It’s all fun and games until someone get stuck!
This summer Michael and I were visiting our dear friend, Johnny, in Hatteras Village on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Hatteras is near the very tip of the island. The beach is so uber-cool there because you can drive right out onto the sand. And you’d better have four-wheel drive because the sand can be quite deep and soft in places. Johnny’s classic Chevy Suburban was doing great until we got as far as we could go and tried to turn around. Next thing we knew we were up almost to the undercarriage in sand and going nowhere.
Johnny immediately decided to vent some of the air out of each of the tires. The idea was to create more tire surface on the sand. But this process is a science. If he vented too much, the undercarriage would be sitting on the sand, and then it would take a tow truck to get us out. If he didn’t vent enough, he wouldn’t get enough rubber-to-sand surface.
The rest of the story in a minute….
Venting about things that are bothering you is a lot like the tire-air situation. If you don’t vent at all, you’ll be stuck right where you are. In fact, the pressure could get so great that you suffer an emotional disaster. And if you vent too much, you could also suffer physiologically and psychologically.
Here’s a little something about my morning routine. Every day just before sunrise, my husband and I walk a couple of miles along the docks at our marina. There’s usually a nice breeze as the sun’s coming up and reflecting across the water, and the fish are jumping. It is idyllic.
Recently we realized that we were spending much of our commune with nature venting about one thing or another. We noticed that on the days our conversation was disproportionately a sound-off session, instead of feeling energized, we felt more mentally and emotionally unsettled.
Why is that?
Unproductive venting seldom gets anything permanently off your chest. There’s extensive research on brain activity, patterns, and development that shows that venting can actually be extraordinarily harmful. After a minute or two of intense negativity, the brain starts to create neural pathways of negativity that actually make it easier to get upset or angry the next time, and the next, and the next.
Remember the scream therapy fad. It’s over because it not only didn’t work, it usually made things worse. “Get it all out” is oft-heard advice, but there are ample studies that show that venting often extends the length of time it takes to get over a disturbing or traumatic event.
Venting can actually create more stress that it relieves. Always looking for the worst or dwelling on what’s wrong can have deleterious effects not only on your mental health but also on your physical health.
Potentially, these negative neural pathways become the default because that’s now where the brain feels most comfortable.
I knew someone who passed a huge financial audit with only one finding. But instead of celebrating, he moaned and agonized for weeks over one simple task that had to be remediated.
How many of us know someone who can’t stay in a relationship because they always find that one flaw on which they can’t stop focusing.
Should you never vent? If you keep blowing into a balloon, it is bound to pop. Letting out a little air makes the balloon more stable and less likely to explode. Let out all the air, and you’re left with a useless pile of latex. There has to be a balance.
Here are some ways to let off some of your steam in a positive way:
- Transition as quickly as possible from venting to thinking activities such as analysis, evaluation, and problem solving. Turn your anger and frustration into actual solutions.
- Put time and distance between yourself and the negative trigger. The longer you put off venting about something, the greater chance that your negative emotions and feelings will diminish. The old advice, “Let’s discuss this in the morning” is sound because it puts distance between you and whatever triggered your emotions and feelings.
- When venting to others, ask for their perspective. You may be blowing the situation out of proportion or not seeing things from more beneficial points of view.
- When choosing to whom you will vent, choose someone who cares about you and who will offer encouragement and emotional support, not someone who will feed your fire. Choose someone who can help you solve the problem rather than someone who also wants to jump into the fire with you.
- Don’t overstay your welcome. Even complainers don’t like to listen to other people complain. When people start to feel as though they’ve become your emotional punching bag or dumping ground, they may very well remove themselves from your company — permanently.
- Replace negative reactions with positive affirmations. Just as negative neural pathways can be established, so can positive ones. Watching a comedy, exercising, or enjoying a sunset can let the steam out of the pressure cooker slowly and gently until you’re no longer upset or feel the need to vent.
- Finally, try thinking of all the reasons you have to be grateful. Rather than letting this thing bring you down, rise above it by listing the really good things in your life.
Back to the beach and our sandy adventure. If we couldn’t get out, we would have had only two choices: be stranded there for hours waiting for a tow or walk five miles back to Johnny’s beach house. The suspense builds: Did venting some of the air out of the tires work? It certainly helped. And so did the only other vehicle on that end of the beach. The owner just happened to have a winch with 100-foot cable. God bless good Samaritans!
When you are ready to create your abundant life, it’s time to ask and answer:
What do you actually, truly want?
Where are you lacking abundance?
Where are you taking joy in abundance?
However we define it, we all want an abundant life. The truth is that abundance is within reach for all of us. That’s what motivates me as a strategist: helping people reach new levels of abundance, however they define it.
Message me for more information on the ways you can work with me to achieve ever higher levels of performance and abundance in your life.
To Your Abundance,
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