The Downside of Venting

 In America

I so want to vent about my teenage daughter right now! She did something incredibly obnoxious and I’m burning up inside. But I know this won’t help me feel better.  Here’s why:

I used to grab my phone and call my sister or a close friend whenever my ex or daughter would piss me off by doing/saying something I considered rude, stupid or inappropriate. Nothing satisfied more than having a friendly ear to listen to and confirm my outrage! My words would tumble out, accompanied by a rising pitch in my voice. 

The sharing of the egregious behavior or event would be followed by seeking confirmation for just how unacceptable it all was: “Can you believe he/she did that?” And of course, they couldn’t believe it either! It gave me relief from my anger to have someone validate my point of view, reaction and judgement. And it strengthened my ego’s sense of rightness and moral superiority.

But as I’ve committed to being an emotional adult—meaning I take full responsibility for all of my thoughts and feelings—I’ve noticed that venting works against this goal. Retelling and reinforcing the “story” only serves to keep me entrenched in a victim mentality and keeps my ex, for instance, in the role of the “bad guy”. It doesn’t serve me to view him in a negative, judgmental and accusing light, because my ultimate goal is a cooperative, peaceful relationship.

Even if he’s acted “badly”, I don’t want to increase the drama—or act badly in return. I regroup, re-calibrate and keep my thoughts focused on forgiving and forgetting—because these actions benefit me. The storm passes and we keep moving forward as co-parents. No matter how he behaves, I keep showing up as politely—even kindly—as I am able. 

So, now I don’t immediately reach for the phone when I’m upset. I may share the story later in a conversation, but with awareness of my intentions and motivations. Sometimes we absolutely do need to vent, and it can be very helpful to be validated and comforted by a confidante. Just be aware of the subtle way it can perpetuate negative emotions and keep us locked in our victim story.

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