Escape your comfort zone: I have always been the quiet one. Could learning to shout change my life?

I can endure anger, pain and frustration without the need to scream. But I realised that that could, in fact, be a problem. So I travelled to the countryside to try yelling

In the summer of 2020, the London-based psychotherapist Zoë Aston hit the headlines with a scream-therapy campaign she had devised for the Icelandic tourism board. On a website called Looks Like You Need Iceland, visitors were invited to record a scream which would then be blasted out for you in the vast, frozen wilderness. “And when you’re ready,” the blurb ran, “come let it out for real. You’ll feel better, we promise.” All of which assumes a scream-readiness with which I am patently unfamiliar.

I am famous in my family for never shouting when I drop a glass or cut myself in the kitchen. The bigger the mess, the quieter I get. The angrier I get, the quieter I get, too. I have never screamed or shouted anyone down. A while back, the thought occurred to me that this might be a problem. What if, one day, I needed to yell? What if I, or someone else, needed the kind of urgent attention a scream is designed to attract?

Reading the psychologist Art Janov’s 1970 book The Primal Scream does not help. This is at least partly due to its terrifying cover art, which features a bald figure with a cleft cranium, out of which gapes a screaming red mouth full of teeth – a nightmarish vision matched only by the intense embarrassment I feel just thinking about what therapists call “primaling”. I don’t want to primal. Or vent. Or rage. It’s the actual, audible how-to that’s the problem.

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