In-Universe Catharsis

In Real Life a big part of why we love Media is that it is cathartic. It is fun to blow off steam shooting up Mooks, crying over a Tear Jerker, enjoying a Sadist Show, etc.

There is also a more serious form of catharsis where psychological ills are healed through ceremony or painful experiences. Basically, usually as a major plot point, a character either seeks or inadvertently goes through an experience that normally only a Nightmare Fetishist might seek, and it helps them deal with a medical, psychological, etc. condition. When a story does this for a reader in the real world, it's YMMV. When it occurs In-Universe, it's less subjective. May take the form of Percussive Therapy.


Anime and Manga
  • In Karin, gloomy Fumio becomes an energetic optimist after being bitten by Karin. Everyone gets a boost from a bite from her or her brother but with Fumio it's the most noticeable.
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged Gohan gets the chance to pummel his absent and neglectful father when a villain takes over his body.

Comic Books
  • In The Tale Of One Bad Rat, quiet, introverted Helen finally breaks down and screams out her pent-up anguish and frustration about her sexually-abusive father and hateful, uncaring mother to the world, literally shattering the panel in the process.

  • The Horse Whisperer ends up helping both the horse and owner this way.
  • In Analyze This, Robert De Niro shooting the couch probably counts, as it was likely extremely cathartic for his character.
  • Defied in American Psycho. The film closes with Bateman, in the middle of a Motive Rant to himself, realizes that even admitting he is a Card-Carrying Villain to himself does not give him any catharis.

  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Aaron Allston's X-Wing novels are full of this. Most notably, Myn Donos' arc in Wraith Squadron contains at least two distinct and separate examples of this trope.
  • In Kushiel's Dart, Phedre goes to the temple of Kushiel to atone for her role in the death of her master and the things she had to do when a captive of the Skaldi. Kushiel himself is said to be the patron of a very harsh mercy, attended by masked priests and priestesses who inflict painful rituals on those who come seeking atonement.
  • In Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm novel Up Jim River, Donovan is given a drug that a native culture uses for vision quests. When he recovers, he is not cured of his multiple personalities, but is definitely more integrated.
  • In Mirror Dance, ex-Tykebomb Mark Vorkosigan starts the story a confused, self-sabotaging mess of a man. After being captured and tortured by Baron Ryoval, his mind shatters - with the result that his multiple personalities, finally aware of each other, can start working together, using Power Born of Madness to defeat Ryoval and rebuild his life.

Live-Action TV
  • Similar to the Analyze This example above, Veronica once shot a pillow in her office (using a silencered gun) on Better Off Ted.
  • The Star Trek franchise has touched on overcoming psychological issues through cathartic experiences on multiple occasions.
    • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: Sybok uses his unique ability to share with and help conquer a person's greatest emotional trauma to gain the trust of most of the crew.
  • Babylon 5:
  • The Dark Truth on Eli Stone can be used for this. However, it's usually used for other things.

Video Games
  • Mass Effect 2: Jack is not what you would call a well adjusted individual, owing in no small part to the horrific experiments performed on her. The mission to secure her loyalty has you guiding her through the abandoned facility where these experiments were performed and dealing with some of the remnants of her past, before setting a Big Bulky Bomb in her old cell and blowing the lab to smithereens. Afterwards, she becomes... well, slightly less Ax-Crazy. The achievement you get for completing the mission is even called "Catharsis."
    • Also, after taking down the Shadow Broker and saving Feron, Liara is much more like the person she was in the first game.
  • Max's monologue in the normal ending of Max Payne 2 (concluding with "I had a dream of my wife. She was dead. But it was all right.") suggested that Max underwent a catharsis after the death of pretty much anyone he ever cared about, including Vlad and Mona, finally breaking away from the self-destructive path that Michelle and Alex's deaths put him onto. Part three says otherwise.
  • At the beginning of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, Nagase is saved from a very embarrassing defeat by Captain Bartlett Taking the Bullet for her. The guilt over this accident follows her throughout the game until the mission "Ice Cage" when she finally completes her almost two months-long crash (while looking for POW Bartlett, no less). She is significantly less troubled after she is rescued, even though Bartlett isn't found until ten missions later.
  • At the beginning of Gears of War, the COG is desperate for qualified soldiers, and so pardons everyone at soon to be abandoned penal facility, including Marcus Fenix on the condition that he return to active duty. Fenix is not happy to find himself shanghaied back into the military and under the command of Colonel Hoffman. However, when his squad comes under fire during a field briefing, he expresses after the ensuing firefight that he found the visceral experience of it to be very satisfying after being cooped up so long.
  • In Touhou, immortal Fujiwara no Mokou constantly kills and is killed by her also immortal rival; Princess Kaguya. She appreciates the brutal and endless stalemate.

Real Life
  • The dictionary definition is here and here.
  • The Other Wiki defines it here, mentioning that some modern psychiatrists call this closure.
  • A number of ancient societies had some form of ceremony that was intended for this purpose.
    • In Ancient Greece, there were rituals to propiate the gods and discharge the ritual pollution that had led to your problems — such as insanity. If it failed, you needed to try another god; this was not the offended one. If it succeeded, you had achieved catharsis or cleansing.