Feeling a little stressed? Anxious? Worried? You’re not alone. Mental health has taken a plummet worldwide, by and large, over the last year-plus of the pandemic. But maybe you just need to scream it out.
No, really. You’ve seen it before, on television shows or in movies. The main character gets so wildly frustrated that they just start screaming, whether into a pillow or their bed or to the sky. While it might seem a bit melodramatic, those characters are actually on to something. Turns out, there actually is something called “scream therapy” and it might be just the remedy you need for all those bottled up, negative emotions.
Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is Scream Therapy?
Scream therapy, or scream meditation, is in formal settings sometimes referred to as primal scream therapy. This type of therapy came about in the 1970s, when celebrity therapist Dr. Arthur Janov posed that some mental health issues that stemmed from repressed childhood trauma (or primal pain) could be alleviated through guided screaming, with the help of a therapist.
Today, this type of therapy isn’t really used in formal settings, as it’s not necessarily backed by any studies that show that just the mere act of screaming can help you overcome real trauma. However, that’s not to say that screaming as a form of self care is entirely overlooked. Screaming can be used in a variety of settings to help with frustration, anger, internal tension and more.
If Screaming Is So Good For You, How Come We Never Do It?
But if screaming is supposedly so good for you, why do we never actually do it? After all, you’re not likely to see most adults out in public letting out a big scream (and if they do, we call it “making a scene” and all embarrassedly look away). Societal norms dictate that we not scream or raise our voices or appear too loud or like we take up too much space. Screaming is okay if you’re a baby, but even as you age into a toddler, you're told to be quiet and not cause a ruckus.
Despite this, screaming might be exactly what we all need. “There are cultural norms that prevent people from engaging in particular ways of expressing feelings. When you do the screaming thing, not only are you giving yourself a chance to release pent-up emotion, but you are also absolutely busting the shame that goes with that cultural norm,” psychotherapist, Zoë Aston, notes in an interview, relating to an interesting scream initiative taken by the national Icelandic destination marketing organization Promote Iceland.
How to Get Started with Scream Meditation
Getting started with scream meditation is easy enough. After all, we all know how to scream, right? Getting comfortable with scream meditation is easier said than done, though. As previously noted, the screaming part of life is kind of trained out of us as we age, so starting back at it now can feel a bit awkward.
Just try it. Right now. There in your office chair or on your commute. Doesn’t come so easily, huh?
But, with a little work, you can start screaming your way to less stress — whether you do it on your own, forming a scream meditation practice that works for your needs, or with the assistance of an online guide, like Flow founder Tristan Elizabeth Gribbin.
Tristan has practiced scream meditation for many years now and loves teaching people about the liberating practice of letting go through screaming. "I walk you through letting go, using a small hand towel, and even trying a silent scream in my TEDx talk, How to Meditate in Virtual Reality at 11:23 into the video.”
“Notice how after you scream, you feel lighter, better and ready to face your day. You will have more ease in your communications with others. You might have to rinse your face with cold water and reapply makeup, but it is really worth it to let go and release some stress and tension at this time.”
A Step-by-Step Guide To Scream Meditation
But if you don’t want to wait around or watch a video, you can get a small taste of scream therapy, right now, with these few steps.
Find a space where you feel comfortable enough to scream, and where you know you won't disturb others. So, for example, you might go to your bedroom when no one else is home.
Then, have something nearby to mute your noise. This could be a towel, pillow, blanket or even just your shirt sleeve. Go with something comfortable and fabric.
Ground yourself and get comfy. Go for a position that makes you feel full of energy. A warrior stance is popular in scream therapy, so spread your legs wide, shoulder-length apart or wider and really lean into it.
Then, scream into your muting object! Let it all out. Scream your heart out!
Does Scream Therapy Actually Work?
Screaming feels good, even though we’re not technically supposed to do it — but does it actually work on a scientific level?
As mentioned, psychologists generally don’t recommend scream therapy these days as a formal type of treatment for mental health disorders or trauma. However, screaming as a part of meditation can help you alleviate tension and mental blocks.
Benefits of scream meditation include:
The release of built-up tension and emotions
The removal of mental blocks
Increased feelings of grounding
Increased feelings of empowerment
In fact, studies have shown that screaming can increase physical strength (by as much as 7% in one study). One psychiatrist also noted that screaming can release positive chemicals in your brain, saying: “Yelling might trigger some endorphins, a natural high. [You] might feel calm, and it might even be a little addictive. It’s really similar to a runner’s high. [You]’re getting the same effect in a different way.”
3 times modern life scream therapy has been used to let go of negative emotions
1. To let go of academic stress
One university in Sweden has recognized the value of screaming to the extent that they actually has adopted a tradition of students opening their windows every night at 10 p.m., to collectively scream. The phenomenon is known as the Flogsta scream, named after the neighbourhood. The screaming tradition has been ongoing for years now and supposedly helps with academic stress. Nearby neighbourhoods have even gotten in on the tradition too (though they prefer to only scream one day per week).
2. To let go of pandemic-related stress and pressure
Recognising the immense pressure and stress people have felt during the course of the pandemic, creative ideas for letting go of emotional weight have florished. The New York Times is the inventor of one of them -- a phone line where people could call in and scream and vent over their stress. "(Phone rings) Welcome to the New York Times Primal Scream Line, where the floor is yours to yell, laugh, cry, or vent, for a solid minute. (Beep)" - apparently the line ran smoking hot, and to be honest - who's surprised, really?
3. To let go of covid-frustrations
Not that dissimilar from the New York Times initiative, a recent international tourism campaign originating from Iceland, named Let It Out, encouraged locals and tourists to scream their post-pandemic frustrations all out. However, this time into the idyllic landscapes of Iceland. The participating psychotherapist, Zoë Aston, noted that the screaming, or letting all of one’s feelings out into the void, can help to alleviate a build up of feelings that one simply doesn't know how to process otherwise.
The Perfect Place To Try Scream Therapy
As we mentioned, Iceland actually hosted a whole initiative around scream therapy. This initiative encouraged visitors to come to Iceland and then let out their negative feelings through the power of screaming. (And if you can’t make it to Iceland to scream in person, this initiative actually allows you to record your scream and upload it to the Looks Like You Need Iceland website! Cool, huh? Check it out and upload your scream at the link above.)
Of course, if you don’t really want to go public with your screams, yet, you can also scream meditate with Flow’s help! If you're ready to give scream therapy a try, get the Flow mobile app on the Apple App Store or Google Play and give our Let Go Meditation entitled “Dance, Scream, and Release” a go. The meditation experience is combined with some of Iceland’s most recent and most dramatic nature footage — the Geldingadalur volcanic eruption — for a thoroughly rejuvenating experience as you watch the sheer power of Mother Earth erupting on your screen, while you scream it out at the same time. Try it and let us know what you think!