Is venting good for us?

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Angry Me! by Andre Schunert. CC licence.

When I first started writing this piece we’d not yet woken up to the news about Trump becoming the next leader of the free world.   This puts an interesting spin on any piece about venting. Over the last few days I have been privy to many a venting session – not least because my husband is American.  (He woke me at 6.30am on November 8th with the words “The world has gone to hell.”)

It all feels rather familiar, a reminder of the post-Brexit outpouring of emotion. I felt visceral rage when, the day after the Leave results were announced, that bloody Winnie the Pooh and Piglet image kept popping up in my feed, telling me to chill out and make nice.  I can see the same reactions now among my American friends, some of whom are trying to reach out and understand the other side, make reparations, and the others who are saying ‘hell, no… I am not moving on from this. This is wrong.”  Yes, perhaps anger is a choice, but it can feel like a necessary choice – I needed to express to process that emotion. I needed to feel validated by others experiencing the same feelings.

But at a certain point, though I still felt angry, I realised I had to stop venting. It was sucking too much energy from me and it felt futile. And so, with any grief cycle, my feelings of acute anger and fear have now abated to grim (but not passive) acceptance.

Now here I am writing a self-help piece about venting, and why it might and might not be that good for us – and I worry I might be one of those voices that shames those who want to express righteous anger. But perhaps that means that now is the best time to look at the purpose of venting – if there is one.

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