‘Vent­ing’ makes you feel bet­ter.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

Phys­i­cal ag­gres­sion and hos­til­ity are of­ten thought of as re­lease mech­a­nisms for anger. Some peo­ple throw plates, oth­ers punch holes in walls. “Come In. Break Sh*t. Leave Happy” reads the land­ing page of the Anger Room in Dal­las, a place that gives cus­tomers a base­ball bat and a room full of junk, promis­ing, “No Judge­ment & No Con­se­quences.” At Columbia Univer­sity, stu­dents have a semi-an­nual tra­di­tion, at mid­night on a Sun­day dur­ing the fi­nal-exam pe­riod, of shout­ing away their stress in a school-wide “pri­mal scream.” Peo­ple sign up for com­bat sports like kick­box­ing and prac­tice “medicine ball slams” to re­lease rage and re­duce stress.

The prob­lem is that “de­struc­tion ther­apy,” as it has been called, doesn’t help and could ac­tu­ally up­set you more, ac­cord­ing to re­search. One study con­cluded that it “may be worse than use­less.” Try­ing to get anger “out” in th­ese ways has been shown to lead to in­creases in ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior and ru­mi­nat­ing, an un­help­ful process in which anger can loop in on it­self, caus­ing fur­ther ag­gra­va­tion and ob­ses­sive thoughts. Even ver­bally let­ting off steam, by com­plain­ing in dribs and drabs or dashing off some on­line snark, doesn’t bring cathar­sis. Re­search shows that the more a per­son “vents” in th­ese ways, the more they re­port hav­ing had a bad day. Psy­chol­o­gist Brad J. Bush­man, for ex­am­ple, con­cluded that vent­ing in­creases anger and ag­gres­sion. Af­ter study­ing the emo­tional re­sponses of peo­ple us­ing punch­ing bags to ex­or­cise their rage, he con­cluded that “do­ing noth­ing at all was more ef­fec­tive.”

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