The Venting Loop
I recently did an exercise that resulted in an epiphany around growth, the things we do to support it, and the things we allow to get in its way. And one thing I realized was that venting, while often seen as a healthy way to "get out" negative emotions, can actually be a trap that keeps us stuck!
Don't get me wrong; we all need to emote sometimes, and it can feel good to talk it out with a friend when things get tough. But the key is to talk it OUT, to use the opportunity to remove the frustration from your mind in order to move forward in more positive ways. When done right, a good venting session can enable us to move forward feeling lighter, stronger, and unencumbered.
Too often, though, our "venting buddies" help us to stay in a toxic loop. In these instances, the venting loop serves no useful purpose and instead keeps us focused on negativity, fear, and frustration. Instead of looking for ways to move forward, a constant cycle of venting keeps us "stuck"...stuck in the past, stuck in our struggles, stuck focusing on what we DON'T want. This can be especially true if our relationships are based on or become more focused on mutual venting rather than shared interests, participating activities, or celebrating successes.
So what can we do about it?! Take a close look at the people you spend the most time with. Examine your relationship with them, as ask yourself these questions:
1. Are our interactions mostly positive and affirming, or are they more often focused on venting and the sharing of frustrations?
2. If the focus is more negative, what might I do to shift that? How can I change how I show up in the relationship? Do I need to explicitly ask for something from this person in terms of how he/she interacts with me?
3. If I am unable to shift the negative tone of the relationship to a more positive one, how might I create boundaries for myself that minimize any negative impact the relationship might have on me?
Finally, don't be afraid to take the steps YOU need to escape the venting loop and its negative effects. Creating boundaries around how you spend your time and who you spend your time with is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.