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How to Safely and Effectively Release Strong Emotions

We’ve all been there. A passive-aggressive comment from a co-worker or criticism from leadership gets your blood boiling. Your child’s teacher calls and reminds you that your child continues to act out in class. You see one last social media post that makes you feel like you don’t measure up. All you want to do is tell someone off or pour out your grievances to a friend—but how can you vent without negatively affecting others?

According to the triune brain model, the brain has three regions: the limbic system (feeling brain), the neocortex (thinking brain), and the visceral brain (controls bodily functions). Until we learn how to manage our brains, any one of these can take control without our conscious awareness. When our limbic brain, AKA our emotional brain, has taken over, we become reactionary beings, throwing logic to the wind. That’s why learning how to regulate our emotional reactions properly is crucial, especially if we want our world to calm down.

Our reactive mode stems from our buried emotions from the past. The primal wound is the first deep emotional pain occurring in childhood—the shaping event that teaches your subconscious how to react to protect itself and controls your emotions. This may look like overreacting, people-pleasing, or shutting down in the face of conflict.

What deactivates and releases us from the grips of a primal wound? It might just be as simple as the primal scream.

The first noise we emit when we enter this world is a scream. We are encouraged to scream to bring life into an inert body.

Psychologist and professor at New York University David Poeppel researched what happens in our body when we scream. His research explains why we feel a sense of relief when we scream—a scream goes straight from the ear to the amygdala, the part of our brain that kickstarts the body’s fight or flight response. Its sound jolts our brains into increased alertness and gives us a shot of adrenalin. It brings us into a more energetic place, just like it did on the first day of our lives.

Three Ways to Use a Primal Scream to Release Stress

The Scream Room

Screaming is a quick, free, and effective stress reliever. I advise the businesses I consult to have a soundproof room where employees can go to meditate or, quite literally, scream. I coach a trucking company and have advised them to stop on the side of the road and let out a big scream. They tell me that screaming when you’re PO’ed feels good. This is because screaming releases endorphins that relieve stress—allowing you to take on the situation with a clear head.

But if a scream room is not available, get creative. Go to your car, drive around the block, and scream. Scream into a pillow, your purse, or your shoe. Go to the woods and scream. I have even been known to scream in my empty house, and so far, no one has come to take me away.

The Scream Chair

Another way to use the primal scream to let those emotions out privately is to say what you want to speak to the person who irked you—without holding back. I call this “chair work.” Set up two chairs and imagine the person you’re upset with sitting in the empty chair. Let all your unfiltered thoughts and emotions react to the situation in private so they don’t appear in public. Tell that person in the chair everything you want to say without holding back. Scream!

The Family Scream

I am a screamer from way back. From what my mother told me, I had a piercing scream and did not hesitate to use it when I didn’t get my way. As you can imagine, I still like a good scream. I scream with pleasure on a roller coaster and when I run on the beach. I do a daily scream just for the fun of it. I have encouraged my children and now, to my children’s dismay, my grandkids to scream.

The three steps to a good scream.

  1. Name your feelings. The first step to safely screaming is to acknowledge your feelings and recognize that you feel out of control. When emotions are high, our logical brain goes offline, and our emotional brain takes over. Call out those reactive emotions so they can’t control you.

  2. Journal your feelings. Before you scream, know what you are screaming about. What is frustrating you so much that you are outraged enough to scream? Neuroscience proves that you can let go of emotions faster if you talk or journal about them. This is where you may want to gossip about the problem with a friend, but it’s important to vent to yourself before you vent to anyone else.

  3. Turn the scream into a positive action. Think of a time when you screamed in delight or surprise about something happy that happened. For example, I screamed when my daughter and her wife called and said they had decided to get married! What has made you so happy lately that you wanted to scream in delight? Use that scream as a positive anchor for your brain to remember to let your happiness out!


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