How did I make it to the Shouting Corner?

Readers of The Journal.mt might have noticed that the Editor has put me in The Shouting Corner section. I had been longing to join the select club of contributors in the corner for some time. 

There was something irresistible about it that kept urging me to try. In that club, I would be one of four ─ not just any common contributor. Like the other three, I would be able to contribute an article ending with a question mark. And that’s exactly what I am doing today, and I feel so proud.

But there were other reasons. Such as: 4 is the smallest squared prime and the only square one more than a prime number; the word for the number four is one of a kind, as it is the only number that has the same number of letters as the value of the number itself; the chemical element beryllium has the atomic number four on the periodic table and it is a rare element; and some of the most common engines used today are known as four-stroke engines.

The problem was that, no matter what I wrote, the Editor just kept putting me elsewhere ─ in Politics, in Economics, in Education, in Health, or in Social. What did I have to do? Why couldn’t I graduate to the Corner?

Until I realised that my tactics were wrong. I was meekly sending in my contributions, hoping to make an impression, whereas what I needed to do was SHOUT!

So, I did….a lot, and lo and behold I am now officially in the club.    

Readers will know that, whether it’s from hitting a piece of furniture with their baby toe or from pure frustration at their laptop freezing again, they have all felt it — that deep burning desire to open their mouth and let out a long, bellowing scream.

Screaming is good for your health

There’s something intensely satisfying about shouting at the top of your lungs. Not only is it satisfying, but science has shown that screaming is good for you and your well-being. 

Not only is it satisfying, but science has shown that screaming is good for you and your well-being.

Whoever has seen any one of the versions of Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream knows that this primeval scream was a product of stress, or an uncharacteristic moment of panic. But it also symbolizes the darkly troubled times Munch was experiencing as he dealt with mental illness and trauma, and his attempt to rationalise and explain his experience through what he knew best, painting.

Screaming features a lot in psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioural therapy – but have you heard of primal scream therapy? Kanye West is among those who have praised it. Primal scream therapy involves standing in a warrior pose and screaming as loud as you possibly can.  

“This modality of therapy is about connecting with the [negative] emotion, feeling it, and releasing it via screaming, sobbing, or even hitting a safe object such as a punching bag,” says psychotherapist Gin Love Thompson. “The physical vibratory sensations alert the nervous system and subconscious that this discharge is a conscious choice of absolution.”

It’s not only hip-hop stars and psychologists who profess shouting is good for you. So does ancient Chinese wisdom.

According to Dr Nan Lu, a master herbalist and Qigong master, the energy that feeds the liver’s well-being needs to flow, but it can get obstructed by frustration. His remedy? Shake like a noisy tree. To do the “Tree Shake”, stand tall, then swoop your body down toward the floor and come up swinging like a tree in the wind. As you shake, reach your fingertips toward the sky, gather up all your frustration and release it with a whopping scream.

In the 1970s, American psychologist Arthur Janov published The Primal Scream, a popular self-help book that suggested that reliving childhood traumas — and screaming through them — could free a person from his neuroses. The idea that yelling is a pretty good way of relieving tension has endured. (Amazon even sells a scream pillow with instructions printed on the front: “Place face in centre and scream!”). Shrek wisely said, better out than in.

The negative effects on others

However, while it might feel great to you, remember that your scream could have negative effects on the people who hear it. Laboratory research has shown that the grating sounds of human screams activate fear responses deep in the minds of people who listen to them. I have still not learned whether that is the response I elicited into my Editor in my attempt to join the Corner.

Of course, yelling in general was once considered as a signifier of dominance, power, or authority. You only have to watch Hitler’s manic behaviour and yelling at his rallies. Now, many people see it as a mortifying and old-fashioned display of toxic masculinity. Watch Trump and you will know what I mean. It is simply not something a serious person should do.

Laboratory research shows that the grating sounds of human screams activate fear responses in people.

Today’s societal norms ask us to swallow our verbal frustrations and maintain composure. If you yell every time something doesn’t go your way, you might get some funny looks from strangers.

It may well be that the change in attitude towards screaming is part of the generational change to a shift in temperament. This may have been facilitated by the rise of online culture — now there’s less need for anyone to raise his actual voice, because it is incredibly easy to be cruel, bullying, and disruptive via typing alone. Don’t we all know!

Perhaps it’s not so much that anger itself has gone out of style but that the socially acceptable ways of channelling and expressing rage have radically changed. Granted, we may get to the most onerous, blistering, radical truth about something when we’re angry. But one can equally arrive at it by a more reserved and muted response, by reflection.

So, if yelling makes you feel good, by all means do it, but not in public. When the urge to scream hits you in public, you might well do yourself a favour by remembering the ending of Moby-Dick, in which a broken Captain Ahab, frothing with vindictiveness, spots the white whale he’s been hunting, and begins to scream.

Ishmael, who narrates the book, understood Ahab’s rage as treacherous: “Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels; that’s tingling enough for mortal man! to think’s audacity. God only has that right and privilege.” But Ahab is consumed by his anger, and he won’t give up, even in death (classic-literature spoiler alert!): “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” And with that Ahab, and most of his men, are swallowed up by the sea, screaming as they tumble into the roiling surf.

It is a pitiful end. Let it not be your end too. And mine. So, Dr De Battista, may I offer an unconditional public apology for my screaming. I only hope that this apology may assuage you and let me visit The Shouting Corner from time to time!

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