The Loudest Silence

THE TRICK IS: HOW TO scream at the top of your lungs without making a sound.

That’s one of the lessons taught by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a Chasidic teacher who lived in Ukraine at the turn of the 19th century CE. R’ Nachman, who suffered deeply from depression throughout his life (and who once said, “It is a great mitzvah [religious obligation] always to be happy”), taught that one can release one’s emotions by focusing them into a “silent scream:”

Anyone can do this. One pictures in his mind the exact sound of a scream, down to its tone One can enter this till he is literally screaming with this soundless ‘small still voice.’ Yet no one will hear you.

The technique is as simple as it is cathartic, but does require a knowledge of how one feels while screaming. Draw from that sense-memory in as much detail as you can — the taut muscles, the raw throat, the billowing lungs, et al — until you feel you are screaming with your whole body (except the voicebox). R’ Nachman teaches that this is easier to do “without words,” as it is otherwise difficult to keep some small sound from escaping. Try this the next time you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, angry, or otherwise in need of emotional release. (It works for me.)

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