Venting Anger is Always Counter Productive
Saturday, September 05, 2009

By: George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CAMF, CEAP

Anger is a normal human emotion. “A universal trigger for anger is the sense of being endangered. Endangerment can be a signal not just by an outright physical threat but also, as is more often the case, by a symbolic threat to self-esteem or dignity: being treated unjustly or rudely, being insulted or demeaned, being frustrated in pursuing an important goal.” (Goleman,1995) Anger is an emotional response to a stressful situation.

There are a number of situations in which anger is unhealthy:
• When it is too intense
• When it occurs too frequently
• When it lasts too long
• When it leads to person directed aggression
• When it destroys relationships
• When is impacts health

The Myth of "Venting"
There's a myth that simply "venting" your anger will make you feel better. In reality, it often makes you feel worse. "Venting" is a concept, which began in the 1960s. We thought at that time that venting or, letting it all hang out, would serve to free the psyche of pent up feelings and somehow lead to healing.

Unfortunately, volumes of research studies have demonstrated that "venting" serves to increase anger, rage and other intense emotions. It is counterproductive and serves to reduce any potential gains from anger management interventions. Venting is banned in most anger management programs in the United States.

An alternative to venting is to recognize and label your feelings; here are some questions to consider:
• Ask if it is important or unimportant.
• If it is important, can you influence or control it.
• If it is importance and you can control it, list the strategies necessary and implement the actions.
• If the incident is not important, dismiss it and move on to other more healthy issues.
Learn to use “self-talk to calm down, take a deep breath, use positive affirmations to assist in this technique. This serves to allow the rational mind to take over. And, hopefully lead to a more reasonable resolution of the conflict.

George Anderson, Executive Coaching/Anger Management for Physicians.