Venting or Victim?
Productive venting can help us avoid feeling like a victim
People can sometimes get defensive if you refer to them or their behaviour as "victim" like. But it's true that we all occasionally find ourselves in an unhelpful loop where become stuck in the same story.
Often, all we need is a compassionate ear to hear us out, making us feel seen, heard and understood. That's usually a therapist, but can certainly be a good friend, colleague or family member.
There is such a thing as productive venting. Getting it off your chest has value. It can stop those unhelpful loops become obsessive rumination and reinforce limiting beliefs.
But there is a sweet spot. Venting can become harmful when the recipient doesn't have the space to hold your frustration (because you didn't get consent to offload your troubles with them first). It can also be damaging when the venter slips into a victim mindset, focusing only on the depth and breadth of the problem and getting even more worked up.
So how can we make venting productive and healthy, keeping us away from feeling like a victim?
1. Ask permission of the listener first: "Hey, the most frustrating thing just happened to me and I am really worked up. Can I vent to you for five minutes?"
2. Get it all out. Give yourself space to feel it all. Be sad, be angry, be scared. Hopefully the listener will nod and track along, without interrupting or giving advice. And it's ok to ask them directly for that.
3. At the end, check-in with yourself, how do you feel? If the answer is relieved or better, then have a hug, smile or a fist bump with the listener and walk away; that was a productive vent.
4. If you need aftercare, give yourself time to rest and enjoy whatever you find relaxing, like walking or listening to a podcast, cuddling a pet, watching tv, anything.
Frustration is an important emotion. It lets us know what we value. Being able to express and share that is healthy. The key to a productive vent is having healthy boundaries for everyone involved.