How can I vent safely
September 1, 2021 6:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for ways to deal with — or at least let out — a lot of strong negative feelings that I'm experiencing right now. Exercise is one way, but I'm looking for others.

I don't feel like therapy is the right way to go with this as it's mostly anger, frustration, and disappointment about stuff that doesn't really need therapeutic intervention, e.g.: the state of the world, my own abilities, trans rights issues, toxicity in online discourse, feeling like I don't get a minute to myself… the list is endless.

I work out for at least an hour a day most days, but my spouse is worried about the amount of exercise that I do and is concerned that I'm becoming obsessed. Though workouts (primarily weights but with some cardio) are an important antidepressant for me I don't want to add strain to a relationship that's already got its struggles.

I feel like I want to go into a padded room and do some primal screaming, or rant to a friend who'll just listen and say nothing. But with COVID being what it is, neither of these is really an option.

As I said, therapy doesn't feel like a solution — this is largely just ranting and venting and that's not what therapy is for — and anyway, I can't attend in-person therapy very easy because of COVID risks. I've considered teletherapy but I don't have the privacy at home that I'd need, and besides I've heard some not-so-good stories about teletherapy providers.

How do you blow off steam when you don't feel you have many viable outlets? What are some tips and tricks I could use to calm myself down when I feel like raging at the world, or worse, when I feel like crawling back into bed and not coming out for days on end?
posted by six sided sock to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I like to go to the gym when it's very quiet and angrily beat the shit out of a punch bag while shouting indistinct, loud noises.

Some feelings are extremely hard to rationalise out of existence and expelling that anger through harmless aggression against an inanimate object satisfies an itch that mere talking/ranting/venting just doesn't scratch.

YMMV, of course.

(If COVID prevents you going to a gym, buying a standing punchbag and putting it in your yard/garage, if you can, will also work)
posted by underclocked at 6:40 AM on September 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Therapy isn't not for that. I recognize that therapy may not be a good viable option for you, but like 90% of my own therapy sessions are more or less about my anger at things I cannot control. Sometimes it's mostly venting, sometimes, it's me and my therapist working on ways for me to control what I can and reduce anger that way, or redirect the emotion, or something else. But it's... basically all about how incredibly frustrated and angry I am at the state of the world. My therapist is unsurprised by this.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:46 AM on September 1, 2021 [18 favorites]

Good old-fashioned screaming into a pillow still works well, and it's actually pretty quiet, especially if you do it in a room with the door closed. Punching a pillow/mattress also works.
posted by EmilyFlew at 6:47 AM on September 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Writing! Spend some time just spewing stream-of-consciousness thoughts in whatever way is easiest for your hands—typing is fine, writing with a pen or pencil is fine. Setting a timer is a good way to make sure you stay with it because I find that the longer I go on, the deeper stuff I start writing about. You can decide if you want to keep what you write or look at it again. Whatever works for you.
posted by corey flood at 6:47 AM on September 1, 2021 [7 favorites]

Have you tried journaling or even a voice memo (or pretending a teddy bear is your listening audience?) sometimes when I need to vent, I need to vent and being able to say/express those things gets the feelings out
posted by raccoon409 at 6:49 AM on September 1, 2021

What I find always works for me is - and this is highly dependent on where you live as to whether it's an option - but take a walk and find somewhere you can just be in nature for a bit. The woods, a park, even just a really dense garden. Personally, if I take the time to just stop and really look at things, it always helps calm me down and let go of the negative feelings I've got bottled up. Stare at a butterfly! Run your fingers over the bark of a tree! Look for the hidden world of things scurrying around near the rocks and roots!
posted by Zargon X at 7:00 AM on September 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

+1 this is a perfectly okay thing to do in therapy. Employee assistance plans often offer a few sessions for free/cheap and this might be a good use of them if you can find private time.

Do you and your spouse (and any other roommates) have an agreement that gives you each time alone in your home? Even if it’s “spouse goes for a half hour walk Thursday evenings,” it sounds like getting some time to yourself would help a lot.
posted by momus_window at 7:14 AM on September 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Sit and breathe deeply. And then breathe some more. Circular: in on a 4 count, hold 2 count, out on a 4 count. Repeat.
posted by jtexman1 at 7:15 AM on September 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

I don't feel like therapy is the right way to go with this as it's mostly anger, frustration, and disappointment about stuff that doesn't really need therapeutic intervention, e.g.: the state of the world, my own abilities, trans rights issues, toxicity in online discourse, feeling like I don't get a minute to myself… the list is endless.

