A man yelling angrily
Coping Skills

Venting: Helpful or Harmful?

Everyone knows that sometimes you just need to “vent” about your problems. Basically, you complain about it and get the frustration off your chest. Does it work though? I’m not so sure.

When I taught anger management classes a few years ago, my research indicated that venting may not be helpful at all, and may even be harmful. The idea is if all one does is complain, they merely highlight their own problems and even rile themselves up further. This seemed odd to me, so I did some experimenting.

At the time, my brother was a recruiter for the Marine Corps. It’s an extremely thankless job, and he was taught to deal with stress beforehand. He told me that he was taught to, when necessary, pull a coworker aside and start complaining lightly, but get more and more agitated, until he would just be ranting and furious. This would be done in a gradual crescendo of anger. But he was not told to stop there. His training was to get to that high point, and then start problem solving and looking for ways to cope. It was a decrescendo of solutions and possibilities.

As a Peer Support Specialist, one of my main jobs is to pay close attention to myself and see what works. Medical studies can be quite helpful, but sometimes a self study can be just as useful in a situation.

I discovered that “venting” by itself, really did just make me angrier. I was better off not bringing up a topic if I was angry about it. I sometimes derail my own conversation because I don’t want to be nasty.

Now, I naturally vent to people on occasion, but I’ve come to add the problem-solving piece to it as well. That decrescendo of solutions and possibilities heals my mind to a great extent. Work as a peer support can be quite difficult. My clients are hurting and I hurt with them. That’s part of my job, as long as I do it right. Oftentimes I have to work with the public mental health system. Without getting too political, I’ll just say that this system has many problems, often with disastrous effects on my clients. So I have to fight against the very system that’s supposed to be helping my clients. Fortunately, I’m working with legislators and bureaucrats to help solve this, but I’m sure it will be hard, and maybe even impossible to get a fully functioning system up and running. For now, I’m often the one who fills in the gaps for my clients. By problem solving in my mind, and also with others, I gain the peace I need to continue and to make a huge difference in the lives of my clients.

So does venting help? Probably not on its own, but if it leads to a discussion of solutions, maybe it’s worth the ride.

Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

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Friday the 13th

September 13, 2019