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Venting: The Ups (and Downs) of Blowing Off Steam

The Sleep Club Editors

Sometimes, we just need to let it out. Whatever it is. Maybe the “it” is some shit that went down at work, or something our significant other or a family member “did” to us, or a persistent situation we run into in our lives. When we’re hit with these negative issues that give us pause and derail us, we want to release that thing that’s building up inside and give it some ventilation.

Hence, the term “vent.”

We constantly hear that it’s better to release that stress than to hold it in, get it off your chest rather than have it build up unbearably. Lovely and absolutely true…

Until it is not.

Yes, venting is a great tension breaker and even cathartic, but it can also be a giant burden that creates a wall that can hinder rather than help. When is it worthwhile and when is it not?

Let’s start with three bits of good news first, shall we?


Gaining much needed perspective

Just as needing an outside eye to take a look at our art — written, visual, performance — to keep us on track, when we are too emotionally close to something, gaining an outside, objective perspective can give us vital insight. Letting out the hurt and difficulty we may feel over something to that sounding board who knows not only how to listen but how to get us to see things in a more dispassionate light, helps us accept and get over things. These vent sessions are usually ones we approach with an eye toward taking active steps to alleviate whatever is causing us pain or grief, not wallowing or laying in it. It’s why we seek out that particular person and why we value what they have to say. We plan on doing something with those words of wisdom to turn the negative into a positive.


Feeling supported and acknowledged

The ability to relieve yourself of whatever burdens your heart to someone who truly values and loves you, someone who listens to your hurt and lets you know they are there for you, creates a sense of belonging and feeling supported. We all certainly need that, and knowing you’re not alone takes an incredible weight off your heart. 

That person doesn’t try to fix whatever situation you’re going through, pressure you to do something about it, or judge you for sharing it. You’ve gotten whatever you needed off your chest and they are the sympathetic ear that heard you, acknowledged your pain, and gave you a safe place to let it out. The giant sigh of relief this gives cannot be underestimated. 


A healthy dose of self-care

Bottling up emotions can be just as physically detrimental as emotionally and mentally. Many of our ailments are caused by something that manifests in our “heart”, not our actual body. When we hold on to things that tight, our stomachs knot, our heads ache, our hearts hurt — literally — and the toll it takes is unfathomable. By venting what’s creating such angst and pain, that emotional steam gets released and the pressure lightens. We can breathe again and get a clearer look at what we are dealing with. When we do that, we are able to step back and come up with a game plan on how we move forward and address whatever is causing us such pain. 

There is a true benefit to setting those feelings free but just as there are good reasons to vent, doing so isn’t always the best thing for you.


Overstaying your emotional welcome

We all have something we need to get off our chests and finding relief can take time. We’re not sure how to deal with it, don’t know how to make sense of it, and getting someone to listen so we can get a better perspective helps. Yep. We just covered that. Then there are those times when all we can do is talk about the things that hurt us, almost like a mantra, and when that happens, when we are constantly verbalizing those negative emotions and issues to the same person over and over without relief, that constant negativity without a solution can drive others away. They start to feel that they are there for you more than you for them, and their needs are not being heard or even recognized. Losing that support creates more pain and stress for us, exacerbating an already difficult situation.


Reaction overshadowing action

If all we do is talk about the situation without any view of action — whether to alleviate the actual issue at hand or move us forward beyond it — then all that venting will begin to make us feel more helpless in the face of whatever triggered everything in the first place. We believe we’re the victim in this bad thing that hurts us and letting it out without an end goal in sight, without even considering an action to change what makes us feel this way, keeps us right there in it to the extent that we may even embrace the toxic negativity we are now swirling in as our lot in life. That lack of action to rise above, grow, and treat the venting as a rare or periodic release rather than our new form of communication holds us back and even makes us blind to the solutions right in front of us.


Ventilation backfiring 

There is always a chance that the person you are unburdening yourself with isn’t necessarily the right one to talk to or how they respond causes you more pain than if you had discovered a way to deal with this issue on your own. We can’t control how another person reacts when faced with our situations, especially negative ones. Should they become angry, combative, or accusatory, it simply makes you feel worse and more alone — invalidated. There may even be that chance everything you’ve said is taken back to the object of your hurt without your knowledge or consent. This then puts us in an even more vulnerable position than before . 


Take a moment, reflect, and celebrate 

Ultimately, venting has its pros and cons, like so many things in life. Humans are social creatures and finding solace in others is what makes us what and who we are, and that means it’s ultimately a good thing to alleviate our pain by seeking out others to listen, especially when they avail themselves to us. 

Just remember to choose your sounding board wisely and make sure you give them your ear as much as they give you theirs; listen to their hearts as much as they listen to yours. Before you do that, however, maybe take a moment, step back and reflect with an open mind and heart on whatever it is that has brought you to the point of needing to get this thing off your chest. 

Positive events and interactions do not lead to us needing to “vent.” Negativity thrown our way —  being at the effect of unpleasantness — is what causes us to let it out, and that means you need to balance out the negative sharing with positive celebration. 

When we’re hit with hurt, we can forget to shout out the good and spread our joy with others. Enjoy the beautiful moments and embrace them with every fiber of your being when they come. Even though negativity inevitably comes your way, you don’t need to run from it. Acknowledge it, recognize it, all the while knowing releasing the dark in the right way always lets in the light.

Night Sky Night Sky