This is another one of those articles where I’m taking on a commonly accepted behavior and turning it on its head. Of course, this sometimes results in readers wanting to tar and feather me, but that’s the risk I have to take.
What’s the behavior that everybody says is so healthy and fabulous?
Let’s start with what I mean by venting. In brief, it’s when we get something off our chest. Something that’s bugging us, tormenting us, aggravating us. Like what?
– You’re passive-aggressive colleague at work weasels his way, yet again, into getting the better assignment. You get home from work and vent to your wife that you’d love nothing more than to knock his block off.
– A mom at your kid’s school acts as if she hasn’t met you when you’ve met her at least five times. You vent about this to another mom friend of yours at school pick up.
– Your mom blows off babysitting your kid, her grandkid, forcing you to cancel dinner plans at your favorite restaurant. You vent to your husband, for the 1,568th time, about how awful and selfish your mom is.
– You see an Instagram post with your ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend looking annoyingly happy, even though she broke up with you only three months ago. You call your buddy up and vent about what a shallow person she is, and was.
There’s nothing wrong with any of these reactions. It’s just unloading a pile of frustration and tension. Great.
Mickey Singer’s three responses
Before moving further, though, let’s take a page from the Mickey Singer playbook on the three ways we can respond in a stressful situation. They are: Suppress, express and watch. (I wrote an entire article on this subject, link here.)
I’ll explain using the grandma who blows off babysitting her grandson. Suppressing would be if the daughter tells her husband, “It’s alright. Maybe she just isn’t feeling well. I didn’t really want to go out for dinner anyway.” In other words, she’s taking her anger and pushing it back down.
Doing that over and over normally results in a volcanic explosion down the road. This is the least healthy option.
Second, she could do what she did, which is vent. “Man, I can’t stand her! She’s just awful. Always has been. No wonder my dad kicked her to the curb!” This is expressing. Yes, it’s healthier than suppressing because we at least release some of that angry energy. But it’s only a temporary release. The underlying problematic energy remains.
Watch and let go
But the third option, watching, is the charm. This is where the daughter allows the angry feelings to surface, but instead of engaging with them, by telling off her mom or venting to her husband, she would relax, lean away, and watch those feelings…And then let them go.
What’s the benefit garnered by doing this? She actually releases some of the stuck energy inside her. In this case, it’s energy she has held onto for most of her life concerning her feelings for her mom.
Why is that healthy? Because those feelings/that energy is just sitting in her lower self. Every single moment of every day. And that energy is toxic. It’s what prevents us from feeling peaceful inside.
We vent when the ego gets poked
Which brings us back full circle to venting, the subject at hand. In many circumstances, venting is fine. But we would all do well to be aware that almost all venting derives from someone poking our ego.
The mom who doesn’t remember meeting you, the mom who bails on babysitting your kid and the guy who weasels his way to the better job assignment are causing us to vent because our egos got stirred.
So try to remember that the next time you find yourself venting. See if you can add the relax, lean away and watch component to your vent session.
Even more important, and the main reason for writing this article, is to be aware of what you’re venting about. Is it something you vent about a lot?
Because I see this all the time with friends and family. See what?
People venting about the same damn thing over and over and over. Year after year.
An example from way back when, in the late 1980s, was a girlfriend of mine who vented about her mom every time I was with her. It was constant. And always about the same few issues. Over and over.
Venting about bad bosses
I’ve also experienced several examples of this in relation to venting about one’s boss. Again, an almost identical venting session repeated over and over, not for weeks or months, but for many years.
It’s this type of venting that we need to take a look at. Yes, it’s better to “get it out” and talk about it rather than suppress it until we explode.
Two proactive actions we can take
But why not go a step further? See if we can’t:
- Let go of that bag full of angry energy by relaxing and watching it rather than engaging with it; and/or,
- Dive in and see if we can’t come to a healthy inner resolution on the matter.
With the bad boss example, maybe we try simply acknowledging to ourselves that Mr. Boss is just a jerk. Plain and simple. For reasons you probably know. He’s incredibly insecure. He’s a narcissist. Whatever it is.
You ain’t going to change him
And you acknowledge that nothing you or anybody else does is going to change him. Which means that his behavior toward you and others probably isn’t going to change much, either.
So what you do is resolve to accept this person as he is. Which doesn’t mean you have to like it, or him. But accepting that he’s a jerk will result in you not constantly resisting his jerkiness. And the result of that will be that, eventually, you won’t feel the need to blow up and vent to your spouse every night when you get home from work.
That’s an example of being proactive in handling the situation for yourself rather than venting on and on for years about the guy.
Ultimately, that’s the point of this article. I hear people talk so much about how good they feel after a good vent session. And again, that’s fine most of the time.
But wouldn’t it be better if you took it a step further by doing some inner work, to the point that you didn’t feel the need to vent in the first place?