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Sport as Catharsis

Michael L. Sachs

Subject Sociology of Leisure and Tourism » Sociology of Sport

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The word catharsis comes from the Greek katharsis or katairein , which means a cleansing or a purging. Webster's Dictionary definition reads: “A discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition.” Catharsis essentially refers to a release or discharge or cleansing of emotions, generally with the purpose of relieving the stress that develops from holding these emotions within the individual. English and English (1958) talk about “the relaxation of emotional tension or anxiety by any kind of expressive reaction.” We often refer to the cathartic nature of sport (and exercise), relieving stress or tension that might build up, or serving as a release for anger and hostility (that may be seen as acceptable on the playing field or in the arena). In exercise and sport settings the concept of catharsis may actually be seen as encompassing two possible areas. The most “popular” is the use of sport as a means to express one's anger or hostility in a setting where such behavior is sanctioned. The less commonly thought of application of catharsis is the use of exercise and sport as a stress reducer, a reliever of the stresses and tensions that may build up in an individual. In considering the most popular use of the term, the thinking is that some individuals have elevated levels of anger or hostility (we all have differing ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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