Venting anger constructively is an important key to keeping feelings of anger from becoming significant problems. According to Allen Wagner, Los Angeles-based Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), feelings of anger that lead to "impulsive responses or ultimatums often lead to us to feelings of regret, guilt, and shame." Fortunately, as he points out, "there are many healthy ways to let off steam."
Techniques for Venting Anger Constructively
When you have emotions of anger, it is important to manage and deal with them constructively. Venting is an important step in the anger management process, and there are a number of techniques you may find to be helpful.
1. Taking a Time-Out
Wagner recommends implementing a time-out before reacting to anger. He states, "This is where you take five to ten minutes alone, to really think the frustration through. Take continued deep breaths, holding and releasing, to bring your heart rate down. This will help you formulate a response to the core of the issue, and the best way to share this message or request to right people, the way you mean to say it."
Wagner adds, "This is extremely helpful for couples, who often tend to hit below the belt and draw on hurt from the past when escalated without a time-out."
2. Sharing With a Confidant
Discussing your feelings to a trusted confidant can be beneficial. Wagner explains, "The experience of talking is extremely helpful in de-escalating. When we say things out loud, we often answer our own questions, but this experience of connection and relating generally relaxes us."
"Talking things through can be especially helpful in solving frustration with our primary relationships such as family and close friends. Often, talking to a good friend that you trust will 'keep it in the vault' can be helpful. You can also vent to a therapist."
Wagner explains, "I have had clients who come in for 'trash can' therapy. In this case, they want little input from the therapist, but rather a safe space to vent about their children, spouse, parents, friends, co-workers or bosses without judgments or fear of reprisal, due to the safety that is tied to confidentiality."
Wagner points out, "A therapist understands that what you feel on a Thursday afternoon about someone, or while you are in conflict, isn't how you feel as a whole."
3. Engaging in Physical Activity
Engaging in physical activity can provide an effective way to vent anger for some people, leading to reduced feelings of anger. Wagner states, "People who use Krav Maga, kickboxing, running, or even just visit the gym, report feeling better after working out. Often this activity can help them to focus, without distraction on the roots of an issue, or just release it punch by punch."
4. Playing Video Games
He admits the suggestion is "a little unorthodox," but Wagner recommends playing video games as a way to vent anger. He states, "Video games can represent a release for many people as they are put in a different role that can allow for aggression within social norms. For many adults and older teens, virtually driving cars, flying ships, or just role play fighting can take them out of a funk, and reduce their previous escalation significantly."
He cautions, "Obviously this would not be encouraged with young children or with older kids that are doing this with high frequency."
5. Writing to Release Emotions
Justine Brooks Froelker, St. Louis-based mental health therapist, self-care expert and author of Ever Upward, suggests writing as a way to vent anger. She points out that the purpose of this type of writing is not necessarily to create work that you would go back and read later or share with others. She advises, "Rather, write it out and then tear it up or burn it or even turn it over to someone you trust like your therapist."
The point is just to get out your feelings so you can move past them, in this case, using writing as a free-writing activity solely as a way of getting emotions out and on paper.
6. Writing to Understand
You can also take a different approach to writing, using it as a tool to specifically put the who, what and why of your anger down in writing so that you can understand what you are feeling at a deeper level. This is a more analytical process than free-writing.
Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Los Angeles-based licensed psychologist and psychotherapist, explains, "Research has shown that writing down intense emotions like anger allow you to process the feelings from the raw state into a more understandable form, that has a trigger point, a direction and a target."
She advises, "Look at your writing and see the theme in your story. You will note a pattern of what triggers you, and where it hurts, so that you can actually address the roots of the hurt and its daily echoes."
Addressing the Issue
Don't just stop with venting - you still have to deal with the issue. Once you have been able to vent what you are feeling and use other anger management techniques, you will be able to move on to having a constructive conversation with the person with whom you are feeling angry.
As Dr. Raymond points out, "You need to tell the person when you feel angry about what's going on." She explains, "The impact of another person's words and actions can provide feedback about the nature of the interactions between you, so that they can adapt and change."