Does Screaming Relieve Stress?

When’s the last time you had a good scream? I’m not talking about when you stub your toe on a corner table. I’m talking about going somewhere letting out a big loud scream at the top of your lungs. It’s probably been a while.

Screaming has a negative connotation to it. It’s usually associated with anger. You yell and scream when someone ticks you off, and it makes it seem like you have an anger management problem. But the truth is screaming and yelling can actually help relieve some stress and frustration.

Stress and Anger are NOT the Same

First and foremost, let’s get this straight. Yelling at someone because you’re angry is not the same thing as screaming to let out frustration. Yelling at people out of anger is projecting your emotions onto another person. On top of that, it usually doesn’t solve issues.

When you’re yelling at someone, it’s usually because you’ve lost control and aren’t able to express yourself in a calm matter. Notice that most conversations don’t start with yelling. Things may start out pretty peacefully but as you start becoming more frustrated and neither side seems to be “getting” the other, tempers flare and screaming starts.

On the flipside, stress-screaming is controlled. You’re purposely planning to let out some steam verbally. Think of it as another physical way to relieve stress just like running, squeezing a stress ball or boxing.

Why Screaming Helps Relieve Stress

Screaming can have a cathartic effect. For some, it’s therapeutic. When you have a ton of pent up stress brewing in you, letting it out verbally can give you a sense of relief. When you’re feeling flustered (not angry) releasing it out can make you feel a little more free and take some weight off.

In fact, some colleges actually encourage students to let out a “primal scream” to help relieve the stress of finals. The screaming helps them feel better, even if it’s only temporary.

On the same note, primal scream therapy is a legitimate form of psychotherapy used to treat anxiety, trauma and even stress. It’s based on the theory that repressed memories can actually be used to treat these conditions. Here’s a video from Dr. Author Janov that breaks down primal therapy.

Obviously, all of your stress isn’t necessarily linked to a traumatic event, but the research shows that screaming can in fact, be therapeutic for some people.

How to Scream to Relieve Stress (Without Seeming Crazy)

Let’s be honest, you’re going to look insane screaming in the middle of the office, even if you do it in a fancy scream box. We don’t advise you just start yelling in the middle of a crowded room.

You’re going to want to find somewhere private to scream. Ideally, somewhere other people can’t hear you. Screaming in your apartment is a good way to have the police knocking at your door. Some good options are:

  • Your car (assuming nobody else is around)
  • A mountain or somewhere high up
  • A sound proof room, if you can find one
  • Near a train track, just wait for the trains to go by so it can drown out your noise
  • A beach or park early in the morning when nobody is there
  • Into a pillow

The most important thing to remember is to look for places where nobody is around.

Next is the actual scream. How loud should you scream? How long should you scream for? Do you have to scream out words or just yell? The answer to all of these questions is the same. It doesn’t matter, there are no rules!

You’re just trying to let out some stress. Scream as loud as you want, for as long as you want and however you want. As long as you feel some relief afterward, that’s all that matters.

What if Screaming Doesn’t Relieve Your Stress?

Like all stress management techniques, screaming isn’t going to work for everyone. If you just feel weird and awkward after letting out a good scream, but still stressed out, maybe it’s not your thing. Try something else.

We know the idea of screaming seems silly, but give it a shot. It’s free and could be the perfect solution to relieve your stress!

We are a generation of screamers. While many modern parents generally look down upon other parents who spank their children, not nearly as many people recognize the negative impact yelling has on children.

If you are a yeller, take heart and consider physical activity as one means of managing stress to help manage yourself vocally.

Yelling at Children is Most Often Ineffective

Research studies related to yelling and children show that raising our voices is extremely ineffective. Children who are frequently yelled at tend to disengage and tune us out. They become desensitized to the shouting, often heightening the level of decibels, as parents compensate to make themselves heard. The guilt and pain that ensues can leave the parent feeling defeated and the child feeling rejected.

More alarming, the most recent research out of Harvard Medical School suggests that shouting at children can permanently alter the structures of their brains. Presently, we are not even sure of the magnitude of this finding for the long-term as our children grow and mature.

Physical Activity is an Integral Tool for Managing Stress

Exercise increases the “feel good” neurotransmitters in our brains, called endorphins. What many people refer to as a “runner’s high” can be achieved in any number of sports or exercises. Experiment with different physical outlets to find the best fit for you.

Working out allows us to redirect our focus into something positive, rather than focusing on the negative. After a stressful day in the office, decompressing on the treadmill can diffuse some of your stress, before you return to the stresses awaiting you at home.

Exercise increases our self-confidence, combating many of the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Most parents report they are reduced to yelling when they feel tired, anxious, or irritable. Shouting is often just the loss of emotional control, but exercise can often help put you back in the driver’s seat of your emotions.

Working out with a group or partner allows you a positive venue for sharing with others. Chances are the friend you walk with is struggling with the same parenting issues are you facing with your kindergartner.

Recognize Your Risk Factors for Yelling and Prevent Blowups Before they Happen

Prevent low blood sugar by eating small, regular meals to prevent irritability. Hungriness breeds grumpiness, increasing the likelihood of screaming.

Allow for your own personal time and space as needed, particularly at day’s end. Parenting is a full-time, highly physical and hands-on job, so take a “mommy time out” for even ten minutes if you feel like you are about to explode at the kids.

Exercise regularly to intimately know your body and positively control it, both physically and emotionally. Even a few laps around the park with your toddler in the stroller can provide the necessary change of scenery when you need to get away from the mess in the playroom.

