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Sunday, July 21, 2024


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With Aisha Jallow

The Greek word catharsis means purification or cleaning, it speaks about the purification of the soul.

In psychology, the term is associated with Freudian psychoanalysis and specifically relates to the expression of buried trauma, bringing it into consciousness and thereby releasing it permanently. If you would look at a wounded soul as a wounded body, you would understand the necessity of cleaning the wound to allow it to heal. A catharsis is by definition the sudden emotional climax or breakdown consisting an overwhelming feeling of renewal, a new life.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle meant that the tragedy is purifying us.

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What is interesting with languages is that they are not fixed, they change with time and some of the old words get a new meaning. When we think about the word tragedy nowadays, we might relate that to a fatal accident, mass shootings – like those in the US, or of victims of a flooding where people have lost their homes. If we would go back to the times of Aristotle, the word tragedy described an art form. It described one form of theater which had a sad ending, in contrast to comedy which had a fun and happy ending. According to Aristotle the point with a tragedy was to allow the audience to recognize the shown emotions on the stage and to empathize with the victims of the sad play.

By crying or becoming upset when the victim in the play is facing disadvantages, you feel releaved when the play is over. Perhaps the play made the audience to remember something they had been through, and by being exposed to it you recognize the feeling and are able to deal with it.

Many times when we go through hard times, we believe that we are alone with these emotions. We may have been brought up in an environment where it has not been allowed to express one’s emotions. We may have been taught that whatever happens in our lives , we have to deal with it quietly and not bother anyone else with it.

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A trauma can look different for every individual, and how it affects you is also individual. There is no right or wrong way to feel or react on a trauma. The only thing that could be considered as wrong is to tell someone else that they are not supposed, or allowed, to feel or react in a certain way. Suppressing one’s emotions will always lead to backlashes, one way or another.

There is a symptom called psychosomatic illness. It comes from the Greek words Psyche and Soma which means Soul and Body. Modern medicin and healthcare knows that body and soul are interconnected. You can’t separate them as they depend on each other and their symptoms affect each other. If your soul is wounded, your body will show that through pain, dizziness or other symptoms. When the body is wounded, your soul will show that through fear, depression or forgetfulness.

In the old times, doctors and psychologists didn’t have that knowledge yet. These two professions didn’t collaborate, doctors thought you could treat all illnesses with pills or operations . Psychologists thought you could treat everything by talking about it or even trigger emotions. Catharsis became a modern method, they believed in healing through putting someone through the trauma again. This method has to be used carefully, because sometimes the human brain must be allowed to rest and forget. This is why we faint, for example, when we are exposed to great pain because the brain is protecting itself. It shuts off as it is not good for us to remember everything.

What the early psychologists didn’t understand was that catharsis was a form of art in the Antique theater. The audience were watching the play, empathized with the victims of the play, but they didn’t go deeper than that. It was releaving enough to see that someone else was sharing your emotions and experiences. The feeling that you were not alone was healing and cleaning your soul. That was how catharsis was used and not a method to rattle every emotional skeleton.

So what has all of this to do with my topic, which some of you have noticed is spelled with a Q and not a C? Well, as usual I like to play with words, so I am connecting this essay to the one from last week which was about the World Cup in Qatar. I realized that I wasn’t ready speaking about it, as no one else seems to be at the moment. At my school we even have a large TV screen in the pupils hall where they can watch the games while their teachers are on recess. Those of you who are following the games perhaps have seen when the German team cover their mouths with one hand when the team was presented. A strange behaviour, one might think, so I wanted to explain what that was about. It was a silent protest against FIFA, the international football organization, that the players were not allowed to express their opinions about the situation in Qatar.

It is no secret for anyone how guest workers are suffering in Qatar. It is no secret how suppressed the women are and how dangerous it is to be part of the LGBTQ community. Qatar has turned themselves inside out to be able to get the football worldcup. They have bribed, cheated, used and misused people. They have shown no respect for human lives and thought they could get away with it. This mindset is not accepted anymore so if Qatar has invited other people to their country, they must be aware of the risk they are taking. The so called risk is that their skeletons in the wardrobes are now official. These hidden secrets are now out in the open and people will show their opinions about them, one way or another.

Perhaps the guest workers in Qatar will go through a catharsis when they realize that there are actually people out in the world who care about how they are treated. Perhaps the women who live in fear of being reported to the police for something that wasn’t their fault, a rape, will see that the laws can be changed. Perhaps the members of the LGBTQ community will be strengthened when they get to know that there are people out in the world who believe in love – no matter the form or gender. All of us need to go through a catharsis to purify our souls. All of us have thoughts we are not proud of, prejudice that are harmfull and have acted in ways that haunt us in sleepless nights. This process of purification is necessary, no matter if it is spelled with Q or a C.

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