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The Difference Between Venting and Emotional Dumping

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emotional dumping

When we’re having a bad day or a frustrating experience, many of us reach for the phone to call or text a friend to talk about it. Sometimes when a situation is difficult, talking about it can help you process the experience and gain some perspective. Experiencing emotions is a healthy part of life and while it is natural to get upset at times, there are healthy ways and unhealthy ways to express emotions like frustration and anger.  

Venting vs. Dumping

Keeping emotions bottled up can lead to emotional outbursts or letting resentments fester. This is why it is important to know how to appropriately communicate those feelings. For example, there is a difference between venting your frustration and emotionally dumping on family or friends. Characteristics of venting include: sticks to one topic, is time-limited, doesn’t blame, doesn’t victimize, shows accountability for their part in the issue, and being open to solutions after expressing yourself. Venting includes two participants: a processor and an active listener. Active listening is a process that involves verbal and nonverbal components such as asking open-ended questions, paraphrasing what was said to you, reflecting on the speaker’s feelings, giving eye contact, and nodding. 

When healthy venting occurs, stress is reduced, perspective broadens, loneliness is reduced, feelings of wellbeing increase, and one’s emotional state is eased. A venting session is most positive when the listener supports the person venting through demonstrating empathy and actively listening.

Emotional dumping on the other hand includes: feels toxic, overwhelms the listener with many issues, repetition, blaming others, playing the victim, taking no accountability, and not being open to solutions. When you emotionally dump you are unaware of both your own emotional state and the state of the listener. Emotional dumping does not include the consent of the listener and ignores containment within time, topic, and objective. Because emotional dumping doesn’t respect the consent and boundaries of the listener, listeners often feel drained or agitated by the interaction. 

Communication is vital when it comes to expressing anger or other intense emotions. Knowing the difference between venting and dumping is a positive start in having clarity in your relationships.

Expressing Emotions in a Healthy Way

There are no “bad” emotions, but many of us experience certain emotions to be more difficult to process than others. Oftentimes, it’s easy to share an accomplishment or a goal with friends, but when we experience a failure, those negative emotions can be more complicated to process. Communicating emotions like anger and frustrations can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to try to express those emotions in a healthy way. 

  • Stick to one issue: When you are venting, make sure you are staying on topic. It can be easy for one frustration to roll into another and another, but this can cause the person listening to you to feel overwhelmed. Instead of bringing up past issues that have already been resolved, remember what the goal of your venting is.
  • Be open to finding a solution: Before you start, think about what you would like out of the conversation. Instead of getting stuck in a cycle of complaints, think of constructive ways you can move forward and find a solution together. 
  • Try writing it down: Writing down your feelings can help you organize your thoughts and emotions. It can also be used as a tool to help you calm down. Sometimes by seeing it in writing, we can begin to figure out where we need to focus and what work needs to be done on our own end to resolve issues. 
  • Listen: Be prepared to listen to the other person’s perspective. Your experience of the situation may not be the same as the other person’s. Give them space to talk about how they felt and really listen to try and understand their point of view. 
  • Set Boundaries: Before going into a conversation know that you’re going to stay on topic and not repeat issues or go around in circles. Be prepared to say what you need to say and then move on to find a solution. 
  • Ask questions: When entering a conversation where you feel like you need to vent, first check in with the other person’s emotional capacity, time capacity, and energy. By asking questions like “Do you have time to listen right now?” Or “I’m feeling really frustrated and need to get this off my chest, is that OK?” you are showing your companion that you respect their emotions as well. 
  • Try mindfulness: Mindfulness practices can help you become more aware of your emotions and how those emotions are affecting other aspects of your life. Are you responding to a situation or just reacting to it? Mindfulness encourages practitioners to experience a thought as it comes and, if it does not serve you at the moment, let it go. By being mindful, you can begin to determine which thoughts could benefit from venting and which ones would just be emotional dumping. 

And what if you’re on the receiving end of emotional dumping? While it is a wonderful thing to be supportive and a great listener to a friend or family member who is having a difficult time, if you find yourself drained or anxious after your conversations, they may be emotionally dumping. Taking a step back and check in with yourself to tune in to how you feel during and after these conversations. After reflecting on your own needs, you may realize that you don’t have the capacity to listen. Sometimes the most supportive thing you can do for another is to encourage them to seek help in other ways. It may be as simple as directing them to another person to talk to, or it could be encouraging them to seek out professional help to aid them in processing their emotions. 

A Transitional Program for Healthier Relationships

Journey Home is an independent living program for teens who have completed a therapeutic program such as a residential treatment center or a wilderness therapy program. The teens who attend Journey Home have successfully completed a therapeutic program and are seeking an environment in which they can be supported through their transition back into a “real world” environment. 

Many of the teens who attend our program have spent large amounts of time in a structured environment. Because of this, they may have hang-ups about going straight home after spending so much time with structure and very little independence. During the initial weeks and/or months of our program, Journey Home provides some of the structure our residents are used to. Gradually, residents are able to edge closer and closer to independence.

A transitional program helps young adults learn to communicate in a healthy way while also building a community. Our small, close-knit home environment is based on important principles of community and mentorship. Young people in different stages of the healing and transition process live together. The clients learn a lot from each other and can form close friendships.

Unlike many other transition programs, residents at the Journey Home participate in weekly therapy, alternating between family and individual sessions. These sessions can help residents practice their communicating skills with the support of their therapist. It is important for young adults to continue to build these skills as they learn how to express their emotions in a healthier way. During the week, residents also attend two group therapy sessions, led by the Journey Home therapist. These groups are Healthy Lifestyles and a therapeutic processing group.

Our residents also benefit from working with a “Guide” while at Journey Home. Journey Home house parents are assigned to residents to act as their individual “guide” during their stay at the Journey Home. A guide acts as a personal role model and support for the individual student. Clients with their guide at least every two weeks to review progress on goals in the five core areas: personal responsibility, healthy living, life skills, education, and new social integration. Guides offer support and direction to the clients on how to accomplish their goals. 

Journey Home Can Help

Journey Home is the perfect fit for teens who are ready to build upon skills learned in therapeutic settings but recognize they still need guidance and support to further develop their success. Journey Home blends a traditional home setting with positive peer and staff relationships. At Journey Home, we believe in the value of good health and healthy hobbies, two crucial aspects of happy, successful adults.

At Journey Home, we put an emphasis on building healthy relationships with others. Clients are encouraged to go out into the community and form relationships and friendships. We support clients as they foster new relationships by coaching and mentoring them throughout their time with us.

Journey Home provides a nurturing, sober-living environment with a supportive community. Our relationship-based programming helps clients with therapeutic support, life skills refinement, and personal growth. For more information please call (855) 918-0032.