The Truth About Venting (Shaunti Feldhan)

This blog is kind of on standby, it always seems to get that way when I’m pregnant 🙂 but I still like to post updates or fun posts just to have them here.  Enjoying the pregnancy of our little girl, playing with my kids and doing life as well as writing, has kind of taken priority for now.  Life is hard at times, but then again it is so beautiful!

This article on venting being BAD for you made a lot of sense to me in thinking about how we handle emotions or reactions to people who annoy or offend us.

I rarely complain about things to just anyone – there truly are just 2 people who hear my innermost thoughts and complaints in my life, and I like it that way!  You’re supposed to complain and talk to God about problems anyway, but it’s nice to have one or two very very close friends to divulge in or ask advice from.

I’ve seen what can happen when a person lets their entire existence be taken over with complaining or venting.  It’s very easy to do this with blogs since they can become like one’s personal diary of sorts – but it’s still not a good idea for a person’s mental and spiritual health/maturity.  It stunts your spiritual growth and I even believe it can cause mental health problems for the person engaging in that kind of constant negativity or “venting.”

When someone gets upset or annoyed enough to run off to type out a blog post as soon as their little fingers can, that’s them “venting,” and 99% of the time, it’s done in immaturity and not handling their emotions in the best way possible.

But until seeing this article below, I didn’t know for sure just how “bad” venting is – or rather, WHY it’s bad to do it!  I knew it looked immature and ridiculous… not to mention so sad when people in their forties and fifties still do it, but wow!

Here it is, from Shaunti Feldhan ❤

“Your co-worker just made you so mad. Or maybe it was your husband who said something insensitive this morning. Or your teenager who rolled her eyes when you asked her to empty the dishwasher. Again.

You feel like a pot ready to explode, so you just need to let off a little steam. A few minutes of “can you believe he just said…” or “she’s so obnoxious when…” will make you feel so much better. Right? Right?

Wrong.

What is commonly viewed as “letting off steam” or “venting” is actually a myth. It can feel very satisfying, in the moment. But it ultimately changes us. And not in a good way. I’ve seen this truth for years in my own research and in other studies. That’s why the first assignment in my newest book, The Kindness Challenge, is to say nothing negative about the person with whom you want a better relationship.  This includes saying something negative to them as well as about them to someone else.

I do quite a bit of work helping companies develop women’s leadership programs, and one high-level corporate client, Nadia, told me that she could trace her rise in corporate America to this one change.  Years ago, with a harsh boss, she would regularly gripe to a female co-worker.  But even though the co-worker was equally mistreated, she refused to join in.  Finally, she asked Nadia, “If you complain, does it change anything?”  When Nadia admitted that it wouldn’t actually change anything, her colleague shook her head.  “You’re wrong,” she said.  “It does change something.  It changes you.

Brain science researchers like Dr. Brad Bushman at Ohio State University have discovered that our idea of “letting off steam” as a way of dealing with negative feelings is completely wrong neurologically!  Instead, it actually further activates an interconnected anger system in the brain. So when we vent with our friends or co-workers, we’re building up steam rather than releasing it.

A better analogy: expressing our frustrations turns up the heat under the pot – and stopping our negative talk is like putting a lid on the pot and removing it from the heat.  That choice actually changes the way ours brain process the negative situation.   We’re just not as angry anymore!  Even better, if we can actually look for something that is worthy of praise in this person or situation, positive feelings often replace the negative ones – which can help improve even the most difficult relationships.

This doesn’t mean you should repress negative feelings, or that you can’t share something important with a supportive friend.  It does mean to be careful about why you are sharing and how.

A friend recently decided to do the 30-Day Kindness Challenge for her 7 year-old adopted son. As a child from a hard place, he had spent years fighting attachment and exhibiting difficult and unpleasant behavior, mostly directed at his new mom. When she first started the challenge, my friend was honestly stumped about how she was going to participate in her regular support group for adoptive moms since she couldn’t say anything negative!

What occurred was fascinating.  She was still able to share concerns and seek advice, but because she wasn’t sharing those “can you believe it?!” comments, she found she was much less angry with him.  As she sought support, her words were less heated – almost like reporting facts in a news story rather than fueling the fire of her frustration and anger.  In the end she felt more positive about her relationship with her son and she still felt heard and understood by her support system. Win-win!

So the next time you find yourself picking up the phone to call a friend to complain, or start venting around the water cooler, stop yourself.  Remember that it will not make you feel better.    Try it; you will see the difference it makes.   And it will help you want to go the next step, which is to live a life evidenced by graciousness even when others are harsh.  To be kind even when it isn’t warranted.  To notice the things that are worthy of praise, not just those that are worthy of driving you crazy.  And to be the one who reaches out to others, to share the truth that living life this way is a lot more fun.


Visit www.shaunti.com for more.

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I can definitely attest to being amazed how little I care about minor things anymore.  Something seemed to happen when I turned 30 this past birthday – I completely stopped caring about things that didn’t matter, and found true beauty and freedom in depending wholly on Christ for my self-worth and assurance.  Something weird also happened with turning 30… along with not caring about things that didn’t matter, I seemed to find people’s over-reactions or ridiculous anger hilarious or entertaining.  I’m still not entirely sure why… but it’s a nice change of freedom and joy, embracing the beauty of life and freedom of Christ.

Besides… it’s better to live as a happy woman (wife and mother especially!) than an old sourpuss.  Perhaps this is what Christ meant when He talked about living life in abundance?

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