“I’m so angry I want to scream!”

Many people know that ‘venting’ their strong feelings is a good thing to do. But did you know that some ways are more useful than others?

Kaley was frustrated about how Mick just spoke to her in a meeting and she was fed up with how he talks to her, she decided to call a friend and get this out of her system.

Which of these sound familiar?

1. She talks to one friend and tells her the whole story, emphasising the awful things Mick said to her, the facial expressions he used and how others in the meeting seemed to agree with him! Her friend asked further questions about the situation and Kaley was happy to explain. When she got off the phone, she realised she was as angry as she was at the start – and if she’s honest, she might even be angrier.

2. She talks to another friend who asks her how she feels. She focuses on herself for a moment and tells her friend that she feels angry, rejected, embarrassed, guilty. As she describes her feelings, she notices that the feelings are starting to lighten. She still feels deflated, but her head is beginning to clear. And she’s beginning to find a way to hear a bit of truth in what Mick said.

What’s the difference?

The emotional brain.

In the first case, Kaleyis re-living the experience, only to experience -and strengthen- the emotions of the situation. Whenever we relive an experience, we relive the emotions that occurred in that situation. The emotional brain will just release more of the same chemicals of emotion and the cycle will keep continuing as long as the story is repeated and revisited.

When we relive an experience, we can even expand the emotions –we catastrophise and the feelings grow stronger. Then those newer, bigger feelings are stored with the memory of the event. This will have the opposite effect of truly ventilating.

What’s a better way?

In the second case, Kaley names her feelings. When she did this, it interrupted the emotional brain and stopped it from repeatedly producing more doses of the emotional chemicals.

We can help flush out these chemicals, and feel a lot calmer, when we exert ourselves – through running, stamping, perhaps even punching pillows or screaming. As long as we don’t try and relive the experience, but instead have the intention of burning off our frustration.

This is an application of emotional Intelligence: recognise the emotions you are experiencing and manage them effectively.


To truly vent emotions, it helps to have the intention of letting them go rather than indulging them further. That may take a bit of discipline to follow through on.

Lessons for truly ventilating emotions

  • Set an intention to let go of your feelings
  • Discipline yourself to not revisit the story over and over again
  • Don’t let yourself exaggerate your feelings about what happened
  • Burn off emotions through physical exertion
  • Name your feelings – to yourself or someone else

To understand more about how to manage the brain in all kinds of conversations including difficult ones, check out Rewired to Communicate.

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