The Dangers of Venting
There are therapists who advise us to express our anger in order to feel better. They suggest we say or do things to let our anger out, like taking a stick and hitting a tire, or slamming the door with all your might. They also suggest hitting a pillow. These therapists believe that this is the way to remove the energy of anger in us. They call it “venting.”
When you have smoke in your room, you want to ventilate the room so the smoke can escape. Anger is a kind of smoke, an energy that makes you suffer. When the smoke of anger comes up, you want to open a door and turn on the fan, so the anger will go out. So you ventilate by hitting a stone or a tree with a stick, or by pounding on your pillow. I have seen many people practice like that. Actually, they do get some temporary relief. But the side effects of venting are very harmful. They will make you suffer much more.
Anger needs energy to manifest. When you try to vent it by using all your might to hit something or pound your pillow, half an hour later you will be exhausted. Because you are exhausted, you will have no energy left to feed your anger. You may think that anger is no longer there, but that’s not true; you are simply too tired to be angry.
It is the roots of anger in you that produce anger. The roots of anger lie in ignorance, wrong perceptions, in the lack of understanding and compassion. When you vent your anger, you simply open the energy that is feeding your anger. The roots of anger are always there, and by expressing anger like that, you are strengthening the roots of anger in yourself. That is the danger of venting.
There was an article in The New York Times, March 9, 1999, on anger, titled “Letting Out Agression Is Called Bad Advice.” According to this article, a lot of research has been done by social psychologists, and they concluded that trying to express your anger and your agression by hitting a pillow and the like won’t help at all. In fact, it will make the situation worse.
While you pound the pillow, you are not calming or reducing your anger—you are rehearsing it. If you practice hitting the pillow every day, then the seed of anger in you will grow every day. And someday, when you meet the person who made you angry, you may practice what you have learned. You will just hit the other person and end up in jail. That is why handling your agression by hitting a pillow, or venting, is not helpful at all. It is dangerous. It is not truly ventilating the energy of anger since anger is not getting out of your system.
Venting your anger is a practice based on ignorance. When you imagine the object of your hate as a pillow, hitting the object of your hate, you rehearse your ignorance and anger. Instead of lessening your violence and anger, you become more violent and angry.
A number of therapists have confirmed that the practice of venting anger is dangerous. They told me that they stopped advising their clients to do it. After their clients vent by hitting pillows, they are tired, and so they think they feel better. But after they rest and have some food, if someone comes and waters the seed of anger in them, they become even angrier than before. They have fed the roots of their anger by rehearsing it.