No, therapy is absolutely for this, among other things.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:29 AM on September 1, 2021 [14 favorites]

I feel like I want to go into a padded room and do some primal screaming, or rant to a friend who'll just listen and say nothing.

There are some places called "rage rooms" where you can book a space for an hour, and they put you in there with a bat and a bunch of stuff that it's okay for you to break - furniture, dishes, office equipment, etc. If you don't live near such a place, you could also get some random junk and head out to an empty field and just whale the tar out of whatever it is you got.

But therapy is indeed also a place for that as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 AM on September 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you're already on this path, and so I just want to surface the idea of striking a balance across multiple forms of self-care: physical, mental, emotional, social, etc.

Physical self-care such as exercise is great for anger. So is social self-care, such as venting or role-playing with a friend. Emotional self-care could include journalling, painting and other forms to express your anger. This also includes therapy and coaching. Coaching is an especially great way to process and improve patterns of behaviour and thinking. (Full disclosure: I am a coach.)

Tackling this one from multiple angles and finding a decent balance of self-care practices is going to have a postive compound effect, as well as give you more agency (feeling like you have options, choices, etc.).
posted by iamkimiam at 7:43 AM on September 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Do you have a car? If so, you might be able to satisfy that primal scream urge by driving to somewhere remote and deserted (so you don't bother or scare anyone), and screaming in your car. Maybe put on some loud, angry music on your car stereo and crank up the volume, and then just scream until you feel like you've satisfied that urge.

(Even if you don't have a car, you might be able to bike/hike/take transit to someplace remote enough to stand on a hilltop and scream, but if you do have a car, that seems like an option more likely to let you do it without feeling self-conscious or worrying that someone is going to call the cops on you.)
posted by decathecting at 8:06 AM on September 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also though, what you're talking about, I absolutely do that in therapy sometimes. My therapist is there to give me what I need, and sometimes what I need is just 45 minutes of venting without having to feel guilty that I'm dumping on a friend, and he gets that and is willing to listen.

And again, if you have a car or can get to someplace without a lot of people around, you can do therapy from there. I have done teletherapy from some weird places, including a phone booth at an airport and an empty area of a public park.
posted by decathecting at 8:09 AM on September 1, 2021

Back in the day, we used to hang out by train tracks and scream as loud as we could when a train passed by. No one, including you, will be able to hear you over the noise of the moving train.

I have also, when the mood struck, put pillows down on the floor and staged a good old-fashioned temper tantrum. Very cleansing.
posted by DrGail at 8:11 AM on September 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

"I'm looking for ways to deal with — or at least let out — a lot of strong negative feelings that I'm experiencing right now. ... anger, frustration, and disappointment about ... the state of the world, my own abilities, trans rights issues, toxicity in online discourse, feeling like I don't get a minute to myself"

Asking this implies that these feelings - and the thoughts behind them! - are overwhelming or to a degree that is having an unbalanced impact on your life. That's exactly what therapy is for. Treat the underlying cause(s) and you will have fewer symptoms, i.e., less of those feelings and better ways to handle them.

Also, telehealth doesn't signify that a therapist is any better or worse. Remember, half of all therapists are below average. I wish there was a quicker and easier way to tell which particular therapists will be more effective for which clients.
posted by dancing leaves at 8:44 AM on September 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Go rip out some weeds with your bare fingers. Pretend the weeds are your mortal enemy.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:59 AM on September 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

My therapist absolutely encouraged me to do this. There’s a lot of frustrations in my life and it was helpful to have someone listen and commiserate. Also journaling helped. I’m mostly past the anger stage of my issues but there’s a lot of old journals filled with curse words.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:38 AM on September 1, 2021

I find that things bother me the most intensely when I feel like I need to tell someone, anyone, and I have no one to tell. But it's not really true that there's no one to tell. In these times I've been trying to get better at reminding myself that I know people who do want to hear from me, and when there's something I'm pissed about that means I have a story for them, and they are probably pissed off about something they want to get off their chest too, and then we can have a conversation.
posted by bleep at 9:54 AM on September 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Punching bag. You want a punching bag.

