Is it good to vent your anger?
Most people believe that venting or other aggressive behavior gets rid of anger. However, decades of experiments have shown that venting your anger leads people to get even angrier. Additionally, now you need to create reasons for your anger and rationalize your behavior.
Does distraction or rumination work better to diffuse anger? Catharsis theory predicts that rumination works best, but empirical evidence is lacking. In this study, angered participants hit a punching bag and thought about the person who had angered them (rumination group) or thought about becoming physically fit (distraction group). After hitting the punching bag, they reported how angry they felt. Next, they were given the chance to administer loud blasts of noise to the person who had angered them. There also was a no punching bag control group. People in the rumination group felt angrier than did people in the distraction or control groups. People in the rumination group were also most aggressive, followed respectively by people in the distraction and control groups. Rumination increased rather than decreased anger and aggression. Doing nothing at all was more effective than venting anger. These results directly contradict catharsis theory.
Farnam Street covers this and other interesting subjects. Read what you've been missing and subscribe via Email, RSS, or Twitter.
Source: Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 28, No. 6, 724-731