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Based on research by Brad J. Bushman written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS
Does venting anger feed the fire or extinguish the flame? Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud held venting anger would bring catharsis or release of strong emotions.
Ohio State University psychologist Dr. Brad Bushman conducted a study to determine if venting anger and frustration is beneficial. Six hundred college students wrote an essay about abortion. They were matched with a partner who pretended to have the opposite view and rated the student’s essay negatively on organization, writing style, and originality.
Dr. Bushman gave different instructions to students in three groups. The “rumination” group was to hit a punching bag while thinking about the person who graded their essay. The “distraction” group hit the punching bag while focusing on becoming physically fit. The third group did not partake in punching the bag. Results revealed that the students in the rumination group were the most angry and aggressive. Students in the third group did nothing to vent their frustration and yet were the least angry and aggressive. SO the research demonstrated that venting does NOT decrease anger, it increases it.
So what can you do instead when frustrated? Dr. Bushman recommends: Delay your reaction by counting to 10, relax, take deep breaths or listen to calm music.
Bushman, B. J. (2002). Does venting anger feed or extinguish the flame? Catharsis, rumination, distraction, anger, and aggressive responding. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 28(6), 724-731.