Thursday, March 01, 2007

Vent versus ventilation

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When I get really annoyed about something, people really should run for cover. I'm a venter. Big time. Mr. Practical is a 'hold it in and suppress it' type of guy. I always believed getting it out there straight away was better than sitting on frustrations and letting them build up until you flip your top like a mini Mount St. Helens.

Apparently venting is not always so good.

University of Arkansas psychologist Jeffrey M. Lohr says that venting anger is at best ineffective and in some cases may even even harmful. Reviewing the research in anger expression, Lohr and his colleagues concluded that the continued use of venting techniques that lack scientific support challenges the integrity of mental health practice.

"If venting really does get anger 'out of your system,' then venting
should result in a reduction of both anger and aggression.
Unfortunately for catharsis theory, the results showed precisely
the opposite effect."

In the studies reviewed, Lohr found that individuals who vented ended up more hostile and aggressive than those who didn't. Lohr suggests that anger would have dissipated quicker if the individuals had attempted to control their anger instead, citing studies which have shown that anger dissipates faster when people take deep breaths, relax or take a time out. Any action that makes it impossible to sustain the angry state helps to defuse anger.

A good point but, for me, I'd still want to talk about what exactly had bugged me. The chief benefit of taking such alternative actions is that by defusing any anger first, any message will come across not only clearer but also as more reasonable. Consequently, it's likely to get a better reception.

The theory is good, the practice, well, takes practice.

*Off to read up on anger management tips.*

Olatunji, B. O., Lohr, J. M., & Bushman, B. J. (2007). The pseudo-psychology of venting in interventions for anger and related conditions: Implications for mental health practice. In T. A. Cavell & K. T. Malcolm (Eds.). Anger, Aggression and Interventions for Interpersonal Violence. Lawrence-Erlbaum Associates. [book details]


psychgrad said...

Interesting post. I've wondered about this question in the past. I do find that venting (or verbalizing) anger tends to amplify the situation for me. It's almost as though as soon as I discuss the issue it becomes more real. It'll like adding oxygen to the fire.

But, I think the effects of venting depend on your personality. I'm not sure if it's an introversion-extroversion thing or some other unclassified dimension. But there are some people that seem to benefit from discussing issues and others that feel worse after sharing the information.

My clinical labmate and I disagree on this issue (she's prodiscussion and I'm often not).

HP said...

Hi Psychgrad,
Did you know I still can't view or comment on your posts? I have no idea why. Thanks for visiting.
You raise some interesting points. I think you're right that venting does seem to amplify things. The introversion-extroversion angle could be significant. I'd class myself as an introvert though yet I prefer to get things out there. Have to ponder that one.

Cathy said...

I have done both and I can't tell which works best. By nature, I think I'm a venter. I get mad and want to get it out in the open right then. When I have tried to not do that and keep it bottled up it just seems to fester away until eventually it comes anyway...:)

jumpinginpuddles said...

i dont think i disagree sometimjeds venting causes itself a whole new set of problems, mind you in saying that we will continue to vent wether anyone likes it or not hehehe

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I dunno. Some studies say holding it in isn't good, while others like the one you mention say otherwise. Maybe there's a balance in between? Holding things in, letting them go, ranting when necessary, y'know? Something tells me you work the range of it all.

Alison said...

Aw but I LIKE yelling at people. I'm with Deborah, horses for courses and all that.

Mind you, I do tend to teach kids who are constantly in trouble for over-venting, that the deep breath thing is the way to go. Then it's vital that if they decide it is really important, they can calmly, strongly voice their grumbles.

SeaSpray said...

Hmmm...I always thought it was good to vent and let off some steam - so long as it is constructive?

Little Blue Petal said...

If venting-- (or expression) is the voice of dis-ease, then it is of paramount importance to hear what it has to say!