Last week, I was flipping through Thich Nhat Hahn’s “Taming the Tiger Within”, when I came across a quote that had me vigorously nodding my head in agreement. The quote struck me so deeply that I decided to do a video on it right then and there.
Today I’m talking about rehearsing anger, a habit that’s so small and so subtle, you probably don’t even realize you’re doing it. But you are. And it’s has major consequences for your health and happiness.
Check out the video to learn more about this sneaky habit and how it’s absolutely making things worse.
So be honest, how often do you vent?
You’ve had a tough day, you’re annoyed with a coworker, something frustrating happened at the grocery store, and you can’t wait to vent out about it. You feel like you just need to get it out and share your frustration. A quick huff and puff, and then it will pass.
Can you relate?
Venting…we do it all the time. Yet research tells us that venting isn’t just unhelpful, it’s actually harmful. (I’ve talked about this before. You can read that post here.) Venting prompts us to re-experience the very thing that was so awful. It was difficult enough the first time, but now as you vent, you’re experiencing the event and all the emotions all over again.
I’ve known this to be true for a while, but in a recent flip through of this book, I stumbled upon this quote. And it used a term I’d never heard before, highlighting a concept I’d never quite thought out.
“People who use venting techniques like hitting a pillow or shouting are actually rehearsing anger. When someone is angry and vents their anger by hitting a pillow, they are learning a dangerous habit. They are training in aggression. Instead a wise practitioner generates the energy of mindfulness and embraces her anger every time in manifests.”
Isn’t that term interesting? Rehearsing anger. The point of rehearsing something is to practice and perfect something. We practice things we want to get better at, things we want to be more second nature. And anger is not something we want to become second nature.
Yet every time you vent, you’re doing just that. You’re rehearsing your anger response. You’re training your brain how to do that better. How to get ramped up, how to escalate a situation, how to let your emotions spiral.
Rehearsing anger sounds might seem silly, yet it’s something we do nearly every day. We vent about our rough morning. We yell at the driver next to us in traffic. We shut our door at work and call our partner for a quick vent session about your boss. Maybe you hit your pillow or stomp your foot, thinking it doesn’t matter, because no one’s around.
But these small acts are reinforcing habits that are unhelpful and unhealthy, and sometimes, even dangerous. Rehearsing anger…it’s a risky habit.
So let me ask you a question. How often do you rehearse anger? How often do you vent or yell when you think no one can hear you? How often do you run to a friend, needing to just huff and puff for a bit? Since this habit isn’t as harmless as you might think, let’s do better.
Instead of rehearsing anger, rehearse calm. Practice mindfulness. Take a few deep breaths. Use your coping statements. Rehearse a gentle and compassionate response, even when it’s tough. Rehearse how you want to feel.
When we rehearse, we get better. So if you’re regularly rehearsing anger, challenge yourself to rehearse something different.
PS: Curious why you’re frustrated? Click here to learn more, plus what you can do about it.