Parenting is a pressure cooker. Given our fast-paced, high-stress modern environment, it doesn’t take much to lose our cool with our kids. Particularly with our overscheduled daily routines, kids have a tendency to pull our strings one too many times, causing some of us to come completely unraveled. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and do twenty jumping jacks in place when you feel the urge to yell. Quite possibly, your kids might laugh at this gesture, causing you to do the same. Perspective is everything.

Scientists Now Know Why People Scream

A baby wails upon an airplane’s liftoff, a person shrieks when he stumbles upon something shocking, a kid throws a tantrum because she wants to get her way—people scream in reaction to all kinds of situations.

But exactly why we scream has remained a mystery. Now, new research published in the journal Current Biology suggests that hearing a scream may activate the brain’s fear circuitry, acting as a cautionary signal.

Scream science is a new area of study, so David Poeppel, a professor of psychology and neural science at New York University, and his co-authors collected an array of screams from YouTube, films and 19 volunteer screamers who screamed in a lab sound booth. (This last collection method, by the way, was a highlight for Poeppel, who said he found listening to and judging screams an amusing break from the monotony of lab work.)

The researchers first measured the sound properties of screams versus normal conversation. They measured the scream’s volume and looked at how volunteers responded behaviorally to screams. They then looked at brain images of people listening to screams and saw something they found fascinating—screams weren’t being interpreted by the brain the way normal sounds were.

Normally, your brain takes a sound you hear and delivers it to a section of your brain dedicated to making sense of these sounds: What is the gender of the speaker? Their age? Their tone?

Screams, however, don’t seem to follow that route. Instead, the team discovered that screams are sent from the ear to the amygdala, the brain’s fear processing warehouse, says Poeppel.

“In brain imaging parts of the experiment, screams activate the fear circuitry of the brain,” he says. “The amygdala is a nucleus in the brain especially sensitive to information about fear.” That means screams are inherently considered not just sound but a trigger for heightened awareness.

From these screams, Poeppel and his team mapped “roughness,” an acoustic description for how fast a sound changes in loudness. While normal speech modulates between 4 and 5 Hz in sound variation, screams spike between 30 and 150 Hz. The higher the sound variation, the more terrifying the scream is perceived.

Poeppel and his team had volunteers listen to different alarm sounds and found people responded to alarms with similar variations: The more the alarms varied at higher rates, the more terrifying they were judged to be.

That huge variation in scream roughness is a clue to how our brains process danger sounds, Poeppel says. Screaming serves not only to convey danger but also to induce fear in the listener and heighten awareness for both screamer and listener to respond to their environment.

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Write to Tanya Basu at [email protected]

Over the weekend, Arthur Janov, the psychotherapist who created primal therapy, otherwise known as primal scream therapy, died in his home in Malibu, California, reports Margalit Fox at The New York Times. He was 93.

Janov’s unique method for treating neurosis became a cultural phenomenon after he released The Primal Scream. Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis​ in 1970. At the height of the unscientific craze, celebrities including James Earl Jones and Roger Williams visited his Primal Institute in Los Angeles for Treatment; John Lennon and Yoko Ono were also patients.

So what is primal scream therapy?

Oliver Hotham at Vice reports that its origins date back to 1967 when Janov was running a group therapy session. One of the participants told him about a performance he’d seen where the actor just screamed “Mama!” at the crowd, encouraging them to do the same. Janov asked his patient to demonstrate, and the man complied, eventually falling out of his chair and writhing on the floor for a half an hour. “Finally, he released a piercing, deathlike scream that rattled the walls of my office,” Janov later wrote. “All he could say afterward was: ‘I made it! I don’t know what, but I can feel!’”

According to the Associated Press, Janov came to believe that most psychological neuroses in adulthood were the result of repressed childhood trauma. Those traumas included not being held enough as a child, or being properly fed or listened to. Later he expanded that list to include in utero trauma and the trauma of being birthed. Over time, he believed all those traumas build into neuroses. “When the pain is too much, it is repressed and stored away. When enough unresolved pain has occurred, we lose access to your feelings and become neurotic,” he wrote. “The number one killer in the world today is not cancer or heart disease, it is repression.”

Janov felt that if a person could regress back to the source of the pain and reexperience it, they could resolve it. And he thought the best way to identify that deep, often hidden pain, which he called “primal pain,” was to do what his patient did in 1967—cry and scream under the guidance of a therapist. Usually Janov would do a series of sessions with a patient around a three-week period. Often, Fox reports, his therapy room was decorated with cribs, rattles, teddy bears and other childhood objects to help patients regress.

Primal therapy was an offshoot of cultural movements that began coalescing in the 1960s and surfaced in the 1970s. “There was also a belief that repressive strictures of society were holding people back. Hence a therapy that was to loosen the repression would somehow cure mental illness. So it fit perfectly,” John C. Norcross, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, tells Fox.

Today, experts widely regard Janov’s treatment as ineffectual and perhaps even harmful. And while there are still primal therapists out there, the practice is on the wane. ​​But even though his therapy is now viewed as pseudoscience, there are a few reasons to be thankful to Janov. Lennon and Ono took his sessions seriously, and the deeply personal songs probing childhood trauma on the classic 1970 solo album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band were said to have been heavily influenced by his therapy room.

What is Primal Therapy?

Painful things happen to nearly all of us early in life that get imprinted in all our systems which carry the memory forward making our lives miserable. It is the cause of depression, phobias, panic and anxiety attacks and a whole host of symptoms that add to the misery. We have found a way into those early emotional archives and have learned to have access to those memories, to dredge them up from the unconscious, allowing us to re-experience them in the present, integrate them and no longer be driven by the unconscious. For the first time in the history of psychology there is a way to access feelings, hidden away, in a safe way and thus to reduce human suffering. It is, in essence, the first science of psychotherapy.

