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There are many ways to get through a fit of rage—whether the source of your frustration is your child, your partner, a coworker or even a stranger—and over the past few years, we’ve all learned to rely heavily on these stress-relieving outlets. Some will take a walk, some live for their weekly yoga class and others swear by a good deep breath to stop from combusting right on the spot. But when the mom rage is real, sometimes you just need to scream.
And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that. In what’s known as scream therapy, experts suggest screaming as a helpful release to move through a stressful situation.
Now, we’re not saying that you should go around screaming at the top of your lungs, toddler-style. Nor will all of your troubles suddenly slip away after a nice long wail, but if you start to turn to scream therapy as a cathartic way to relieve some of your stress, you’ll likely start feeling a heck of a lot better.
Scream therapy can help release big feelings
It’s likely no surprise that women are more stressed than ever—and that’s not just in our heads. According to a recent report by Hologic Global and Gallup, women in 2021 were more stressed, worried, angry and sad than they were in 2020—or at any point in the past decade. Motherly’s own State of Motherhood report found that in March 2021, 43% of mothers reported feeling completely burnt out. (That number decreased slightly in March 2022, but just to 38%.) While the specific reasons for burnout need to be addressed and handled in their own right, experts are looking at ways that women, especially moms, can relieve some of that stress and sadness.
Lia Avellino, a psychotherapist and women’s mental health expert, regularly recommends scream therapy to her clients. Moms are expected to be even-keeled at all times, she notes, and while they may appear that way on the outside, there is likely mounting anger and frustration on the inside—and that needs to go somewhere.
Although there may be more polite or gentle-sounding ways of channeling that energy, such as journaling or breathwork, Avellino points out that the feelings that need to be evacuated tend to be far from gentle or soft. And that’s where screaming comes in. It can offer a catharsis unlike any of those other forms of release.
Giving yourself permission to make noise
Natalie Kuhn, Co-CEO of The Class, agrees, although for her, it’s more about giving yourself permission to make sounds, whatever that may mean for you. The Class is a workout that pairs mindfulness and movement, where participants can expect to hear different sounds from others in the room as each person experiences mental and emotional clearing (while simultaneously strengthening the body with squats, burpees, and more).
Kuhn speaks to the unfair and unspoken requirements placed on women, such as being quiet amidst any struggle, and likens the trapped emotions to the steam in a kettle when it meets its boiling point. “Part of the practice that happens at The Class is training ourselves to speak up, to hear ourselves and to release pent-up tension and emotion.”
What’s more, when you scream or emit sound to release these negative emotions, you’re actually freeing up space for positive ones to thrive.
Avellino cites a book by Dr. David Hawkins called “The Map of Consciousness Explained: A Proven Energy Scale to Actualize Your Ultimate Potential,” which assigns an energetic value to each emotion. Shame, fear and anger are on the bottom and love, peace and enlightenment are up top. In placing emotions on a scale, it shows that when you’re operating in fear or anger, you’re in a low energetic state, but by releasing those feelings in a healthy way like screaming, you’re freeing up energy and able to level up, literally.
Benefits of scream therapy
“There’s no right or wrong, only what’s honest or not,” says Kuhn, in regards to the sounds that are made during The Class. And Avellino backs that up, noting that there is one important goal—to feel a sense of release at the end.
There are some signs to look out for that signal that your scream was a “good one;” you may notice a sigh of relief, unclenching of the jaw or a release of the shoulders. Kuhn points out an interesting connection about how that little “after” moment—whether it’s a laugh, cry or some other sound—wouldn’t feel as good if it were a silent one, making a case for being loud and proud, no matter the emotion. (As for where to actually let out a scream? Find ideas below.)
If you’re still afraid of letting out your emotions by way of sound, Kuhn asks that you try the tactic she uses on her students who are feeling insecure about getting real and raw, especially in front of strangers: “If you weren’t judging yourself right now, what could this moment be like?”
Oftentimes, this little nudge can make all the difference in finally opening up. So next time you’re in your head, try it for yourself and see what happens.
Kids can use scream therapy too
But don’t stop there. Scream therapy can help kids, too. Start developing those pipes at an early age and allow them to feel this cathartic release the same way that you can. It’s important to encourage children to express their frustration in a contained way, says Avellino, who has her own “angry corner” and “peace place” set up in her home for her 4-year-old.
This allows her daughter to go to either spot to engage in the emotions that she’s feeling. In the angry corner, she can scream and “let her mad out.”
By allowing children to learn to express their feelings in this way, it promotes healthier practices as they age, so that they’re not left feeling as hopeless and overwhelmed as many of us adults feel when we’re overcome by emotion.
Places to practice scream therapy
A question that Avellino likes to have her clients ask themselves is, “How does the anger want to come out?” And that helps dictate what type of release is warranted.
There are rage rooms that are soundproof where you can blast an angry playlist and scream along while you smash things.
You can let loose in nature like in an open field or on a hike.
If you happen to live in a city apartment where there doesn’t seem to be any safe or private spaces to scream, there’s always the option to do so into a pillow.
Avellino also offers a collective scream session that’s aptly named “Move Through Hard Things” at Spoke, her wellness center in Brooklyn.
She shares that there’s something really reassuring about having everyone scream at the same time. And of course there’s The Class, which offers a similar sort of community where you can feel alongside others going through similar experiences while exercising the physical body, and you can stream it from the comfort of your own home.
Kuhn describes the supportive feeling that transpires when multiple people are making sound and moving together as “being allowed to be as human as you are.”