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To Vent or Not to Vent?

Is it a good idea to vent your anger? To Vent or Not to Vent on this Moment of Science.

Most people assume that venting anger will make it go away. When, in all actuality, studies show that expressing anger just increases aggression. In one experiment, participants who hit a punching bag to relieve frustration were more likely to lash out later than those who sat quietly for two minutes when they were feeling peeved.

You see, when you hit something, it primes you to think aggressive thoughts. And that, in turn, makes it more likely that you'll interpret ambiguous situations as hostile ones. There is little laboratory evidence supporting the idea that expressing anger is cathartic. In fact, some scientists suggest that the reason venting anger makes us feel better is because we're told that venting anger will make us feel better. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Releasing frustration helps because we believe it helps.

However, these are the short-term effects of venting. In the long term, venting can be useful, especially if you do it right. There is actually a right way to vent. Venting can be positive if you're aware that you're venting, and you don't lash out at people who have nothing to do with the source of your frustration. For example, you shouldn't yell at your kids because you had a bad day at work.

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