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Wanna hear me vent?

I just need to vent, you say (I say) right before launching into a litany of complaints: the stupidity and gross incompetence of others, liars and hypocrites in government, how GBBS is shit without Mary Berry, the discovery of another varicose vein, the unfairness of the universe, et cetera et cetera and so forth.

Your friend listens. Then she vents.

And then you both feel better, yes?

And then you both feel better, no.

For those who still believe in science (uh oh, that was kind of a backhanded vent), let me explain. According to psychologists who have studied venting, not only does expressing negativity tend to make us feel worse, not better, it also makes listeners feel worse. Kind of like second-hand smoke.

So your mood worsens; your friend’s mood worsens – and, according to neuroscientists, your brain begins to wire itself for negativity.

You know how this works: Throughout your brain are little gaps between nerve cells (synapses). Chemical and electrical bridges are built between these synapses as you think, learn – and, yes, as you complain…that is, as you have recurring negative thoughts. The more often you think (and express) these thoughts, the stronger the electro-chemical bridge becomes. The brain is rewiring itself to make it easier and quicker to think these thoughts. It’s just being efficient. This means that not only do repeated negative thoughts make it easier to think yet more negative thoughts, they also make it more likely that negative thoughts will occur to you in other situations. A kind of default.

Also, the act of venting about something you’re upset about can, itself, make you upset. Reliving and narrating the anger (disappointment, frustration, whatever) you have felt can trigger the stress hormone cortisol. You know the demon, right? Not only does it inflict temporary harm (for example, raising blood pressure), excess cortisol over time leads to chronic inflammation. That’s the inside kind you can’t see or feel, the kind that medical researchers are beginning to believe underlies just about every chronic disease.

Venting makes you sick!

I am NOT suggesting suppressing anger. We all know that doesn’t work. I am suggesting going zero-to-sixty from pissed off to possible solution, from “this sucks” to “this is what I’m going to do about it,” from anger to action.

Now would be a really great time to get crackin on this.


1 Kim in Oregon { 06.21.17 at 6:16 pm }

Woah. This is drastically going to change Friday afternoon.

2 Lauren { 06.21.17 at 6:29 pm }

Only if I practice what I preach…
I’m looking for a quicker pathway from vent to action, that’s all.

3 Philip Wood { 06.22.17 at 2:43 am }

chin up think positive we chicken – wranglers have to stick together . aloha Phil

4 Lauren { 06.22.17 at 2:19 pm }

I think the Hawaiian approach may be the answer, Phil. And chickens do keep one grounded…Ii think living around any animals do that.

5 Rebekah Hall { 06.22.17 at 8:03 pm }

I was skeptical when first reading, but I changed my ‘venting-kind-of-mind’ at the last sentence. I need a lot more action in my life!! Thanks for this b/c it speaks to me!

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