Venting Frustration Will Only Make Your Anger Worse

Venting Frustration Will Only Make Your Anger Worse

Nobody recommends bottling up your anger, but venting your frustrations may actually be much worse. Quiet reflection may be the best cure for pent-up frustration.

Photo by Eat Our Brains

David McRaney, of the excellent You Are Not So Smart blog, explains how catharsis (the act of cleansing or purging) is entirely useless in letting go of your anger.

Releasing sexual tension feels good. Throwing up when you are sick feels good. Finally getting to a restroom feels good. So, it seemed to follow, draining bad blood or driving out demons or siphoning away black bile to bring the body back into balance must be good medicine. Be it an exorcism or a laxative, the idea is the same: get the bad stuff out and you’ll return to normal.

It’s drug-like, because there are brain chemicals and other behavioral reinforcements at work. If you get accustomed to blowing off steam, you become dependent on it.

Common sense says venting is an important way to ease tension, but common sense is wrong. Venting – catharsis – is pouring fuel into a fire.

While you certainly don't want to neglect your problems, studies found that doing nothing was more effective in helping anger dissipate that venting those frustrations. While it may feel good, venting only keeps the anger present.

McRaney's full post is a long but good read, providing a lot of useful information on why catharsis doesn't help relieve your anger and advice on what to do instead.

Catharsis [You Are Not So Smart]


  • One of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah asked Prophet Muhammad for advice. He asked that the advice be short so that he would be able to remember it. “Don’t get angry,” said the Prophet. The same Companion repeated his request for some brief advice; each time he received the same answer from the Prophet each time, “Don’t get angry!”

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