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In HBO’s teaser for the second season of Big Little Lies, we’re given little more than the promise of Meryl Streep and screaming. Zoë Kravitz’s Bonnie screams into a forest; Laura Dern’s Renata screams, arms outstretched, into the sky. Reese Witherspoon’s Madeline screams into a steering wheel. The women of Monterey are no strangers to the practice—lest we forget that Renata’s original poolside shriek was memorialized with Generation Z’s most prestigious artistic honor, a GIF. As screaming fast becomes a pop-culture mainstay, from the return of angsty noughties-era Screamo music to The Bachelorette, it truly takes center stage on California’s beaches, where the women of Big Little Lies express their fear and anger with a flex of raw vocal release. Even off set, at a roundtable discussion with Oprah for the Hollywood Reporter, Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, both producers for the show, admitted to liberating their pent-up frustration after the cameras stopped rolling: Kidman by throwing a rock through a window, Witherspoon by screaming in a way unfamiliar even to her, “like, howling.” In the new season there’s even more wailing to be had. It all begs the IRL question—are there benefits to screaming into the void?
“The concept of releasing pent-up energy to achieve a sense of relief can be traced back to Freud, who called this process ‘catharsis,’” says New York–based psychologist Jessica Egan, Ph.D. “We feel a release in ‘getting it out,’ and there are many psychological benefits to acknowledging and expressing emotions.” In psychotherapy, Egan mentions that one of the major benefits is learning to identify and express difficult feelings in a safe environment that “can guide you in more appropriately expressing these kinds of emotions in relationships with others to achieve greater intimacy.” It’s a concept that the wellness set is tapping into. For fitness pro Taryn Toomey—who founded the Class, beloved by celebs like Jennifer Aniston—vocal release is a therapeutic move that surrenders feelings of tension and frustration. “Think about all the times when you’ve felt like there was pressure inside of you from a conversation, an experience, or something that has gone unexpressed,” says Toomey. “We invite students to bring those things into the room and use sound as a portal to clean them from the body and mind as we move.” She notes that during the Class, they talk about making sounds “from the guts” rather than the throat, “as this ends up sounding more guttural and helps to stay connected to the body while accessing stored stagnant energy.”
For Hollywood nutritionist and reiki master Serena Poon, it’s an issue of self-care. “Between the growing number of mental-health issues and the measurable amount of inflammation to our brain and our bodies caused by emotional stress, we are more aware of the undeniable dangers that repressed emotions can have on our health,” she explains. It took Poon time to embrace the idea of screaming as self-expression, partly because “society views screaming as a sign of instability, pain, fear, or even psychosis!” And in some cases, for some people, it can have negative results. “Some research suggests that venting of aggression can make you feel more angry and aggressive, rather than less so,” Egan explains, adding that it’s important to take note of how you feel after expressing pent-up energy by screaming into the void, singing at the top of your lungs, or crying hard to feel relief. “Do you feel better afterwards? Is there a sense of relief? Do you feel enlivened? Or do you feel more stressed, angry, sad, or alone? If you feel worse, there are many other options for releasing this kind of tension—see what feels good for you.”
Journaling, exercising, and visualizing calming scenery are psychotherapy-approved alternatives—but if you do feel better after a good shriek, it’s more accessible than ever. For those in search of an at-home fix, the SkyMall-esque site Life Changing Products offers a handheld Scream Stress Control Management Shout Jar with the promise that “you can scream all you want without anyone being disturbed.” Poon also references VoxBox, a VR product introduced last year by two web developers “where patients enter a soundproof room, put on VR glasses and scream the darkness and smokiness away from an image.” In her own time Poon considers this kind of expression as fundamental as proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep—even taking her own primal stress-release route by shouting into pillows, parked cars, and even a cryo chamber on a bad day, which she describes as “cold, liberating, and admittedly very L.A.” Coast to coast, this Sunday’s loyal Big Little Lies viewers can grab their sturdiest couch cushion and join the movement.
Originally Appeared on Vogue