How primal screaming helps release built-up tension - counsellor

If you've built up a lot of tension throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, then screaming into the void could be just what you need to release stress, according to an expert.

Primal screaming, as practised by self-described 'Dr Stress' Dr John McEwan, is a way of releasing pressure that gives the primal brain the message there's nothing to internalise and stress can be released.

He works as a registered counsellor in Auckland, and told The Project it can be beneficial for people to regularly primally scream.

"Every time you're washing your hands and looking in the mirror and there's no one around - do a scream, do something. That releases that tension."

Primal scream therapy was widely practised in the 1970s and 1980s after its creator Dr Arthur Janov released a book on the topic.

Dr McEwan says the most ancient primal scream is called the yoga lion, where a person pulls their shoulders down, spreads their fingers wide and lets out a guttural scream.

"When you primally scream or use the yoga lion, you laugh because it's funny, it's a bit crazy."

He also says sports players are taught to deactivate their anger with a fake smile and shoulder rolls - things that pull tension instantly in a similar way to primal screaming and can stop any violence or a fight or flight response.

"If you allow yourself to get wound up as a sportswoman or sportsman, that energy isn't going to be available for the next move on the field."

Dr McEwan also worked with engineers through the Christchurch earthquakes for three years, and says he would get them to release tension frequently through primal screaming.

"When there was an earthquake - we had the building start to shake, second floor, not getting out - I got everybody up and we all held hands and we all did the lion together and we roared aloud," he says.

"Everybody in that room felt terrific when the earthquake stopped."

Watch his interview on The Project above.