The way I interpret the word, without looking it up in the dictionary, is 'release from inner trauma,' 'a change in belief that brings a lasting mental relief. Or to use more poetic language, 'a healing of the heart.'
At the age of 66 I find that I am still learning, and this is a new word to me.
As has been mention in one of the comments the word comes from the old Greek language and simply means purification or cleansing. But it would be much easier for you to go to Wikipedia and get the whole answer discribed in full.
Catharsis is a Greek word that classically means purification. It is something of a medical term, but Aristotle used it in Poetics when explaining the effects of a tragedy, which creates a sense if pity and terror in the audience as they watch the fall of a great man.
Probably the best way to understand the meaning of catharsis is to experience it.
Recently, I attempted to help a middle-aged, Eritrean man who wanted me to edit his autobiography. He had witnessed horrors in his country upon his people in the name of Christianity. He was emotionally hard pressed to finish the work quickly, perhaps due to a deadline on his visa. I realized how important this work was to him. Writing about his experiences were certainly serving as a catharsis.
While living in West Branch, Michigan, I participated in a writer's group. One lady wrote about her errant brother. She titled her piece "A Lost Soul--On Purpose?" The man had no property and gifted people with his pearls of poetry. Upon his death, this woman was surprised to see scores of people at his funeral showing. She learned these were people whose lives had been changed through the friendship of her brother; many of these were former drug addicts. So, here was a soul who had been shunned by his family for his errant ways and who had made a difference in the world. Needless to say, this lady was in tears as she did her best to read what she had written to the group. The presentation, undoubtedly, was a catharsis for her.
Personally, I have few cathartic experiences in my life--oh, yes, there are the health-conscious ones--fasting, hydrotherapy, exercise, Violet Flame--more, I guess than I realized. The confessional served partly as a catharsis in the Catholic Church. The problem I had with that was trying to come up with a sin to confess. The greatest cathartic of all, in my humble opinion, is the Violet Flame. When I make calls to the Holy Spirit with violet in my mind's eye, I literally feel the change of energy around me. The Violet Flame is a precious gift anyone can do daily. I AM a being of violet fire; I AM the purity God desires!
I hoped I have given you the experience of catharsis.
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