Nonviolent Screams are Kind of Primal
Primal screaming is a concept that conjures up encounter groups from the 60’s. There are countless articles and books touching on the topic. There are plenty of how-to instructions, ideas and suggestions. Nonviolent screaming, however, is a bit more cerebral. It’s a way to let off some steam while still communicating intelligibly through words.
What’s the Point of the Scream?
According to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, a nonviolent scream is simple. It clearly lets those around you know that you’re feeling intensely angry, hurt, shocked, or what have you. It informs them that you need some time to yourself, or some privacy or open space. That’s when the nonviolent screamer makes his swift exit. He reappears later when he’s more calm and collected.
The whole point of a nonviolent scream is to vent your strong feelings and remove yourself from the scene. This is to prevent you from saying anything judgmental or hurtful that you may regret just minutes, months or years later. In a way, it’s like a wounded animal that needs to lick his wounds before he lashes out or bites someone. It calls to mind someone who is not feeling well and about to vomit. Naturally, he’s not going to do it right there if others are around. He goes off to the bathroom to minimize the mess, embarrassment and toxicity.
Tweaking the Nonviolent Scream
This tiny piece of the nonviolent communication process is called a scream. Yet it can be done in a regular tone or even a soft tone of voice. For some of us, it may seem grossly out of character to make a strong emotional statement and then exit the room. Let’s say you’re a mild-mannered person who’s never screamed in front of your friends or family. Suppose you want to do a nonviolent scream for your first time. If you’re in a group of people who may feel shocked or worried by this unusual behavior, you can tweak it accordingly.
If you were to shout, “I’m angry and I need some space for a while!” your friends might feel stressed or confused. Especially if they’re not at all accustomed to you speaking so intensely. Suppose you spoke in a more usual tone of voice. Suppose you were to say, “Hey, I’m feeling some very strong emotions right now. I’m the only one responsible for my feeling this way, and I need some time by myself to sort it out. So please excuse me, I’ll get back with you soon.”
Do you see the difference? You’ve still maintained your high levels of truthfulness and emotional integrity. Yet you have not suggested anyone is to blame. You’ve even gone out of your way to reassure people that you take full responsibility for your own feelings.
Granted, that example above may take a lot of self-restraint. To pull it off so gracefully is no easy thing. The actual nonviolent scream may come out more spontaneously. Parts of it may be quite loud. Some of the words may be out of character and a bit shocking. Still, if it allowed you to fulfill your needs without hurting anyone, it has served its purpose.
Like all things NVC, it will require practice. It may take you out of your comfort zone. Isn’t that where the cutting edge of personal growth usually takes us all?
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Note: NVC is an abbreviation for Nonviolent Communication, a fluid, ever-evolving language process created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. It is also referred to as Compassionate Communication. It’s based on universal human feelings and needs, the giving of empathy and making humble requests rather than demands.