Venting can feel good and provide some relief. Like releasing the air in a balloon that was about to pop. You can feel the release of built up pressure.
The desire to share your experiences and feelings with your partner or friends is perfectly normal and healthy. When you are sharing your thoughts and feelings in an effort to get clarity and move towards finding a solution to a problem and feeling supported, venting can be perfectly okay.
On the other hand, there are times when venting can become toxic and add to a situation or feelings that are difficult to cope with. It can actually reinforce bad feelings towards a situation or someone feeding the emotional intensity, making it more and more challenging to move towards forgiveness or believing that your situation can improve.
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classic examples of toxic venting
- Blaming and making yourself a victim, not using “I” statements where you’re focusing on you and how you feel
- Only focusing on the negative/unwanted situation or behaviors
- Speaking about others like they’re dumb, less-than-you, or unworthy in any way
I love the way Louise Hay words it when she says that every time we assume the victim role in a relationship, we give our power away. We cannot control what others think, say, or do. We can only control ourselves and our emotions. And, by continually choosing to focus on what causes us discomfort or emotional pain, we are unconsciously attracting more of what we don’t wan into our lives. Instead, try to talk about your feelings while working towards a solution and try to use the following practices in addition to healthy venting.
alternatives for toxic venting
- Make a gratitude list
After you’ve written down or voiced whatever it is you feel discouraged, angered, or disappointed by and you’ve vented, create a list -verbally or on paper- of all of the positive things you can possibly think of about that situation or person. No matter what you’re upset about, I’m sure you can think of some good things that aren’t all bad. Every good thing you think of acts as a building block to get you from feeling bad to feeling better.
2. Create a mental picture
This technique works great to help move your emotions from bad to better; specifically if the situation involves a difficult relationship. Relationships can be difficult and no one is perfect. Instead of focusing on replaying scenarios that caused you to feel less-than-happy, create a mental picture of that person saying things you’d want them to say to you. Paint a mental picture of them smiling when they see you, greeting you with warmth, and being kind towards you. Make your mental picture as vivid as possible until you begin to feel happy about what you’re imagining. Feelings and emotions are a lot of power behind them.
3. Try to see things from the other person’s point of view
Empathy can go a long way! If someone is constantly criticizing you, they probably grew up in a household where they got criticized themselves. Knowing someone’s past or knowing why they’re treating you poorly doesn’t excuse their behavior; however, it can make it easier for you to ask them about their day or their past so you can see things from their point of view. Seeing a situation from another’s point of view often transforms the story and allows us to move beyond the pain quicker.
While venting isn’t inherently bad, it can become toxic when we only focus on the bad without acknowledging the good and seeking a solution. We all want to feel heard and feel understood and constructive venting in conjunction with the three methods can provide that platform.
If you liked this post, you may also like to learn my top three methods for increasing your self-awareness.
And, if you’re on a path of self-improvement and want to learn more about how I can help, check out the info on the upcoming retreats.