– Dr. Arthur Janov

Basic Theory

The following is taken from Why You Get Sick – How You Get Well by Dr. Arthur Janov, and reviews some of the basic theory behind Primal Therapy.

“There is one neurosis, many manifestations and one cure “feeling.”

Repressed pain divides the self in two and each side wars with the other. One is the real self, loaded with needs and pain that are submerged; the other is the unreal self that attempts to deal with the outside world by trying to fulfill unmet needs with neurotic habits or behaviors such as obsessions or addictions. The split of the self is the essence of neurosis and neurosis can kill.

That pain is the result of needs and feelings that have gone unfulfilled in early life. Those early unmet needs create what I call Primal Pain. Coming close to death at birth or feeling unloved as a child are examples of such Pain. The Pain goes unfelt at the time because the body is not equipped to experience it fully and deal with it. When the Pain is too much, it is repressed and stored away. When enough unresolved Pain has occurred, we lose access to your feelings and become neurotic.

“The number one killer in the world today is not cancer or heart disease, it is repression.”

Primal Therapy is important in the field of psychology, for it means, ultimately, the end to so much suffering in human beings. Discovering a way to treat Pain means there is a way to stop the misery in which so many of us are mired every day of our lives. After two decades of research, after dealing with thousands of patients with every imaginable psychological and physical affliction, we have arrived at a precise, predictable therapy that reduces the amount of time one spends in treatment and eliminates all the wasted motion. It is a therapy that has been investigated by independent scientists and the findings are consistent. Primal Therapy is able to reduce or eliminate a host of physical and psychic ailments in a relatively short period of time with lasting results.

“Feeling Pain is the end of suffering.”

We have found ways to measure the ongoing presence and chronic effects of early trauma. We have observed time and again that even though it is not felt, the force of the memory remains in the system, reverberating on lower brain levels and moving against the body wherever it happens to be vulnerable. It shapes our interests, values, motivations and ideas. By reliving these traumas, patients can return back to early events and know with certainty how they formed adult behavior and symptoms.

“Repression is the hidden force behind illness”

We can see how buried memories constantly activate the system, putting pressure on vital organs and creating disruptions which can eventually result in serious illness. The problem for too many of us is that suddenly we find ourselves with afflictions or obsessions and have no idea how it all happened. We don’t know why we can’t sleep, why we can’t find a mate, why we are obsessed with this idea or that or why we don’t function as we want to, sexually. Primal Therapy can clarify these seeming mysteries.

It sometimes seems that everyone is suffering in their own way and few are aware of it. Television is riddled with ads for ibuprofen, aspirin, sleeping pills and other pain killers, implicitly acknowledging the Pain we are all in but without ever acknowledging it explicitly. Nothing dramatic happens but so many of us have developed this disease or that, from high blood pressure to allergies, colitis, anxiety attacks, asthma, circulation problems and heart palpitations (our history literally becomes palpable). So many ailments that seem inexplicable — depression and phobias, ulcers and migraines — may all stem from the same source. So might many of our personality quirks, our habits and behavior patterns, our drives and obsessions. One powerful piece of evidence for the fact of the same kinds of Pains being behind so many different afflictions and behavioral problems is that the same kinds of tranquilizers or pain killers are used to treat all of them.

In the fields of medicine and psychotherapy today doctors deal with symptoms. Just look at the DSM-IV, the psychiatric diagnostic and statistical manual, with page after page of every conceivable variation of neurosis. And in Washington, D.C., they have erected monuments to symptoms, a building for each one “drug abuse, alcoholism, heart disease, cancer and so on. Experts specialize in treating colitis, ulcers, migraines, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, anxiety, depression, marital problems, eating disorders, etc.; knowing more and more about narrower and narrower subjects. They add salt, take away salt, add thyroid, remove thyroid, speculate about the reasons for one’s allergies or unhappiness, analyze dreams and nearly always prescribe medication. They are trying to normalize the symptom instead of normalizing the person who has it; trying to normalize the manifestation instead of the system that makes it manifest.
Delving deep into the unconscious has allowed us to clarify the basis of adult behavior. We have a good idea what lies in the unconscious and it doesn’t seem to be the mystical emporium so often described. We have learned in Primal Therapy that irrespective of whether the Pain is manifest in the body or in the mind, the person is not himself; there is a dislocation of function which is global. Both emotional and physical pain deform cells and cause alterations which show up in measurements of vital signs, brain function and chemistry, the immune system, hormones, peripheral blood flow and in a person’s behavior. Everything is askew.
Primal Therapy works in reverse of the normal approach. Instead of working from symptoms to possible causes, we work from causes to symptoms. The focus is always deep. From this approach we have developed a more profound understanding of who we are and what drives us, our basic, hidden, unconscious motivations.

The Discovery of Primal Pain

“Some years ago, I heard something that was to change the course of my professional life and the lives of my patients. What I heard may change the nature of psychotherapy as it is now known –an eerie scream welling up from the depths of a young man lying on the floor during a therapy session. I can liken it only to what one might hear from a person about to be murdered. This book is about that scream and what it means in terms of unlocking the secrets of neurosis. The young man who emitted it will be called Danny Wilson, a twenty-two-year-old college student. He was not psychotic, nor was he what is termed hysteric; he was a poor student, withdrawn, sensitive, and quiet.”