We got one in the basement and I go down there periodically and beat the hell out of it, usually with gutteral screams and cursing and the like. 20 minutes of that and I'm spent, and the catharsis is well worth it. It's good to have it in the basement so I can close the door and not subject my SO to my loud existential howling.
posted by nayantara at 9:59 AM on September 1, 2021

Have you tried smashing things, like old chipped dishes or broken electronics? It's impressively cathartic.
posted by foxtongue at 10:07 AM on September 1, 2021

I'm doing teletherapy with a regular old therapist who began to offer online sessions during Covid. A lot of what I currently do is venting about stuff going on in my life, as opposed to delving into old childhood bullshit or what-have-you. She does offer suggestions, sometimes a solution I hadn't thought to try but often she just suggests ways to reframe things that are bothering me, which helps take some of the high emotion out of them. I find our sessions to be helpful. As far as the privacy issue, I bet you wouldn't be the first person to Facetime your therapist from your locked bathroom or your car, if that's an option for you.

Another thing I've found useful for getting my feelings out is writing. I personally don't enjoy writing in the "stream of consciousness" style, but I will open up a Word document and analyze the fuck out of an issue using an outline and bullet points. Having the Google accessible for researching various points and ideas as I go along has been very helpful too. For example, in writing about "what the hell is wrong with my dad" I made a long list of grievances and incidents, then did some reading about narcissism and other personality disorders, and eventually came to the conclusion that he is mostly just overly entitled and lashes out when particular things don't go his way. It was ultimately very cathartic and also helped me to stop going over and over it in my head. I seem to find more long-lasting relief from the overwhelm of my feelings in this manner than I do by screaming or punching pillows or whatever.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 10:13 AM on September 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I find that cleaning, especially really grimy stuff, while listening to angry music helpful when I'm feeling full of rage. I like it because its physical and because it makes something visibly better even if its something really important its something completed.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:27 AM on September 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

I find a lot of stress comes from feeling powerless and like nothing I do makes a difference. Creating something is the opposite of this feeling. Making something where you have to exert yourself a bit in the process? Even better.

So when I feel this way, I often decide bake something that requires a lot of kneading. There's something about the rhythmic movement and the texture of the dough that releases a lot of pent up stress for me. Plus I know that what I'm doing, in that moment, has a direct impact on the result.

My personal fave is pretzels. I love both eating them and the way the dough feels, but any bread recipe that requires 10 minutes or so of kneading is good.
posted by burntflowers at 10:31 AM on September 1, 2021

i don't have a cite, but i remember an author (hahn? chodron?) saying: venting anger is only practicing being angry. the idea is to transform anger.

there's also this in the wikipedia for primal therapy.
The 1996 book Crazy Therapies[59][60] discusses Janov's claim to have discovered the one cure for neurosis: "Evidence that expressing angry, violent behaviour does not drain it away but increases the chances of its recurrence has been presented in the scientific psychology literature for years." (p. 128)
so, tread lightly. in therapy, you may get to a place where what makes the most sense is concious grieving (anger is fear and loss) and some tears.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:18 AM on September 1, 2021 [6 favorites]

Omnomnom mentioned weed pulling, and I heartily second this!

Specifically, if any of your woes/anger is directed towards environmental destruction and degradation, pulling invasive weedy plants feels so good. Ripping those habitat-degrading little shits out of the ground (or snipping at the stem near the soil) satisfies my urge to destroy things, and it directly benefits nearby native species (other plants, and throughout the local ecosystem). Even at a garden-/backyard-scale, YOU have the power to MAKE CHANGE and make life BETTER for very real living things.

Also +1 for therapy as a place to dump out all feelings. I rage about not being able to save global biodiversity all the time there lol, and y’know what, the periodic raging has helped me even my keel quite a bit compared to pre-therapy.
posted by Drosera at 11:36 AM on September 1, 2021

Best answer: I agree with j_curiouser above, I don't think that venting is a good way to deal with anger. I love what they said: venting anger is only practicing being angry. the idea is to transform anger.

I used to pound things and scream when I was angry, and in the moment it felt so good to let those feelings overwhelm me and let them out, but afterward I just felt depleted and kind of embarrassed.

Then one time I was mad at my boyfriend and squeezed his arm really hard, and I was horrified at myself and decided from then on that expressing anger in a physical way was not an option for me.

Similarly, I think a lot of times what we think of as ranting or venting in the verbal sense is really just digging yourself deeper into a pattern of negative thoughts that are self-reinforcing. This can be really difficult for the person on the receiving end of your rant/vent as well--what are they supposed to do? They can't solve your problem or make you feel better, they just end up absorbing a whole lot of unpleasantness that is coming out of an endless well inside you. It's not like you're emptying out a bucket and you're done, it's more like bailing out a sinking boat and pouring all the water into your friend's boat which drags them down as well.

