Venting, like catharsis, seems so natural: we all blow off steam sometimes. And when we finish, we usually heave a great sigh of relief. But to me, the real questions are, “What’s the point of venting?” and “Can it help stop bullies?
I think of venting as a process, or part of a process, not as a result in and of itself.
Tens of thousands of years ago, we might have vented our fear and anger through physical action. Get rid of the adrenaline, calm down and decide what to do. But we still had to be careful and keep ourselves in check enough while we’re venting to see the signs of saber-toothed tigers or giant bears or we wouldn’t be around to vent again.
Or we might have used a big club to whack an opponent and then face the consequences of that rash act.
Nowadays, we can still use some techniques like physical effort to release steam and calm us down. For example, working off adrenaline by banging a ball or running or boxing. In addition, a wise woman once said that whenever she got angry, she vacuumed her house. That way, when she finished being angry, she’d have a clean house and she could focus on what to do next.
Some people use anger and venting to give themselves enough energy to stop harassment and bullying. In that case, it does help us stop bullies. A classic example might be Ralphie Parker in the movie, “The Christmas Story.” In that case, he channeled his anger effectively and vented while he was beating up the bully. But usually, when we act from anger we’re not strategic; we do dumb things that make the situation worse.
But the point of venting is always:
- To cross over in to a calm zone where we can think calmly, clearly and strategically.
- Then have enough energy, power, strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience to act effectively over time and despite temporary set-backs.
Therefore we must challenge ourselves to stop repeated replaying and re-venting over the same incidents and injustices. Repeated venting without effective action becomes narcissistic whining and complaining, which becomes boring and self-destructive.
Such repetition drives our good friends away. I think it was Annie Liebovitz who said, “Spilling your guts is about as attractive as it sounds.”
Such repetition also puts us on one of the paths to self-destruction – through violence turned outward or through hatred turned inward into negative self-talk, self-abuse, self-bullying, loss of confidence and self-esteem, and increased chances of depression and suicide. And after they’ve ranted, many people use perfectionistic standards to make themselves feel ashamed and guilty, which only makes them weaker.
We most also be wary of hanging out with people who vent repeatedly. Yes, injustice might have been done, but we still have to move on effectively in life – either fight the injustice effectively or go in a different direction successfully.
I’ve met too many people who have filled their lives and many hours of psychoanalysis in endless probing and catharsis. They seem to assume that if only they vent enough, finally they’ll come to rest in peace on the other side. Too often they end up knowing everything about some sides of themselves, but never having changed their behavior, fixed the situation or created wonderful lives. A life of verbal and righteous indignation is not a very fruitful life.
I’m more focused on overtly using techniques for moving to the other side and rapidly taking effective action.