“During a lull in our group therapy session, he told us a story about a man named Ortiz who was currently doing an act on the London stage in which he paraded around in diapers drinking bottles of milk. Throughout his number, Ortiz is shouting, “Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!” at the top of his lungs. At the end of his act he vomits. Plastic bags are passed out, and the audience is requested to follow suit.

“Danny’s fascination with the act impelled me to try something elementary, but which previously had escaped my notice. I asked him to call out, “Mommy! Daddy!” Danny refused, saying that he couldn’t see the sense in such a childish act, and frankly, neither could I. But I persisted, and finally, he gave in. As he began, he became noticeably upset. Suddenly he was writhing on the floor in agony. His breathing was rapid, spasmodic; “Mommy! Daddy!” came out of his mouth almost involuntarily in loud screeches. He appeared to be in a coma or hypnotic state. The writhing gave way to small convulsions, and finally, he released a piercing, deathlike scream that rattled the walls of my office. The entire episode lasted only a few minutes, and neither Danny nor I had any idea what had happened. All he could say afterward was: “I made it! I don’t know what, but I can feel”

“What happened to Danny baffled me for months. I had done standard insight therapy for seventeen years, both as a psychiatric social worker and as a psychologist. I was trained in a Freudian psychiatric clinic, as well as in a not-so-Freudian Veterans Administration department. For several years I had been on the staff of the psychiatric department of the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. At no time during that period had I witnessed anything comparable. Since I had taped the group session that night, I listened to the recording frequently over the next several months in an effort to understand what had happened. But to no avail.

“Before long I had a chance to learn more about it.”

“A thirty-year-old man, whom I shall call Gary Hillard, was relating with great feeling how his parents had always criticized him, had never loved him, and had generally messed up his life. I urged him to call out for them; he demurred. He “knew” that they didn’t love him, so what was the point? I asked him to indulge my whim. Halfheartedly, he started calling for Mommy and Daddy. Soon I noticed he was breathing faster and deeper. His calling turned into an involuntary act that led to writhing, near-convulsions, and finally to a scream.

“Both of us were shocked. What I had believed was an accident, an idiosyncratic reaction of one patient, had just been repeated in almost identical fashion.

“Afterward, when he quieted down, Gary was flooded with insights. He told me that his whole life seemed to have suddenly fallen into place. This ordinarily unsophisticated man began transforming himself in front of my eyes into what was virtually another human being. He became alert; his sensorium opened up; he seemed to understand himself.

“Because of the similarities of the two reactions, I began listening even more carefully to the tapes I had made of Danny’s and Gary’s sessions. I tried to analyze what common factors or techniques produced the reactions. Slowly some meaning began to emerge. Over the next months I tried various modifications and approaches in asking the patient to call for his parents. Each time there occurred the same dramatic results.

“I have come to regard that scream as the product of central and universal pains which reside in all neurotics. I call them Primal Pains because they are the original, early hurts upon which all later neurosis is built. It is my contention that these pains exist in every neurotic each minute of his later life, irrespective of the form of his neurosis. These pains often are not consciously felt because they are diffused throughout the entire system where they affect body organs, muscles, the blood and lymph system and, finally, the distorted way we behave.

“Primal Therapy is aimed at eradicating these pains. It is revolutionary because it involves overthrowing the neurotic system by a forceful upheaval. Nothing short of that will eliminate neurosis, in my opinion.

“Primal Theory is an outgrowth of my observations about why specific changes take place. Theory, I must emphasize, did not precede clinical experience. When I watched Danny and Gary writhing on the floor in the throes of Primal Pain, I had no idea what to call it. The theory has been expanded and deepened by the continuing reports of one patient after another who has been cured of neurosis. This book is an invitation to explore the revolution they began.”

– from The Primal Scream by Dr. Arthur Janov


The following paragraphs cover Dr. Janov’s theory of neurosis:

We all are creatures of need. We are born needing, and the vast majority of us die after a lifetime of struggle with many of our needs unfulfilled. These needs are not excessive–to be fed, kept warm and dry, to grow and develop at our own pace, to be held and caressed, and to be stimulated. These Primal needs are the central reality of the infant. The neurotic process begins when these needs go unmet for any length of time. A newborn does not know that he should be picked up when he cries or that he should not be weaned too early, but when his needs go unattended, he hurts.

At first the infant will do everything in his power to fulfill his needs. He will reach up to be held, cry when he is hungry, kick his legs, and thrash about to have his needs recognized. If his needs go unfulfilled for a length of time, if he is not held, changed or fed, he will suffer continuous pain either until he can do something to get his parents to satisfy him or until he shuts off the pain by shutting off his need. If his pain is drastic enough, death may intervene, as shown in studies of some institutional babies.

Since the infant cannot himself overcome the sensation of hunger (that is, he cannot go to the refrigerator) or find substitute affection, he must separate his sensations (hunger, wanting to be held) from consciousness.

This separation of oneself from one’s needs and feelings is an instinctive maneuver in order to shut off excessive pain. We call it the split. The organism splits in order to protect its continuity. This does not mean that unfulfilled needs disappear, however. On the contrary, they continue throughout life exerting a force, channeling interests, and producing motivation toward the satisfaction of those needs. But because of their pain, the needs have been suppressed in the consciousness, and so the individual must pursue substitute gratifications. He must, in short, pursue the satisfaction of his needs symbolically. Because he was not allowed to express himself, he may be compelled to try to get others to listen and understand him later in life.

Not only are unattended needs that persist to the point of intolerability separated from consciousness, but their sensations become relocated to areas where greater control or relief can be provided. Thus, feelings can be relieved by urination (later by sex) or controlled by the suppression of deep breathing. The unfulfilled infant is learning how to disguise and change his needs into symbolic ones. As an adult he may not feel the need to suck his mother’s breast owing to abrupt early weaning but will be an incessant smoker. His need to smoke is a symbolic need, and the essence of neurosis is the pursuit of symbolic satisfactions.

