Any scrupulous appraisal of airing out your frustrations with others must conclude that its value—practically as well as ethically—is somewhat ambiguous. Undeniably, emotional ventilation has positive features. But just as indisputably, there are negative aspects as well.
Generally, it’s better to let things out than hold them in. And doing so feels almost akin to problem-solving—in the moment, at least. Venting your frustrations alleviates tension and stress. You almost always feel better—and “lighter”—after sharing some perceived threat, indignity, misfortune, or injustice.
Yet ventilating, when it’s confined to repetitively self-vindicating messages, can also be self-limiting. And misused in this way (which is all too common) it can link to prematurely, and self-defeatingly, claiming “victimhood” when what’s really called for is actively behaving in ways that could potentially rectify a situation. As such, it can become little more than an excuse for not acting to resolve a problem or confront an issue that requires confrontation.
All this is by way of introducing the complexities of this surprisingly thorny topic. Following are some advantages—and disadvantages—of emotionally venting your frustration.
6 Virtues of Venting
6 Vices of Venting
These lists should suggest how this response can—and must—be understood as the mixed and multifaceted phenomenon it is.
My next (companion) post, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Emotional Ventilation,” will go beyond cataloging what’s good and bad about venting to describing just how to ventilate, in order to minimize the chances that you’ll later come to regret it.
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© 2014 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.