A healthier way to vent

  • Be selective about when you vent. Instead of venting to people, you can gain perspective on your own by writing your thoughts down or changing your environment.
  • When you vent to others, ask them for their perspective. It will help you not to keep rehashing your experiences.
  • Consider to whom you vent. Did this person help you last time you spoke to them or just make you feel worse?
  • Be careful around online venting. Negative emotions easily spread online, which can result in bullying or trolling.

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Does Venting Your Feelings Actually Help?

greatergood.berkeley.edu

MORE IDEAS FROM THE ARTICLE

While supportive friends and family may care enough to listen and sympathize with us, there's often a limit to how much listeners can actually hear. It can be frustrating to listen to someone wallowing in emotion without learning from their experience. The listener may also "catch" these emotions themselves. 

An artful listener will use empathy or sympathy and wait for the right moment before offering perspective.

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For many years, psychologists believed that dark emotions needed to be released physically, like hitting a soft object, like pillows or punching bags.

  • However, this type of emotional venting makes people relive their anger in their bodies, strengthening the neural pathways for anger and making it easier to get angry the next time.
  • The same is true of grief or anxiety. If we only relive our experience without finding meaning and a way to soother ourselves, it could extend our suffering.

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Venting feelings is not always helpful

Science suggests that while venting your emotions feel good in the moment, it might make matters worse in the long run.

Sharing our emotions reduces our stress and make us feel closer to others. When we open up, and people respond with sympathy, we feel understood and supported. But, expressing our emotions often to others may make us feel worse if we fail to gain some perspective and don't take steps to soothe ourselves.

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We vent our feelings to connect with other people who can help validate what we're going through. It feels good to know you have someone to rely on who takes the time to listen.

Sharing our feelings also help us to clarify and gain insight into what's causing our complicated feelings. Our confidants can also provide new perspectives and offer sound advice. But if we only vent, we won't address our cognitive needs too. We need to make meaning of what we're experiencing.

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Venting is not the same as complaining
  • Complaining is characterised by whining about the same issues while blaming external factors for your emotions. It tends to be chronic.
  • Venting is a momentary release of emotion and frustration. After blowing off some steam, you can continue with your day in a relatively normal manner.

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