Neurosis is a symbolic behavior in defense against excessive psychobiologic pain. Neurosis is self-perpetuating because symbolic satisfactions cannot fulfill real needs. In order for real needs to be satisfied, they must be felt and experienced. Unfortunately, pain has caused those needs to be buried. When they are buried, the organism goes into a continuous state of emergency alert. That alert state is tension. It propels the infant, and later the adult, toward the satisfaction of need in any way possible. This emergency alert is necessary to ensure the infant’s survival; if he were to give up hope of ever having his needs fulfilled, he might die. The organism continues to live at any cost, and that cost is usually neurosis–shutting down unmet bodily needs and feelings because the pain is too great to withstand.

Whatever is natural is a real need–to grow and develop at one’s own pace, for example. This means, as a child, not being weaned too soon; not being forced to walk or talk too early; not being forced to catch a ball before one’s neurological apparatus can do so comfortably. Neurotic needs are unnatural ones–they develop from the non satisfaction of real needs. We are not born in this world needing to hear praise, but when a child’s real efforts are denigrated virtually from birth, when he is made to feel that nothing he can do will be good enough for him to be loved by his parents, he may develop a craving for praise. Similarly, the need to express oneself as a child can be suppressed, even by the lack of anyone listening. Such denial may turn into a need to talk incessantly.

A loved child is one whose natural needs are fulfilled. Love takes his pain away. An unloved child is the one who hurts because he is unfulfilled. A loved child has no need for praise because he has not been denigrated. He is valued for what he is, not for what he can do to satisfy his parents’ needs. A loved child does not grow up into an adult with an insatiable craving for sex. He has been held and caressed by his parents and does not need to use sex to satisfy that early need. Real needs flow from inside out, not the reverse. The need to be held and caressed is part of the need to be stimulated. The skin is our largest sense organ and requires at least as much stimulation as other sense organs. Disastrous consequences can occur when there is insufficient stimulation early in life. Organ systems may begin to atrophy without stimulation; conversely, as Krech has shown , with proper stimulation they may develop and grow. There must be constant mental and physical stimulation.

Unfulfilled needs supersede any other activity in the human until they are met. When needs are met, the child can feel. He can experience his body and his environment. When needs are not met, the child experiences only tension, which is feeling disconnected from consciousness. Without that necessary connection, the neurotic does not feel. Neurosis is the pathology of feeling.

Neurosis does not begin at the instant a child suppresses his first feeling, but we might say that the neurotic process does. The child shuts down in stages. Each suppression and denial of need turn the child off a bit more. But one day there occurs a critical shift in which the child is primarily turned off, in which he is more unreal than real, and at that critical point we may judge him to be neurotic. From that time on, he will operate on a system of dual selves; the unreal and real selves. The real self is the real needs and feelings of the organism. The unreal self is the cover of those feelings and becomes the facade required by neurotic parents in order to fulfill needs of their own. A parent who needs to feel respected because he has been humiliated constantly by his parents, may demand obsequious and respecting children who do not sass him or say anything negative. A babyish parent may demand that his child grow up too fast, do all the chores, and in reality become adult long before he is ready–so that the parent may continue to be the cared-for baby.

Demands for the child to be unreal are not often explicit. Nevertheless, parental need becomes the child’s implicit command. The child is born into his parents’ needs and begins struggling to fulfill them almost from the moment he is alive. He may be pushed to smile (to appear happy), to coo, to wave bye-bye, later to sit up and walk, still later to push himself so that his parents can have an advanced child. As the child develops, the requirements upon him become more complex. He will have to get A’s, to be helpful and do his chores, to be quiet and undemanding, not to talk too much, to say bright things, to be athletic. What he will not do is be himself. The thousands of operations that go on between parents and children which deny the natural Primal needs of the child mean that the child will hurt. They mean that he cannot be what he is and be loved. Those deep hurts I call Primal Pains (or Pains). Primal Pains are the needs and feelings which are repressed or denied by consciousness. They hurt because they have not been allowed expression or fulfillment. These Pains all add up to: I am not loved and have no hope of love when I am really myself.

Each time a child is not held when he needs to be, each time he is shushed, ridiculed, ignored, or pushed beyond his limits, more weight will be added to his pool of hurts. This pool I call the Primal Pool. Each addition to his pool makes the child more unreal and neurotic.

As the assaults on the real system mount, they begin to crush the real person. One day an event
will take place which, though not necessarily traumatic in itself – giving the child to a baby sitter for the hundredth time? will shift the balance between real and unreal and render the child neurotic. That event I call the major Primal Scene. It is a time in the young child’s life when all the past humiliations, negations, and deprivations accumulate into an inchoate realization: “There is no hope of being loved for what I am.” It is then that the child defends himself against that catastrophic realization by becoming split from his feelings, and slips quietly into neurosis. The realization is not a conscious one. Rather, the child begins acting around his parents, and then elsewhere, in the manner expected by them. He says their words and does their thing. He acts unreal–i.e., not in accord with the reality of his own needs and desires. In a short time the neurotic behavior becomes automatic.

Neurosis involves being split, disconnected from one’s feelings. The more assaults on the child by the parents, the deeper the chasm between real and unreal. He begins to speak and move in prescribed ways, not to touch his body in proscribed areas (not to feel himself literally), not to be exuberant or sad, and so on. The split, however, is necessary in a fragile child. It is the reflexive (i.e., automatic) way the organism maintains its sanity. Neurosis, then, is the defense against catastrophic reality in order to protect the development and psychophysical integrity of the organism.

