Active Catharsis: Unleashing an Athlete's Spiritual and Emotional Energies
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During strenuous physical activity athletes may experience catharsis, life mentality changes, and flow (Scheff, 1979; Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Nesti, 2007; Watson, 2007). Beyond these experiences, this thesis examines spiritual elements of strenuous physical activity combining concepts of catharsis and flow. Termed active catharsis, this thesis defines the positive psychological and spiritual experiences of endurance athletes. The concept of catharsis is central for examinations of powerful emotional experiences because “within a sporting context a more spiritual notion of catharsis can be detected in the lives of athletes” (Nesti, p. 166). Furthermore, active catharsis is only fully experienced when athletes achieve flow, feeling “totally absorbed” (Hunter and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) in the endurance activity. Data was collected at the 2012 and 2013 Great Brazos Relay using themes found in catharsis and flow literature. Results indicate participants at endurance events experience active catharsis through feelings of life mentality change, emotional release, and flow.