WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?

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Edvard Munch's

via creativecommons.org

Edvard Munch's "The Scream"

At around 9:10 this morning, many students and faculty were alarmed to hear shrill, high-pitched screams coming from the Oval. However, no need for worry. The Senior Leaders, a group of self-selected seniors that visit the freshman advisories once a month, were merely having their freshman participate in an activity called “the primal scream.”

This practice of a loud high pitched scream to relieve stress was popularized by the 1970 book The Primal Scream by Arthur Janov. Although some critics believe that the primal scream does not help alleviate stress whatsoever, the technique has been used on college campuses in a similar manner to the way the Senior Leaders chose to run the activity.

It has been most famously performed at Harvard University since the 90s. The story goes that students had been screaming out of their windows on the day before finals, but with the popularity of primal therapy, it became a well-organized tradition. Since then, it has been adopted by multiple other colleges including Cornell, Swarthmore, and Columbia.

“It’s based on the Freudian idea that anything you do to vent your feelings puts you in a state of catharsis, which is the release of energy related to aggression or frustration,” said Psychology teacher Ronald Sarcos. “Basically, in times of stress, our threshold for impulse control are lower, so opportunities like these help to channel any aggression in a healthy way.” When asked if he thought it was effective, he said, “does it work? It doesn’t hurt. It loosens people up. I don’t think it’s a solution in itself. But, I think giving students a collective intense experience helps create a sense of opportunity and cohesion.”

When asked why he chose to perform the primal scream with his freshman, Senior Leader Wickham Bermingham said, “I heard about the primal scream on a couple different college tours and instantly thought it would make for a fun tradition at Poly. Midterms can be really stressful and sometimes you just need to scream, you know?”

However, the primal scream can be used to alleviate stress of all sorts, not just midterms.

Senior Leader Talisha Ward said, “I wanted to do the primal scream because I felt like it was a good way to release any stress we feel about the college process or midterms.”

Although a chorus of shrieks may seem alarming, there’s no need to fret: it was just 100 or so freshman screaming to relieve some stress.