Neurosis involves being what one is not in order to get what doesn’t exist. If love existed, the child would be what he is, for that is love-letting someone be what he or she is. Thus, nothing wildly traumatic need happen in order to produce neurosis. It can stem from forcing a child to punctuate every sentence with “please” and “thank you,” to prove how refined the parents are. It can also come from not allowing the child to complain when he is unhappy or to cry. Parents may rush in to quell sobs because of their anxiety. They may not permit anger–“nice girls don’t throw tantrums; nice boys don’t talk back”–to prove how respected the parents are; neurosis may also arise from making a child perform, such as asking him to recite poems at a party or solve abstract problems. Whatever form it takes, the child gets the idea of what is required of him quite soon. Perform, or else. Be what they want, or else–no love, or what passes for love: approval, a smile, a wink. Eventually the act comes to dominate the child’s life, which is passed in performing rituals and mouthing incantations in the service of his parents’ requirements.

It is the terrible hopelessness of never being loved that causes the split. The child must deny the realization that his needs will never be filled no matter what he does. He cannot live knowing that he is despised or that no one is really interested in him. It is intolerable for him to know that there is no way to make his father less critical or his mother kind. The only way he has of defending himself is by developing substitute needs, which are neurotic.

Let us take the example of a child who is being continually denigrated by his parents. In the schoolroom he may chatter incessantly (and have the teacher come down hard on him); in the schoolyard he may brag nonstop (and alienate the other children). Later in life he may have an uncontrollable craving for and loudly demand something as patently symbolic (to the onlooker) as the “best table in the house” in an expensive restaurant.

Getting the table cannot undo the “need” he has to feel important. Otherwise, why repeat his performance every time he eats out? Split off from an authentic unconscious need (to be recognized as a worthwhile human being), he derives the “meaning” of his existence from being greeted by name by various maitre d’hotel in fancy restaurants.

Children are born, then, with real biological needs * which, for one reason or another, their parents do not fulfill. It may be that some mothers and fathers simply do not recognize the needs of their child or that those parents, out of a desire not to make any mistakes, follow the advice of some august authority in child rearing and pick up their child by the clock, feed him by a timetable an airline would envy, wean him according to a flow chart, and toilet train him as soon as possible.

Nevertheless, I do not believe that either ignorance or methodological zeal accounts for the bumper crops of neurosis our species has been producing since history began. The major reason I have found that children become neurotic is that their parents are too busy struggling with unmet infantile needs of their own.

Thus a woman may become pregnant in order to be babied-which is what she has actually needed to be all her life. As long as she is the center of attention, she is relatively happy. Once delivered of her child, she may become acutely depressed. Being pregnant would serve her need and have nothing to do with producing a new human being on this earth. The child may even suffer for being born and depriving his mother of the one time in her life when she could make others care. Since she is not ready for motherhood, her milk may dry up, leaving her newborn with the same raft of early deprivations which she herself may have suffered. In this way the sins of the parents are visited on the children in a seemingly never-ending cycle.
The attempt of the child to please his parents I call the struggle. The struggle begins first with parents and later generalizes to the world. It spreads beyond the family because the person carries his deprived needs with him wherever he goes, and those needs must be acted out. He will seek out parent substitutes with whom he will play.

Many parents make the mistake of not picking up their child sufficiently out of fear of “spoiling” him. By ignoring him, this is precisely what they do, and later they will be swamped by the child’s insatiable demands for symbolic substitutes–until the day they crack down on him. The consequences of that are both inevitable and dreadful.

Out of his neurotic drama, he will make almost anyone (including his children) into parental figures who will fill his needs. If a father was suppressed verbally and was never allowed to say much, his children are going to be listeners. They, in turn, having to listen so much, will have suppressed needs for someone to hear them; it may well be their own children.

The focus of struggle shifts from real need to neurotic need, from body to mind, because mental needs occur when basic needs are denied. But mental needs are not real needs. Indeed, there are no purely psychological needs. Psychological needs are neurotic needs because they do not serve the real requirements of the organism. The man in the restaurant, for example, who must have the best table in order to feel important is acting on a need which developed because he was unloved, because his real efforts in life were either ignored or suppressed. He may have a need to be recognized by name by the maitre d’ because early in life he was referred only to by category-“son.” This means he was dehumanized by his parents and is trying to get a human response symbolically through others. Being treated as a unique human being by his parents would obviate this so-called need to feel important. What the neurotic does is put new labels (the need to feel important) on old unconscious needs (to be loved and valued). In time he may come to believe that these labels are real feelings and that their pursuit is necessary.

The fascination of seeing our names in lights or on the printed page is but one indication of the deep deprivation in many of us of individual recognition. Those achievements, no matter how real, serve as a symbolic quest for parental love. Pleasing an audience becomes the struggle.

Struggle is what keeps a child from feeling his hopelessness. It lies in overwork, in slaving for high grades, in being the performer. Struggle is the neurotic’s hope of being loved. Instead of being himself, he struggles to become another version of himself. Sooner or later the child comes to believe that this version is the real him. The “act” is no longer voluntary and conscious; it is automatic and unconscious. It is neurotic.

