If you believe that screaming and punching a pillow will make you feel less angry, think again. Studies show that venting unpleasant emotions can reinforce those feelings.
While bottling up your emotions isn’t going to help you process and solve your problems, going too far in the other direction can create a negative feedback loop that will keep you focused on the bad and prevent rationale problem solving methods.
3 Reasons Why is Venting is Problematic
Venting is Addictive
Venting can feel great in the moment, provide that much needed release of stress. Venting can also make you more connected or bonded to others that share a similar challenge. It feels good when we feel like someone can relate to how we are feeling.
The problem is the more we vent, the more we want to vent. At first, we may receive positive reinforcement from those people we are venting to. But eventually, the venting becomes a habit, and not a healthy one. It becomes addictive, and contagious. This creates a terrible environment, one in which we lose site of creating solutions to our problems, instead we just keep complaining about all the things. This gets us stuck and unable to implement changes needed to improve our situations.
When we routinely vent our frustrations or anger, we are in-effect practicing it, and thus becoming more skillful at it. This can cause us to get more easily disappointed at situations, even relatively trivial ones. The repeating of the pattern becomes easier and easier to prompt a quick response. It becomes an automatic response that is not in our best interest.
Venting Can Damage or Destroy Relationships
Let’s be honest, while most of us are happy to be supportive shoulder to cry on, nobody wants to listen to someone bitch endlessly. Eventually you wear out your welcome. Nobody wants to be constantly dragged down by someone else’s sad sap story. You exhaust their patience and lead them to feel that their own wants, needs, and feelings have very little importance to you. They may feel used and abused by you and get sick of your constant complaining.
After so long, the person on the receiving end of someone’s venting has had enough. They may start feeling burned out and brought down, and while they want to remain supportive, their own need for mental survival will kick in and they may kick you to the curb. This seems unfair, but it is self-preservation.
Venting Can be Hazardous to Your Health
When we vent, we put ourselves into a stressed-out state. Our nervous systems are activated and react by going into a physiological stress response called fight-flight-freeze. When this is done on a consistent basis, you are officially becoming chronically stressed. This has a negative impact on your physical and emotional health. Our bodies are not built to experience ongoing stress.
Chronic stress response can cause problems such as aches and pains, low energy, insomnia, difficulty concentrating or mental fog, changes in appetite, moodiness, high blood pressure, immune system dysregulation and a host of other physical, emotional, and mental symptoms.
A Better Way to Manage Your Stress
To properly process emotions, you need healthy alternatives to manage your anxiety and stress. Creating new ways to constructively deal with your feeling will prevent the damaging side effects that venting to much can cause.
Viewing Unpleasant Feelings Differently
Question your assumptions. It’s difficult to resist blowing off steam if you still believe it will provide relief. Check in with yourself a half-hour later to see if your anger is gone. Read studies about how road rage can affect your heart.
Set priorities. It’s worth fighting injustice if your child is being bullied at school. If another shopper wants to count four cans of cat food as one item, it makes more sense to be flexible.
Assume responsibility. Indignation is less tempting when you face how you contributed to the situation. Did you criticize your daughter about her grades when you meant to discuss cleaning up her bedroom? Focus on solutions. Unpleasant feelings can be beneficial when they prompt you to take action. Acknowledge your anger, and then concentrate on fixing the situation.
It may feel gratifying to have a meltdown over your property taxes or snap back at a disruptive coworker, but indulging those impulses comes at a high price. Protect your physical health, relationships, and peace of mind by dealing with unpleasant emotions constructively.