How to Have a Conscious Rant

The point of a conscious rant is to defuse overloaded or potentially harmful reactivity in a way that hurts no one, including ourselves.

In a conscious rant, you get to totally cut loose emotionally, exaggerating your sounds and movements without any editing, all within the confines of a well-boundaried context — the ground rules for which you’ve thought out and clarified beforehand.

This is very different than everyday reactivity. The context has been set; into the ring you step, knowing the boundaries and knowing that you don’t have to hold back anything — you have permission to be outrageous.

Your task is to do this full-out. If you get self-conscious or only express yourself partially, deliberately exaggerate what you’re feeling. Be melodramatic as possible, going for sheer vitality, not humor — though conscious rants can sometimes end up being hilarious once they’re fully rolling.

If you’re with another person (your partner or a good friend), your parameters for having a conscious rant will have been clearly preset, so that your rant does no harm.

It’s as if you’re in acting class and your task is to give volcanic vent to your emotional state, without doing any harm and with a clear beginning and end.

(Note: If you’re upset with a particular person, do not face them during your rant; and if your upset with them is big, conduct your rant on your own or with someone else. In other words, your partner or a close friend can be your witness/coach to your ranting about anything or anyone — except for them.)

Conscious rants can be done for any difficult, overwhelming, or otherwise upsetting state you’re in. Here are instructions for having a conscious rant when you’re feeling really frustrated, angry, despairing, or aggressive:

Stand in the middle of a room private enough to allow loud sound. And if such a room isn’t available, stand in the middle of whatever room you have, with a firm pillow handy. Your partner or a close friend can be in the same room, having already co-created with you an agreement for the ground rules for the conscious rant you’re about to have. And if you have no one (or cannot have anyone there) to witness what is about to happen, it still works well if you do it alone.

Fully focus on what’s upsetting you. Breathe more deeply, bending your knees slightly. Let’s assume you’re really angry: Let your anger or outrage speak, and speak uninhibitedly — don’t be polite, don’t be careful, don’t try to be a model of clean anger. Bust loose!

(If you have to keep the noise down, hold the pillow to your face with both hands so that it completely covers your mouth. Squeeze the pillow as hard as you can, and let loose!)

If you feel self-conscious, be more outrageous. No rehearsing! Stomp your feet, shake, make fists, spontaneously speak with your whole body. If you have a gripe, blow it up to major proportions; if you think you were treated unfairly, lay into whoever dared treat you that way, and so on.

If words don’t come, say what you want to say with full-out sound. If your emotional state changes, go with that — one moment you may be raging, and the next sobbing.

Keep your rant full-blooded, keep it dramatic, keep it spontaneous, and really exaggerate it whenever you feel yourself energetically fading. Give yourself at least two minutes of full-out expression. After that, you may continue for a bit, but stop when you are running out of steam, and lie flat on your back spread-eagled and breathing slowly for a couple of minutes. Then let your breathing return to normal, getting up when you feel ready.

In summary, the steps for a conscious rant are:

  • Name your prevailing emotion(s).
  • In an already established context (for suitable containment), cut loose expressing what you’re feeling. Exaggerate your speech, your tone, your body movements enough so to lose any self-consciousness.
  • Do this all out until you naturally start to tire (usually less than three minutes), then lie down or sit comfortably for as long as you like.