We all know that venting, letting off some steam and then moving on, helps us right? Venting anger is supposed to be cathartic. Punching a pillow, yelling at no one in particular, banging your damn it doll, etc. are ways to vent anger or frustration and “get it out of your system” in a supposedly harmless way.
Actually all of that is false. Decades of research have repeatedly shown that venting does not work. Venting increases aggressive feelings instead of decreasing them.
Venting involves behaving aggressively, often against “safe” inanimate objects. To vent, people punch pillows, wallop punching bags, beat on couches with foam baseball bats, throw dishes on the ground, kick trash cans, scream and swear into pillows, and so forth. In essence, venting is practicing how to behave aggressively. Such aggressive activity should prime aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavioral tendencies, especially if the people think about the source of their anger while venting. Thus, venting should keep angry feelings active in memory and also should increase the likelihood of subsequent aggressive responses.
Brad J. Bushman
The above was taken from this article on catharsis which is a description of a specific experiment, but many experiments have shown the same thing. Venting does not work. It makes the situation worse. Do nothing is better than venting.
Calmly informing someone that they have angered or upset you in some way probably does work. Deep breathing, putting down those rocks, not minding what happens, and other ways of non-reaction are they way to go.
It may seem that venting works because momentarily you feel better. My instinct is that it works for me. But the reasons why it shouldn’t work plus the research that shows it doesn’t, is enough for me.
What do YOU think? Leave a comment and join the conversation.
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