The venting myth revisited: An interview with Dr Brad Bushman

venting storm

Venting may make you feel great when you’re angry, but it doesn’t help you act great. Contrary to popular myth, venting has no real value to you at all. Say it with me now: Venting has no value and is a good habit to avoid.

But don’t take just my word for it. Let’s hear what one of the top social psychology researchers in the world has to say about venting, anger, and aggression. In the following 30-minute audio, Dr. Brad Bushman graciously addresses questions I commonly field from clients and audiences, like these:

  • Where did we get the idea that catharsis is beneficial?
  • Why do people persist in believing in the benefit of venting?
  • What’s the difference between venting and the reasonable expression of emotion?
  • How are catharsis, venting, rumination, anger, and aggression related?
  • When is physical activity helpful for calming anger–and when is it not?
  • Instead of venting, what can you do that really does work to calm yourself down?
  • What one simple thing can you do to avoid being “hangry”?

To read some of the research yourself, I recommend these articles by Dr Bushman and colleagues:

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  1. says

    Hi Tammy, thanks for another smart and thought-provoking post! I want to comment, however be advised that I did not listen to Dr. Bushman’s recording but read the articles instead.

    One thing I want to say is that a big part of the mediator’s job, as you know, is to help conflict participants to have awareness and acceptance of their emotions. Because there is information in our emotions to assist us in understanding our needs and interests. Anger is no exception.

  2. says


    In my opinion, Dr. Bushman’s article contained the unstated assumption that anger is something to avoid. I don’t believe this is useful. I wish he would have used the word ‘aggression’ every time he wrote ‘anger’; they are not the same thing however I believe he was using the words interchangeably. Anger is simply a (unconscious, perhaps) sensation of injustice mixed with a feeling of powerlessness. I have found it very helpful to inquire about these 2 feelings instead of asking directly about the anger. ‘What felt unfair to you?’ and ‘What were you able or not able to do about this unfairness?’ are great questions to ask when someone is angry.

    Anger is a wise messenger. Aggression just creates more trouble.