– from The Primal Scream by Dr. Arthur Janov

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Primal scream

The term primal scream comes from a psychotherapy method popular in the 1970s. We will examine the definition of the term primal scream, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A primal scream is a violent verbal release of emotion, incorporating one’s anger, pain, frustration, etc. The expression primal scream originated in a psychotherapy method designed by Arthur Janov that involves reliving childhood trauma in order to bring repressed emotions to the light. In primal therapy, the patient reenacts distressing past experiences from his childhood with violence, pain and the primal scream. Primal therapy was popular in the 1970s, but has for the most part fallen out of favor. Primal scream became a common term in the English language when Janov published his book The Primal Scream. Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis in 1970. The word primal means belongs to the earliest age, and is derived from the Latin word primus which means first.



He followed that with a combination of a stomp of his left foot, primal scream and stink face before the Bucks went into halftime with a 58-35 lead. (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

As for the rest of us, we can only hope that his lack of a viable track record (no swamp drained, no system fixed) coupled with the inability to run as a “change” candidate will render Trump an unfortunate blip on the radar, a reaction, a momentary primal scream — a placeholder president. (The Daily Trojan)

The badge point after a breathless debut goal against West Ham, cupping his ear in celebration after silencing his former supporters at Everton, the primal scream at St Mary’s…there was no stopping Romelu Lukaku as summer faded into autumn. (The Manchester Evening News)

Can Screaming or Yelling Be Bad for Your Relationship?

The short answer is that anything in excess is usually a bad thing; this appears to be true in the case of relationships that involve a heavy dosage of screaming or yelling. By “screaming” or “yelling,” what I mean is raising one’s voice.

Many people think that they can’t help but raise their voices. They think it is “normal” and is largely out of their control. But is it really? And why do people scream or yell in the first place?

It is useful to notice that human beings are not the only animals to exhibit similar behavior. When an animal, such as a dog, is presented with an external stimulus he interprets to be threatening, he may growl or bark loudly. This verbal behavior appears to be based on the evolutionary drive for survival that is prewired.

Similarly, yelling or screaming, or other self-defensive change in intonation or behavior in humans, appears to be based on our survival instinct. Such behavioral responses are largely mediated by the brain’s limbic system, which engages a part of the brain called the amygdala. This emotional center of the brain can determine that an external event is threatening, and can activate the hypothalamus, which engages the “fight or flight” system (AKA the sympathetic nervous system).

It is notable that, in response to a threatening situation, the cerebral cortex may be engaged only after the limbic system is engaged. Say, for example, that you are taking a stroll and you see a large black Labrador retriever sitting on a lawn gazing intently at you. If you were once attacked by a Labrador, then you may immediately become agitated and enter “fight or flight” mode. Adrenalin is pumped to your muscles; your heart rate increases; your respiration increases. You can feel these changes going on inside you—for example, you feel your heart pounding.

Then, you notice that the dog is chained up and couldn’t reach you if he tried. You begin to reason that you are probably not really in immediate danger, after all. As such, you react first and think second in such situations perceived as threatening. The role of our higher thought centers in the brain (the ones involved in reasoning and evaluation) is then to adjust the response.

Whether, to what extent, and how your automatic defensive response is sustained depends upon what you tell yourself about the situation. If you conclude that the dog is not really a threat, you can begin to restore your bodily response to homeostasis. If you conclude that it is still a threat (“How do I know that dog won’t break loose and come charging at me?”), then you can sustain your agitation, and may be poised to scream loudly at the dog, “Get the hell away from me!”

This does not mean that prior thought cannot engage your limbic system. Indeed, it can and often does. We human beings also have a level of secondary emotions that are not prewired responses but arise as a result of prior reasoning and evaluation. These emotions include anger in response to external events. Such secondary emotions can also lead to bodily agitation and the tendency toward self-protective responses, including yelling or screaming.

This is often the case when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Suppose, for example, that your partner is late coming home from work on your anniversary. There you are, sitting and waiting, ready to get the celebration started—but still no sign of him. You may begin to think, “How could he have done this to me on our anniversary? He must not really love me, that no good, rotten bastard!”

You then feel the anger swelling up in your body. Your heart starts pounding, you feel a lump in your throat, and you feel jittery. You are fully poised to give the “bastard” a piece of your mind as soon as he comes walking through the door, which includes raising your voice (yelling or screaming) or other verbally defensive behavioral responses.

Of course, you may tell yourself that you cannot let him know just how you are really feeling, so you could feign a nonchalant demeanor while you are raging inside. On the other hand, you could tell yourself that what he did was so awful that it must be dealt with immediately. Then, you would be giving yourself permission to hit him with both barrels, which, quite often, includes raising your voice loudly.

A major problem with such verbally aggressive responses is that they, in turn, tend to be met with similar defensive responses from the target, who may self-defensively perceive your response as being personally offensive. “It wasn’t my fault. I had to get an assignment done. You really have no right to talk to me like that!” This, in turn, can lead to further retaliation (“You didn’t have the brains to call me; I hope you rot in hell!”), which can set off an escalating cycle of self-defensive responses.

Often, because one usually does some serious thinking afterwards, the result is regret. In the case of an ongoing relationship, unless there is some constructive change made, the same vicious cycle of self-protective responses is likely to be repeated again and again in the course of the relationship. The result is then further alienation and regret.

In some cases, the defensive response may be for one party to the relationship to adapt to the aggressive treatment (being scolded, for example), which leads to passive acceptance. In this form of dysfunctional relationship, the resentment continues to fester beneath the surface of the veneer of acceptability. In other cases, where there is “fighting back,” there can be constant conflict until the relationship ends. Unfortunately, some couples spend a lifetime engaging in such a self-defeating state of conflict, until one of the parties dies.

This is not to say that conflict is necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, relationships in which there is rarely or never any form of verbally expressed discontent with one’s partner may be just a façade. However, there is a difference between “heart to heart” talks about perceived problems in a relationship, and yelling or sparring matches. While the former can lead to constructive change, the latter tends to be self-destructive.

