After being hurt, an infant will cry loudly and continuously and, if permitted to do so, will seem to recover from the hurt very quickly. After being frightened badly, an infant will scream and shake and perspire. After being angered, a yelling, vigorous tantrum will result, unless interfered with by others in the vicinity. A child, given friendly attention after an embarrassing situation, will talk and laugh about the experience spontaneously until the embarrassment is dissipated. These discharges - the crying, the trembling, the angry shouting, the laughter - are the ways in which human beings release the tensions which the experiences of hurt place upon them.

Apparently babies - given a chance - would keep themselves free from hurts simply by their natural discharge of painful emotion. In our culture, no baby gets very much of a chance because, with sympathy or with harshness, the discharge of her painful emotion is interfered with and shut off so repeatedly that to shut it off becomes an automatic pattern accompanying the hurt.

Discharges Are Not Hurts

There is a fundamental mistake in the ordinary thinking about these discharges. In our culture, tears are usually taken to mean grief. Trembling is taken to mean terror. Angry shouting is taken to mean anger. Therefore, it is thought that to shut off these discharges is to free a person from the emotion. "If you can stop them from crying, they won't feel bad.... " This is fundamentally backward.

The profound process of discharge of which tears are the outward indication is the getting over of grief. Tears indicate freeing one's self from grief. Crying never occurs unless a person needs to do it. In the same way, trembling and cold perspiration indicate the release of terror. Laughter accompanies becoming un-afraid or un-irritated. Shouting and violent movement accompany becoming un-furious.


These means of release of tension occur in a certain order with human beings. What seems to be the heaviest and most profound of the emotional hurts which we experience, we usually call grief. It discharges with tears and sobbing. If a person cries reviewing a very severe incident of hurt, she will cry again on repeated reviewing of the experience, but a point eventually will be reached where there are no more tears.


Repeated recounting will then lead typically to trembling, teeth chattering, shivering, and cold perspiration.

On exhaustion of all the trembling by repeated recountings of the experience, it will be succeeded by intense laughter as the lighter variety of fears release.


When this is over, repeating the story will bring a kind of discharge involving loud words or sounds, physical movement and warm perspiration. We are familiar with this as a "tantrum" or "blowing one's top".

This will pass and the lighter side of anger and irritation will discharge with laughter.


When this is through, certain phenomena seem to take place to release what we might call the painful emotion of boredom, with interested talking the outstanding manifestation.

First, there is a reluctance to recount the experience, then a springing forth of a wealth of detail newly remembered, and finally, laughter again as the experience becomes vague and "unimportant".

The person passes into a tone of zest, or freedom from painful emotion.

Basic Order

This series of means of discharge are very precise and seem to be common to all human beings, even though some may be shut off by the pattern of hurt experiences and their order may be obscured. They have been observed occurring in several thousand human beings to date (see chart).

We might note that each of these discharges of painful emotion involves a physical process.

Physical Hurts

There is another kind of stored-up tension which discharges too, but in a somewhat different manner. The tensions of physical discomfort, i.e., ill health, pain, muscle strain, hormone imbalance, anesthesia, unconsciousness, etc., are usually found surrounded by painful emotion and act as a kind of core or foundation for the emotional distresses.

When the painful emotion discharges which we have described above have been completed, then these root tensions of the physical discomfort kind will be available to discharge. This discharge is indicated by yawning and sometimes by stretching and scratching. This level of discharge is no less important than the discharge of painful emotion, but it does not occur well until all or nearly all of the painful emotion has been discharged from a particular series of experiences.

Neither client nor counselor should seek to direct attention to these physical distresses. They can be restimulated in this way and cause the client prolonged discomfort, but they will not, in general, discharge under such conditions. (The only apparent exception to this, in the case of new physical hurts which just occurred, is discussed under "Couseling First-Aid on Injuries".)

Instead, counseling should be aimed at the discharge of the emotional distresses. When such discharge has proceeded far enough, yawns will spontaneously begin to interrupt the tears, trembling, or other emotional discharge. The same phrase or direction which has been bringing trembling, for example, will bring trembling followed by a yawn, and later, will bring one or more yawns every time its utterance is attempted.

Yawning (with or without stretching or scratching) can be as intense and prolonged a discharge as any emotional discharge. Huge, deep yawns may follow one another with great rapidity. The client can hardly close her mouth on one yawn before another is forcing its way out. Such a discharge will sometimes last for hours.

Because the "exciting" feelings of emotional discharge are absent or diminished during yawns, a client may feel during her first experience with this kind of discharge that she should go on to "something more important".

The counselor should reassure the client and persist with the yawns as long as possible. The most profound and permanent relaxation of old tensions and somatics and the deepest re-evaluation often follow these intense yawning sessions.

Last modified: 2022-05-09 20:17:35+00