Does ranting make things better or worse ?

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Pileated woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker

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11 Feb 2020, 4:01 pm

I do have occasional rants about stuff not just on here but also with some of my family and friends face-to-face. I wonder whether a good rant is like punching a punch bag trying to let your anger out which in some cases doesn't work, as it just makes you more angry and aggressive and if that is the case, depending on the subject of the rant it could make you more angry, annoyed and irritated. When I've had rants I always have this feeling as though my arguments are more important than someone else and that if I was in charge of politics I would do something that would resolve the hassle straight away like if I want there to be peace, and unity between Israel and Palestine for example. Just a note I'm a not playing Donald Trump here.


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11 Feb 2020, 4:34 pm

I think it makes it worse. Some people say it's "cathartic" but cathartics are purgatives and those people are full of crap.

The best way to help deal with that kind of tension is to find time to talk to people about it, find some sort of support group, not keep on hiding it. And that's kind of tough; I tend to hide it a lot as I don't want my family to realize I am not entirely "all there" upstairs. So then it doesn't go so well.

But if this is giving you a lot of trouble, finding someone to talk to (preferably face to face or over the telephone) is nice. It's a lot nicer than a rant; those usually end up (for NTs and Aspies) as a loss of control. I know a lot of people who rant to deal with stuff and I cannot trust them as I do not know when they are going to do their thing again. But I also know that humans can't stay sane if they keep burying their troubles. You need friends & support to make it work. And I personally find that prayer is nice, but Catholics have a tendency to engage in a lot of that quietly and wordlessly on their own, so that helps. Granted it's not a popular thing but it doesn't have to be popular; it just is good.

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13 Feb 2020, 10:39 pm

Rant (verb): "to speak or declaim extravagantly or violently; talk in a wild or vehement way; rave"
It doesn't exactly suggest advised, rational speech or openness to amendment. That's the downside to ranting, you'll always end up right back where you started. I think doing so habitually similarly speaks to it's effective catharsis.

It might be worse than making things worse. It might ultimately accomplish nothing at all.

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14 Feb 2020, 4:47 am

This could well be a male/female difference, or maybe just down to personality, but I usually do find ranting cathartic.
It helps me blow off steam and feel better - as long as I am met with understanding (or even agreement). If I'm met with arguments or attempts at solutions, neither is the least bit helpful when I'm so angry I just need to vent.
If the issue is something that needs to be spoken about calmly or attempted solved, the time for that needs to be later, not when there's smoke coming out of my ears! :P

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14 Feb 2020, 4:55 am

The theory of catharsis as a healthy practice ultimately comes from Aristotle’s argument in favour of violent tragedies in Ancient Greek theatre: the idea being that humans can ‘earth’ their destructive emotions and attitudes by engaging with them passively at one remove. You could apply it to watching horror movies or listening to death metal: but not to going off on a long diatribe about how ghastly everyone else is (because that’s direct engagement, which can be reinforcing)
I do go into rants when I’m on my own: however over the last eight years I’ve developed the habit of conducting ‘post-mortems’ on my rants, asking questions of myself as to why I’ve been ranting.
What is it that’s really annoyed me?
Why am I ‘triggered’ by this?
Am I really annoyed by something else and it’s coming out sideways?
Am I mixing trauma from past experiences into the present where it has no legitimate (logical) relevance?
Am I unfairly expecting fellow humans to be more than human?
And so forth...
I believe its one of the things that helps me be a nicer, kinder and happier human than I have been when younger.
I’d recommend giving it a try: it might help, and if not you’ve lost nothing. :wink:


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15 Feb 2020, 8:38 pm

I think it very often does more harm than good, but I also think that when done in certain ways and under certain circumstances it can make the ranter feel better.

There are lots of circumstances under which ranting just scares people or puts their backs up, and then the ranting might feel cathartic at the time but the consequences will probably end up making the ranter feel worse. But if you're ranting to a good counsellor who is strong and smart enough not to be upset by it, then you'll get the catharsis without any backlash. And you might rant to people who share your disdain for whatever it is, in which case they might convey their empathy for your feelings and everybody present might feel validated. But if it spills over into hate speech then obviously it could get very dangerous - I think I'm a fairly harmless person but I was shocked to find (by reading history or news) that it can be surprisingly easy to stir people up into a fury and into violent behaviour (OTOH if the group is genuinely being seriously oppressed by a heartless regime or whatever, then to work everybody up into a dangerous fury might be the only way to break free of that oppression).

You can rant alone and I guess that will ensure no harm is done, and I do that sometimes, and it feels better than trying to bottle my frustration by saying "oh dear," every time I'm feeling frustration, but I gather for some people they just get left with an empty feeling. Personally I think it helps me to damn my computer to hell verbally when it lets me down.

I think it might not be the ranting as such but the physical venting of pent-up anger that does good - for example, smashing unimportant items, chopping wood, or just having a good yell seems to discharge the negative emotions. For some reason I don't seem to get the same benefit from energetic activities that are too far removed from the anger itself, such as plain exercise, though that does burn off stress quite well. Years ago a counsellor was suspicious of my openness because I was being so calm about everything, and we couldn't find expression of anger either in my counselling sessions or in my life generally. It seemed unnatural that a real person came over as so stable and serene, until we found how I was expressing it - I was screaming my head off quite violently in a heavy metal band, and the lyrics didn't pull any punches. It was a good, harmless way to get the vitreol out, and I'm convinced it did me good.

These days I can't scream like that for long without hurting my larynx, but being older, maybe my testosterone levels are now low enough for me not to really need such a violent outlet. But I still feel better after a good, loud singing session, and my lyrics still have a strong element of frustration and anger at times. And I also use a lot of rather vitreolic observational comedy in everyday life, which is akin to ranting - many comedians make their livings doing little else but ranting in a clever way like that - the trick is not to inflict it on people whose feelings will get hurt when they don't deserve it. I do worry about whether or not I'm getting the balance right there.

So I see ranting as potentially a good thing as long as it's done in a safe way. I've known people who have often flown into an extreme rage, and they seem to get away with it, but often their health has been pretty bad in later life, usually it's heart problems, so I don't believe this idea that people who give full, indiscriminate vent to their tempers are protecting themselves from bursting. It's possible to work oneself up into a lather and recycle negativity round and round, which I think must be bad for the health physically and emotionally.