I think talking with a therapist about your feelings of frustration and anger is an excellent way to go, and maybe between the two of you you can find a healthier way to redirect those feelings.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:55 AM on September 1, 2021 [5 favorites]

And if therapy is truly not an option for you, I would suggest as a first step remove yourself from all online discourse. Do not follow the news, or if it's absolutely necessary decide on ONE source that will give you the basic minimum you need to be informed.
Take the time you would have spent on these two things, and/or part of your workouts, and use that to do something quiet and peaceful and slightly productive by yourself--take a walk outside, read a book, do something with your hands, find a small task that would make life better for your spouse.
posted by exceptinsects at 12:03 PM on September 1, 2021

I definitely think therapy has a place here, but if you also want a physical outlet, squash has been a great one for me - terrific workout and a solid way to blow off steam.
posted by cultureclash82 at 1:02 PM on September 1, 2021

Best answer: +1 that therapy can:

1. Give you a place to vent.
2. Explore the ways that you can process the world so that it doesn't make you unmanageably angry. That doesn't mean it has to turn you into a numb drone who doesn't care about the state of the world, but anger is only useful for improving the world up to a point. It sounds like you've exceeded that point and your anger is being counterproductive (because it's either making you hard to live with, or making you withdraw and become passive). For example, the Dalai Lama is hugely aware of the injustice wrought against his people but he retains an incredible levity and tranquility in every day life, while still actively campaigning to improve the world. Anger isn't the only productive reaction to injustice (not even the most productive) and therapy could help you find other ways to respond to the world.

If therapy isn't an option, here's a reading recommendation - I just pulled The Art of Happiness off the shelf (by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler) and there's a chapter on dealing with anger and hatred, which concurs with the idea mooted above, that venting actually increases anger, rather than decreasing it. The DL recommends instead actively cultivating patience and tolerance. I'll let you read the book to delve into how you might go about that, it's probably a bigger topic than an Ask answer can handle!
posted by penguin pie at 2:01 PM on September 1, 2021 [2 favorites]

I work out for at least an hour a day most days, but my spouse is worried about the amount of exercise that I do and is concerned that I'm becoming obsessed. Though workouts (primarily weights but with some cardio) are an important antidepressant for me I don't want to add strain to a relationship that's already got its struggles.

don't know if this concern is more about the time you spend on it or the intensity or just about your attachment to it, but up to an hour of running gives physical relief to frustration that can't be reproduced through thought discipline, meditation, or therapeutic conversations. if your body is able to tolerate it without injury, anyway. weights may be better for certain health outcomes but if you feel like a sponge soaked in tension & loathing and want to wring yourself out, running is IT. hurts much more than other cardio, which I assume is why it works better.

though your concern for your relationship is laudable, sustained unreleased stress is bad for the body and hurting yourself is bad for the relationship too. so if you aren't willing to expand the total time spent exercising or if you independently share your partner's concerns over obsession, maybe just try shifting the balance of your physical activities away from highly controlled movements & towards exhaustive full-body flailing. weather, equipment, safety permitting, etc.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:02 PM on September 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A lot of great ideas here, but I just wanted to add something my therapist once said that has stuck with me: anger is often the surface emotion covering up deeper emotions of pain and fear. Especially pain, in my case. Therapy has helped me a lot in dealing with those deeper emotions, and as I have, I've found that the anger has gotten a bit more manageable too.

Therapy is more long-term than pulling weeds or journaling or punching a bag (all of which I do too) but please do consider it seriously. Even -- perhaps especially -- when the anger is fully justified, therapy can be at least a partial solution. (And all my therapy is teletherapy, for privacy reasons I zoom from my car using my phone as a hotspot, it's weird but it does work).
posted by sir jective at 4:19 PM on September 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

I feel the same sometime(may be lot of times after the pandemic started).

The things that works for me:
Sometime I write down the angry feelings and after some days when I feel better,I tear them and throw it away.
Exercise ...which I think you are already doing.
I go inside the bathroom,cry my heart off in the shower till I feels better.Soak in Epson salt bath.

Like everyone said...Therapy is best if it bothers your day to day life and is not under your control.It's not good if you are suffering inside and suppressing your feelings.

Good Luck and I hope you find something that will make you feel better.
posted by SunPower at 3:24 PM on September 2, 2021

Screaming in your car.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:25 PM on September 7, 2021

« Older disagreement and toxicity   |   Is bright light physically painful to you? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments