Denying your challenging emotions won’t help you move forward. Venting in healthy ways will.
Posted in , Dec 18, 2019
Imagine a teakettle, filled with fresh, cool water and set over a flame. As it heats up, some of the water inside transforms into steam. Before long, the pressure from that steam presses against the spout of the kettle until it can no longer be contained inside.
Summoned by its hallmark whistle, you rush over to the stove and vent the kettle, allowing a rapid release of steam and pressure before pouring yourself a comforting cup of tea or cocoa.
This image captures all the positive aspects of healthy venting. Ignore the pressure inside the kettle to your detriment. Let it vent too long, and there will be nothing left to pour.
So how can you brew the right relationship with venting in your life?
1) Find a “Vent Buddy”
Having a trusted “vent buddy” has multiple benefits. Research has shown that sharing your struggles with someone whose compassion you can count on and whose opinion you respect is connected with experiencing less tension and anxiety. Venting to a friend is also a balm against the isolation that can come with chronic stress. When you have a vent buddy, you know someone is listening.
2) Know When to Stop
There’s an important difference between helpful, cleansing venting and a vent-spiral that is no longer helpful. “Boundaries are part of self-care,” says the author Doreen Virtue, “They are healthy, normal and necessary.” Try to notice when your venting pattern reaches its ceiling. Do you hear yourself circling back to the same anecdotes? Do you lose your train of thought? Do you feel suddenly tired or thirsty? Noticing how venting feels to you will help you know when you’ve gotten the benefits and are ready to move forward. You might talk about this with your “vent buddy” as well, and help each other to identify your respective stopping points.
3) Have a Next Step in Mind
Like the warm beverage that awaited you from the moment you set your teakettle onto the stove, it’s wise to have a purpose in mind when you get ready to vent. You might set your sights on coming up with a new solution to vexing problem, or a less emotional way to approach a challenging colleague, friend or family member. Maybe you’ll look forward to having more mental space to think about other topics once you’ve released what’s troubling you. Ask yourself, what awaits me after the kettle’s whistle has captured my attention?