‘Venting’ makes you feel better.
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.”