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Can scream therapy improve your mental health?

Ritual raging, which enables you to release deep-seated emotions by screaming, offers some benefits. But it cannot replace a session with your therapist.

Screaming can help with some emotional release
Screaming can help with some emotional release (Pexels)

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A Mumbai-based HR professional, who prefers to stay anonymous, talks about her experience with ritual raging. The professional, a survivor of abuse, says that this form of primal therapy focused on the idea of screaming to release pent-up frustrations has been beneficial to her. “I realised I wasn’t alone, there were so many other women out there who had also experienced a lot of pain and whom I could connect with, at a deep emotional level,” says the professional, who is now an active member of a group which practised ritual raging.

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Ritual raging, which enables you to release deep-seated emotions by yelling, crying, shouting, screaming, or sometimes even through physical expression, was developed by Arthur Janov in the 1960s. However, it seems to have gotten more popular in recent times. Screaming, it turns out, is quite cathartic and provides physiological relief to some people, especially women since there is an underlying cultural expectation from them to not express certain emotions like anger or frustration. Who can forget, for instance, the three protagonists of The Bold Type, screaming in the subway, their voices drowned out by the whooshing of the train entering the station? Or Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, screaming as yet another train trundled past.

So, what are the benefits of this practice? Are there any limitations and drawbacks? And why is it still relevant so many years later? “It’s a cathartic process that lets people release pent-up emotions like anger, sadness or fear,” says

For starters, screaming to express emotions is not a new idea; it has existed since the very dawn of time with battle cries and loud chanting around fires a deeply entrenched practice. Many religions and cultures, within a certain context, encourage exaggerated displays of emotions such as chanting, screaming, shouting, and tearing up of clothes after all. Anshuma Kshetrapal, a Delhi- a based psychotherapist, and dance and movement therapist, firmly believes that creaming is a primal need, one that we have ignored for too long. “We shut out our emotions by dressing up and pretending that humanity is all about being prim and proper,” she says, adding that ritual raging, helps healthily express feelings. Dr Roma Kumar, co-founder and chief psychologist of the online mental health platform, Emotionally, must agree. She firmly believes that venting out anger and trying to find meaning behind that anger is extremely important. Screaming, crying, and shouting can prove to be extremely cathartic for some people, who can then focus on the real meaning behind the anger and work towards resolving it through more of a traditional therapeutic approach.

So, what makes ritual raging so effective? Dr Kumar believes that funnelling unexpressed emotions into screams can have a positive impact on both physical and mental health. “At the psychological level, screaming in a safe therapeutic space may be cathartic and provide clarity to people who are experiencing overwhelming emotions. At the physiological level, screaming may provide relief by releasing tension in our muscles that is caused by built-up emotions and increasing strength.” Also, according to Kshetrapal, it could be a useful outlet in a repressed society. “We have not been taught how to successfully manage and communicate emotions,” she says, pointing out that ritual raging is a form of self-expression that could possibly help reduce anxiety, the symptoms of depression and put you in touch with yourself and your feelings. “When you enter yourself regularly in a ritualistic way, it can be really powerful,” she adds.

It is important to note that ritual raging may not work for everyone. “I also believe that there is no correct way to grieve or vent out your anger and different approaches work for different individuals,” says Dr Kumar. Nor, it must be noted, can it replace therapy; it is simply a technique that can be used as a first step towards acknowledging or even identifying a problem and making way for implementing more long-term solutions with the help of traditional therapy. “Such practices are therapeutic in nature; however, they are never equivalent to or a substitute for therapy. Clients deserve more individualised, focused and compassionate care which can only be offered through a safe and secure space where both trust their alliance and understand the internal frame of references,” she adds.

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Ritual raging can be best utilised as a tool to facilitate the release of emotions that have been built up over time, whether it is stress, anxiety, anger or even disappointment and hurt, providing some relief. It is also useful for people who avoid difficult emotions “Screaming might help to bring out the underlying emotions and make it harder for the individual to deny them any longer, says Dr Kumar, adding that it could be the first step towards processing and healing from their emotional pain,” Dr Kumar states, who thinks of it as a modern accessory that can be integrated with evidence-based psychotherapies for enhanced treatment and the well-being of a person, “In my opinion, mental health practitioners should encourage verbalisations and direct them into productive and healthy channels,” she adds. “This would not only help clients with the unburdening of suppressed attitudes, tensions and conflicts but also gain psychological clarity and enforce a constructive action plan.”

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