming the paper, it feels as if the author is not writing in a technical sense but rather in order to impress the reader. Could I suggest a better question, "why is gossip frowned upon in Buddhism?" – Anthony Apr 22 '15 at 1:00
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    for starters, though, I might suggest reading about "Right Speech" to help define what you are trying to ask. – Anthony Apr 22 '15 at 1:01
  • After reading Catharsis it's not clear to me what "catharsis" means. Also according to Sigmund Freud catharsis is a good thing, but I don't know whether Buddhism would agree (that catharsis is good), nor modern therapists. – ChrisW Apr 22 '15 at 15:48
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I believe catharsis in your definition to be acceptable in Buddhism, only if the intention is purely wholesome. Recall that intention is karma, depending on whether it’s good or bad.

"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect." - AN 6.63

It is my understanding that gossip is not looked upon favorably in Buddhism. I am unsure why though.

Gossiping is not part of Right Speech because it's considered to be not useful for the path and it tends to lead to a negative environment, because most people find it unacceptable.

…Now i undertake catharsis by discussing the concept of 'how it blows my mind" that someone is not willing to work in meaningful ways.

If your intention is to acknowledge them of their unacceptable behaviour, and it contains no ill will towards them personally, then the intention is considered wholesome. Because the intention harbors no such greed, hatred or delusion.

…which i am aware and mindful gives rise to emotions such as frustration, anger, helplessness

As for this, you must be mindful of the emotions. If you cling to these, it will make you more frustrated, angry, etc, and stress accumulates. The act of clinging and the act of observing (mindfulness) are two different things, your emotions don't identify you, but you reactions does.

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A theory of mind/body therapy is that negative emotions make us tense up and we fail to release the physical tension. There is a psychological effect of negativity which is repressed emotion / neurosis. Meditation can trigger a psychophysical release of the tension/neurosis. That is catharsis. It can be triggered by thinking over and talking about situations but often this is just 'reliving the past' or 'blowing off steam'. When a person has released all there is to be released they are 'enlightened' with no neurotic component in their ego. Empty - of hang ups, prejudices, false fears etc. Modern people are very stressed with high muscle tension so this catharsis can be quite dramatic - it frightens some people. Others embrace it as the more you release the happier you get. When the processes of speedy catharsis start many meditators move or let their mind take them away from it.

  • Hello and welcome to Buddhism.SE. We've put together some information to help you get started here – Robin111 Jul 23 '15 at 13:23
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A couple of reasons why your practice of catharsis, as described above, might not be considered a favorable thing to do in Buddhism even if you believe it's different enough from gossip to not be considered wrong speech.

It brings you out of the present moment and has you re-living or clinging to the past.

Let one not trace back the past

Or yearn for the future-yet-to-come.

That which is past is left behind

Unattained is the "yet-to-come."

But that which is present he discerns —

With insight as and when it comes.

The Immovable — the-non-irritable.

In that state should the wise one grow

Today itself should one bestir

Tomorrow death may come — who knows?

For no bargain can we strike

With Death who has his mighty hosts.

But one who dwells thus ardently

By day, by night, untiringly

Him the Tranquil Sage has called

The Ideal Lover of Solitude.

MN 131

Also, it's the opposite of Equanimity which is prized as the 4th brahmavihāra, the 7th Factor of Enlightenment, and the 10th pāramī.

Lastly, spending time blowing off steam about another person comes close to gossip, ridicule, and other types of speech which are not considered Right Speech and could easily cross the line. As Anthony suggested above, reading up on Right Speech might help to make sense of all this. Best wishes.

  • Thanks. It may rightfully be a question in its own right, however if you 'blowing off steam' is deemed to be wrong speech, how do deal with a situation or situations, whereby you know there is a train wreck ahead and if you don't do anything it may very well end bad. There is a possibility that things may turn around to be otherwise. I use the means of catharsis to get another viewpoint so that i am not limited by my own views and projections. – Motivated Apr 23 '15 at 17:23
  • Meditation works wonders for me. :) – Robin111 Apr 23 '15 at 17:23
  • Meditation to me is a means to contemplate or to evaluate. If we are not actively seeking to improve for the greater good, is that not bad? – Motivated Apr 23 '15 at 17:30
  • I originally began meditation to help me deal with work situations that were quite similar to what you described above and which I found very stressful. My regular practice has helped me to feel far less of a need to be in control or clinging to views that things must be such and such a way. I'm not good at explaining it. But it's definitely helped. :) – Robin111 Apr 23 '15 at 17:36
  • Thanks Robin111. I do understand where you are coming from. I am however unable to bridge meditation and not doing something. For example, i personally use catharsis to destress, get another view, reflect on my own actions and views, etc. I also use it as a means to improve a situation. I am continually faced with a situation at the moment that a particular person i interact with fails to see the forest for the trees, places himself as above others (passively), etc. – Motivated Apr 23 '15 at 17:44

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