When was the last time you allowed yourself to have a good venting session? I’m not talking about a random quip here and there when you’re frustrated, I’m talking about a knockdown, drag-out chance to really put everything you’ve been holding onto for the last weeks, if not months, into words. If you’re anything like me, it’s probably been WAY too long.
This is where you kindly tell me that venting, like whining, is something that only annoying people do to get more attention. Or that inflicting your friends with your different challenges is a form of emotional vampirism. Or that it’s really unhealthy to dwell on the negative, and worse to release it out into the world.
In some ways, you’d be right. The friend who is always complaining, always unhappy, and has a laundry list of problems that they never fail to bring up every time you talk to them, won’t stay a friend for long. I’m not talking about always venting about everything. I’m talking about strategic venting. Venting with a purpose and a goal.
If you’ve had something happen that really bothers you, holding it in will only serve to prolong how long it takes to get over it. Holding in all those negative feelings only makes problems worse. It’s downright unhealthy. By allowing yourself to vent to a trusted friend, parent, or preferred online group, you are giving yourself a healthy outlet for those hard feelings to sympathetic ears. Sharing helps relieve some of the stress.
But, there is a catch. While venting feels good if you don’t follow it up with creating solutions to prevent what caused you to vent in the first place, then you risk turning into someone that people might start avoiding.
Finding a sympathetic ear to listen to you
The next time you are overwhelmed and need an outlet, give yourself one! Call or text someone who you trust and ask them if they are willing to listen to you vent. This is vital. Don’t just start dumping on someone without their permission. By asking first, they know what they’re getting into. Also, it might be wise to set a time limit on how long you are going to let yourself vent. Going too long often means you start repeating yourself over and over. If you’re repeating yourself, then it’s time to be done with the anger and time to find solutions.
The other critical part of this is making sure your vent buddy understands that you are more than willing to return the favor. The best vent buddies are the ones that are fine listening to you when you’re all riled up and then can help bring you back down and find solutions.
If venting to someone is still not your thing, consider venting and letting it all out in the pages of a journal. Writing down everything that’s bothering you is extremely cathartic and you don’t have to worry about what anyone thinks. Your journal won’t give bad advice or try to shift the focus back to itself either like some friends might.
When all that pent-up frustration is gone, your mind will be clearer to create a solution to what caused the problem in the first place.
Spouses are not an ideal choice to vent to
I’m notoriously bad at sharing my frustrations with anyone, especially if it means calling or texting them out of the blue. I’m sure it has everything to do with how I was raised. As a kid, I got in trouble when it seemed like I was complaining too much, so I learned to shut up and keep it all inside.
Because of this, I tend to only vent to my husband, which isn’t entirely fair to him. With a friend, you eventually have to go home or hang up. You can’t prolong the conversation because they have their own lives to get back to. With a spouse, there’s that temptation to keep talking about it because it’s still rattling around in your brain. You have an excuse to keep venting instead of moving on.
For me, the next best thing to venting to a trusted friend is to journal about the frustration and let all those feelings spill out onto the page. Once all the words are out of me, I find it that much easier to look at the problem rationally and come up with ways of making the situation better.