Does Venting Decrease Anger?

Posted by: Lisa Shea

Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/19/11 02:35 AM

With my boyfriend and his Hell's Kitchen addiction I was doing research on the topic of whether venting decreases anger or if it actually makes you more angry in the long term.

Studies seem to indicate that venting revs up your anger - in essence it makes you more angry -

"participants who did hit the punching bag were significantly more aggressive during the noise blast exercises than those who did not hit the bag."

I've read several studies which come to the same conclusion - that people who hit pillows or hit bags were then tested higher for anger levels vs someone who journaled about what they felt.

What is your thought on stress release?

Certainly I would agree that probably anything is better than just bottling it in and waiting until you explode smile
Posted by: jilly

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/19/11 03:41 AM

From watching 11 seasons of Biggest Loser I do think that for someone who is not aggressive naturally, that physical venting seems to help. Jillian makes people hit or kick things, makes them scream and cry - and what follows seems to be an emotional catharsis. Now even Bob is doing it. For a lot of those overweight folks, this is the first time they have allowed themselves to express something they have kept bottled inside.

So for those bottlers, as you said above, having a release valve can be an extraordinary path to growth.

For people who are more aggressive naturally, perhaps screaming into your pillow or hitting the punching bag only serve to rev them up. Or maybe it helps them get everything out in a safe, socially acceptable way. They can get it out of their body and minds and no one gets hurt. smile

I typically vent verbally when stressed out. Some see it as complaining, and I do feel there is a difference. I really try not to complain. However, venting is rewarding when you do it with friends/family who are sympathetic and empathize with you. I suppose that is my reward for doing it.

I have tried in the last few years to keep an eye on my venting. I would agree it's not productive for problem-solving. But I am a very emotional person. When I feel emotional there are no rational answers for me. Being rational with me when i am emotional only annoys me.

I am married to a rational, non-emotional person and we have constant discussions over my need to vent. I try to take myself away from him when I am emotional, since I know we will only both end up upset at the other.

I have other ways to let the emotions settle, like yoga and walking. But I note those are physical actions. I seem to need to move my body to work out the adrenaline caused by whatever triggered my emotional upset.
Posted by: Carl

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/19/11 04:51 AM

Interesting and important topic, I think. I find that about venting actually raising the anger level to be surprising, and worth thinking about. I think Jilly's comments may add the leavening.

Growing up with fear of abandonment, I have always been afraid that argument would lead to "the end." So, when Marge & I got together, and we had our first argument, I thought it was all over. To be able to see the humor, laugh, and still know we would be together, was an eye-opener for me.

We still have our differences in terms of arguments. She tends to let loose with feelings that have kind of stored up, and so we hurt each other a little with words until we work it out. But I prefer talking things out rationally. You know, "This is what makes me angry...."

But, which ever way we do it, I've found it better to talk it out than to let little resentments to build. And I don't think any activity - work or play or punching something - really takes that away like talking it out, and either forgiving, or letting it go (which in a 3way is the same thing).
Posted by: PDM

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/19/11 09:50 AM

Yes, venting! It has to be done, otherwise stress is stored inside ~ and it either comes out when it would be inappropriate, or stays there and makes us ill.

I suppose, though, it depends on the person, and what, exactly, they mean by venting.

For example ~ and I'll use the forum as my example, since we all know that ~ say a member misinterprets something that I have said or done and says something critical to me. How might I react?

I could write an angry post, saying: How dare you criticise me! Take a look at your own faults! You don't know what you are talking about! You are wrong and I am right! You are a fool! I hate this !!

You get the picture ~ fill in your own complaints and insults smile

That could be considered 'venting', but what good would it do? ~ None!
Would it make me feel better? ~ Maybe for 30 seconds.
Would it help the situation in any way? ~ Possibly, but probably not. Unpleasantness would probably escalate. Posts would sound ever more violent and unpleasant.

That sort of venting makes matters worse.

But how about if I just walked away from the computer and shouted to the empty room: 'Stupid forum! I've had enough! This drives me mad! Then picked up a pillow and chucked it onto the settee, sat myself down on it and moaned for a few more minutes?

