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In addition to being a mother, Sarah Harmon is also a yoga teacher, licensed mental health therapist, and founder of the School of MOM, a community-centric company supporting mothers through mindfulness and self-compassion practices. Oh, and she’s now the organizer of primal scream sessions.
When Harmon’s therapy sessions went virtual with the rest of the world in March of 2020, she says she felt the energy shift with her clients. “I could feel the tension in people’s bodies,” she says. “I could see it on the screen. I could feel it via the screen. It was intense—and women didn’t have their regular outlets, none of us did.” Nearly two years have gone by, but those feelings of stress, anger, and frustration that are burdening mothers remain. Between school and daycare closures due to COVID-19 and the inability of younger children to get vaccinated, parents needed a release. This need was not only evident with Harmon’s clients, but herself, too. She just wanted to, well, scream.
The emotional release of screaming
The idea for the scream stemmed from one of the core tenets of her company, the School of MOM—the practice of mothering oneself. In this exercise, you tune in yourself and assess your individual needs. This is what led Harmon to realize the need for a powerful emotive release—a primal scream.
Earlier this month, Harmon organized the first scream gathering with a group of 20 mothers on a field outside Boston. And it felt amazing, she says. Many of the mothers participating commented on how natural the scream felt. You find a sense of peace, joy, and equanimity afterward, Harmon says. For her, it goes beyond the sensory release. There’s a physical component to the scream, around your parasympathetic nervous system—and a community aspect. When you’re engaging in this activity with others who share your frustration, you feel increasingly connected and bonded. “It’s the difference between practicing in a yoga room versus practicing at home,” she says. “It’s the same thing—it’s all yoga. The scream is yoga.”
The need for noise in mindfulness
The belief that mindfulness practices need to be quiet is flawed. A scream or other form of vocal release is the same cathartic response you may feel at the end of a yoga class or meditation session. Whether you’re screaming, crying, sighing, or laughing, these are all therapeutic practices. Harmon makes the comparison to the classes she teaches with yoga therapy balls, when she typically doesn’t have to cue an exhale. “I hear these massive exhales all over the place because it is that permission slip, oftentimes, that object just gives you that release,” she says. “And it’s the same thing [with] a scream.”
Like anything, there’s a limit to the practice. It’s important that you feel the desire to scream, Harmon says. Doing a scream without feeling called to scream? It doesn’t give you the same cleansing release. Harmon even embodies this standard herself, saying she turned down a few invitations to lead primal screams when she actually didn’t feel the need to scream.
What’s the future of the primal scream?
So, what does the future hold for Harmon’s gatherings? That’s to be determined. Harmon’s already hosted a handful of primal scream sessions this year. However, she wants to be intentional with what happens next. Harmon hopes that by leading these sessions, people will question their own perceptions of mindfulness and learn that it’s OK—hey, even encouraged—to let it out. Loudly.
See also: Can Cursing Calm You Down?