To Maintain Healthy Relationships, Beware Of Only Venting

Last Updated: 2 Aug 2019
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Venting is OK––after all, it’s what we do in talk therapy and support groups. But make sure you don’t just vent––otherwise it keeps you stuck in an emotionally toxic, negative place.


By my nature, I am not a positive, “grateful-type” person. I come from a long line of rather easily irritated, sarcastic and snarky bunch who become “prickly” quite easily. We are “venters.” Not inventors, but venters. We vent. That’s just our nature.

In other words, we complain about people, situations and events. We don’t see the glass as half full. Nor do we see the glass as half empty.

Instead, we complain about the glass! We complain about what is in the glass. We complain that there aren’t two glasses. In fact, we might even complain that it is a glass rather than a mug. It comes naturally. And we do it quite easily.

So, learning to be thankful and looking at life from a healthier perspective has been a process for me. I’ve had a long road of learning that if all I do is vent (complain) about either a situation or person that has triggered me, I will become stuck in a cesspool of emotional dung.

If all you do is vent (complain), it will make you sick. Yes, there’s research regarding venting. (Check it out, Google: Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding by Brad J. Bushman from Iowa State University.)

Venting about things is OK, but not if that’s all you do. If that’s all you do, then you become stuck which leads you to negative rumination and anger. It makes you emotionally toxic.

Honestly, I believe that this is a major issue for most people. And when you have a mental health issue such as bipolar and do talk therapy with a counselor, it is even easier to get stuck in the venting mode. Plus, if you attend a support group that is only “cathartic-venting” it can lead to destroying one’s chances of living well.

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, all I did was vent about it. I rehearsed (vented) over and over how hurt I was by people following a very painful manic episode for nearly seven years.

So how did I move past just venting? I learned to ask myself two questions and remind myself of a few things:

Question # 1

So, what am I going to do about it?

Question #2

Can I change anything about it? (Am I willing to change what I can change? I can’t change other people, but I can change how I respond to them and what happens when I become triggered by them.)

I remind myself

I will change what is mine to change. Letting go of what I can not change brings me peace. If I all I do is complain about it, then I’m going to become angry, agitated, overly negative and emotionally toxic. Which all leads to going down a very dark, deep hole. Rather, I’m going to be thankful that I can change what I can change and that I’m not responsible for the things I cannot change.

There are still times I slip into old patterns of only venting about someone or something. And it is then that I have to remind myself to ask those two questions. It is at that point that I have to remind myself where only venting will lead me.

How about you? Do you ever get stuck venting and not being able to move forward? What do you do when you find yourself only venting about something or someone?

About the author
Brad Hoefs is the founder of Fresh Hope, a national network of faith-based peer support groups for those who have mental health challenges and also for their loved ones. He is a certified Intentional Peer Specialist, and also serves on the State of Nebraska Advisory Committee on Mental Health. Brad was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I in 1995. One of Brad’s passions is to empower peers to live a full and rich life in spite of a mental health challenge. Brad’s blog is “Living Well!” He is the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis. He has a B.A. in Communications and a Masters of Divinity. Brad has been married to his wife, Donna, since 1979. They have two adult married children and love being grandparents to the grandkids! He is the pastor of Community of Grace in Elkhorn, Nebraska. He also helped start a website called What I Did to Recover that encourages and empowers those who have a mental health diagnosis to live well in spite of their mental health struggles.
13 Comments
  1. I had to leave my job because of a prickly, easily irritated, constant venter. That, along with the emotional roller coaster of having an adult child with bipolar disorder, well, it was too much turmoil both at work and at home. Very toxic. I couldn’t get away from it. I am grateful that I was able to find another work arrangement, as a contractor for the same company!!

  2. I understand this so much . I am the same way but I come from a mother who has done nothing my whole
    Life but complain and is never satisfied with anything that is done for her about her or with her .. so me having bipolar really exaggerated this in me .. I am now 46 and trying my hardest with help of my daughter and husband not to vent or be so negative but it’s so hard not to be and I have noticed now that my daughter who is 20 is that way at times I do believe it’s due to me being that way her whole life and it really hurts that she is that way cause I am
    And cause her Gma is

  3. I try to pay attention to facial expressions around me. It’s not easy to stop venting. Bi polar means I can feel emotions deeper than others do and I can scare others with my venting. So I heard a saying some say to themselves. Not my rodeo and not my horse. But since I love horses and own them I knew people would say oh yes it is! LoL so I changed it to not my circus and not my monkey. It works! I can think it’s not mine to worry about. I can stop ruminating about it like a cow chewing her cud. A friend even drew me a picture of a circus and a monkey with the saying on it. I’m far from perfect about it but finding something I can do that relaxes me helps too.

  4. My daughter is bipolar as was her Dad. Everyday it seems I am besieged with her wanting to vent about something; her co-employees, relatives, life the list goes on. She goes to a therapist once a week but I don’t see progress.

  5. I unleashed this venting with my children. I’d get pushed to my edge and was an undiagnosed bipolar at the time. I was a tired mother of three young children and would just start saying why can’t you listen, behave, etc. I try to be a good mom. I do so much for you,I don’t ask much of you, etc… but you can’t do this one thing. My kids would scatter and I would end up yelling to no one. I called them my soliloquies. I’d rant to the dog, to the dishwasher, the washing machine, all until I cried. I felt unheard, disrespected, unloved, unappreciated. This would happen in cycles, but I, nor my family, would not understand it was bipolar until years later. My kids are teenagers now with one going off to college. Looking back, it makes so much sense. ?

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