So, if you are in such a destructive combative relationship, can there be constructive change?

The first thing to realize is that, as a member of homo sapiens, your verbal outbursts, unlike the dog’s growling or loud barking, can be regulated—sustained, quashed, or avoided—by a highly developed cerebral cortex. In other words, you have the power to think rationally or irrationally about external events. Your self-protective mechanism is thus a double-edged sword. You can use it to your advantage—or you can use it to undermine your own happiness and that of your partner.

Since you can cognitively control self-defensive verbal outbursts, such as screaming and yelling, you can work toward constructive change by changing your thinking. In my clinical experience, a primary cognitive driver of self-defeating, self-defensive responses is that of demanding that others conform to one’s desires, expectations, or wishes. Thus, because you want something, you think that it must come to pass. So when your partner is late coming home on the eve of your anniversary, you reason that he must never treat you like this, and that he is therefore a “bastard.” It is such a demand—that of clinging to the idea that the world must conform to your preferences—which often triggers the self-defensive response of screaming or yelling in interpersonal conflicts.

Imagine that your partner or significant other is saying or doing something that you truly don’t like. Yes, imagine this now! Are you imagining it? Let yourself feel agitated, the way you ordinarily feel when this is really happening. Are you there yet? Now, stop demanding that your partner be as you want. After all, there is no law of nature that says that he must. What goes up must come down is a function of the law of gravitation. But nowhere is there a law that says your partner must do what you want. You are free to prefer it, but the world does not have to conform to your preferences. Does such self-talk help to calm you down? It does for many, as those who have benefitted from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) would attest.

The upshot is that we have considerable control over verbal outbursts of screaming and yelling. Sure enough, it is easier to go with the flow. If you are fuming inside and you let loose a tirade of screaming and yelling—truly, some people are hard to take—remember that we all have been there; and we are also sometimes justified in raising our voices.

However, screaming or yelling can be a useful behavioral response only when it is employed according to its evolutionary purpose, which is to ward off danger. We make a grandiose mistake when we allow this mechanism to be misused in the context of interpersonal relationships. The demand for perfection—that things must be the way you want them to be—is a mode of cognition that often defeats our self-protective purpose. If we realize this, then we can begin to work on the self-destructive tendency to sound off.

Screaming Hoops Fans at Risk for Vocal Problems

( — With the ACC tourney gearing up and March Madness getting in full swing, basketball fans are topping decibel charts with their verbal support for their favorite college team.

Unfortunately, all that screaming won’t help any player score a goal. It could, however, do temporary or even permanent damage to your vocal cords.

“Too much screaming can change the quality of your voice, your ability to use it how you want to, and even put you at risk for losing your voice’s natural sound,” says David L. Witsell, MD, Director of Duke University Medical Center’s Voice Care Center.

Enthusiastic sports fans aren’t the only ones who should be concerned. Millions of professionals including lawyers, teachers, clergy, singers, actors and other professionals rely on their voices daily for their occupation. And, misuse or abuse may partly explain why nearly eight million people have vocal problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Your voice is the sound that’s produced when air passes through the vibrating smooth muscle of the vocal cords, explains Witsell. “Problems are often due to overuse or straining the vocal cords excessively,” like excessive talking, throat clearing, coughing, inhaling irritants, smoking, screaming or yelling. Individually or collectively, they can cause the vocal cords, which are housed in the larynx, to become irritated and inflamed.

Once strained, a normal voice can quickly turn into the breathy, raspy sounds associated with laryngitis. In some cases vocal nodules or calluses form on the cords, making a person sound hoarse, low-pitched and slightly breathy. Witsell says a similar-sounding voice can result from vocal growths, or polyps which are more like soft blisters. In some cases, people who project too hard or use too much force when speaking may end up with painful ulcers or sores that result when the tissue on or near the larynx that helps the cords move, wears away.

While eliminating bad vocal behavior is a good first step, it may be too little, too late. Sometimes therapy is required to help individuals adapt good vocal techniques.

In other cases, medication and possibly even surgery may be required.

But none of this means you have to root for your team in silence. “You can be loud, cheer joyfully and clearly when you support it all with good breathing techniques and good hydration,” Witsell says.

Below, more tips on how to prevent vocal problems before they start:

• Drink at least 2 liters of water per day, minimize caffeine and alcohol consumption (no more than 2 servings each per day). “Dry vocal cords don’t vibrate well and are more likely to become injured,” says Witsell. Decongestants and antihistamines can also dry out your vocal cords so avoid them too. Ask your doctor about nasal treatments for allergies.

• Don’t strain your voice to be heard in noisy situations.

• Don’t smoke. “It bathes your vocal cords in a harmful irritant,” Witsell says.

• If you have acid reflux, consult your doctor for medication, avoid acid-producing foods (citrus, spicy foods, fried and fatty foods, caffeine, carbonated beverages, etc.) and wait 3-4 hours before lying down after a meal.

• Take 15 minute “voice breaks” 3-4 times per day if you have to use your voice a lot for work, singing, family interactions, etc.

• Avoid talking, singing or screaming your team support if you have a cold or laryngitis.

• Pace your voice use: Rest your voice before and after a big talking day (or a night at the game); don’t push your voice beyond your limits of range, loudness or endurance.

• Learn to use your speaking voice in a healthy way by consulting a voice trainer or voice therapist.

• If you are a “professional talker,” warm-up your voice before using it and consider taking voice lessons to learn how to maximize the efficiency of your vocal technique.

Provided by Duke University (news : web)

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