Would that make me feel better?
Probably, because I would have got all of the annoyance and irritation off my chest.
Would it cause problems?
No, no-one would have been upset or annoyed by my unseen rant.

By the time I had calmed down ~ and it would depend on the seriousness of the complaint or criticism, how soon I would wish to return ~ I could go back to the forum and calmly explain that there had been a misunderstanding, apologise for not making my thoughts clearer, possibly explain that the comment had upset me, if that seemed best, and move on.

Different kinds of venting can have different results.

If screaming and shouting works someone up, as it might, then it will have a negative effect; but a good old rant ~ good humoured and short-lived ~ can be very useful and beneficial.

It depends on the rant smile smile

Posted by: Carl

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/19/11 02:45 PM

Yes. Good analysis, PDM. I agree. And that's what I try to do. Sometimes I yield to temptation and let my annoyance or frustration or hurt feelings show in a venting post. But I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my gut when I do. I'm disappointed with myself, and cringe inwardly - knowing that there's going to be words flying back and forth, and the real issues are going to be lost in the midst of insults and retaliations.

By the way, for the record, in the example that you used - a member saying something critical to you, and how might you respond or react, I think you've done a fine job. Very few of us could do as well, in my opinion.
Posted by: Lisa Shea

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/19/11 10:55 PM

I absolutely agree that bottling feelings up inside is the worst of all possible solutions. All that stress harms your body, all those hormones damage your internal systems, and you cause yourself a great deal of harm physically and emotionally. So certainly any person who bottles up their emotions rather than getting them out somehow needs to do something - anything - to start changing that.

Jilly brings up a great example with the Biggest Loser. Many of these morbidly obese people have been holding in and hiding their emotions for decades. This is a long term, chronic problem with them and sometimes it needs a pretty big ice pick to hack through that wall the first time. So maybe if what they need is to push themselves over the edge, get past the point of exhaustion and to the point where they just let it all out, that is an important start.

So it is very well worth it, if someone has never addressed their emotions of feeling hurt or angry or frustrated, and has been bottling that all in, step one is to just get it out. Get it out in the open so it can be looked at.
Posted by: Carl

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/20/11 01:24 AM

Yes, so true. As a kid, I learned to hide feelings because of abusive step-dads and later boy friends of my Mother.

While I still like to take the high road in discussions rather than slinging mud, I have recognized that I am less likely to feed an addictive personality when I allow myself to openly feel my emotions.
Posted by: PDM

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/20/11 01:48 AM

That must have been very difficult for you as a young boy, Carl. It's good to acknowledge your emotions.

And thank you very much for your kind words smile
Posted by: Lisa Shea

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/21/11 02:19 AM

Carl -

That must have been very rough for you. Certainly I can see how that taught you to hide, for your own self preservation.

It is very sad that there are still adults out there in our modern time who are so upset and overwrought in their own lives that their means of coping is that they lash out at innocent young children. Maybe they themselves were abused as children and have come to feel it's a normal form of interacting. Somewhere we need to break the cycle and help adults get access to therapy and training, so that they do not begin things again with the innocent young generation.

Carl, you are very inspirational in that you were able to break that chain.
Posted by: Carl

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 01/21/11 03:59 AM

I'm glad. Certainly I have had emotional and psychological problems, and ruined a 21-year marriage with drinking and carousing.

Thankfully, I hurt enough to deal with what I had become, and sought help, and worked to change.

Marge & I have now been together since 12/8/1994 and married since 12/8/1995.
Posted by: jilly

Re: Does Venting Decrease Anger? - 02/20/11 03:08 AM

I do think it's important to try a lot of different stress reducing activities - some will work for some types of people better than others. Personally for me journaling just does not cut it. So far I can't meditate when I am keyed up either - this may change when I am more practised at it.

But doing something physical DOES transmute the stress for me - letting out energy in a physical way. Whether it's smushing cans in in the recycle bin, going for a run or hitting a pillow, I don't see much difference in the act itself. It's the releasing of the internal pain in a physical manner.