Having vent buddy feels good. It makes us feel less alone, it makes us feel heard and validates our pain. But most importantly we feel a sense of release after each vent. Life becomes a little bit more bearable with a vent buddy always available to listen when we are emotionally triggered or feel down. But what if having a vent buddy is delaying our soul’s growth and healing.
In the few years that I have been doing the work to hold space for men and women to address their mother wound, I have often woken up to texts sent in a panic.
“I am so broken, my mother is the worst person in the world, and I don’t know what to do, please help”
“I can’t do this anymore, my mother is going to be the reason I end my life”
“My mother makes me feel so worthless, this is too much. I am so tired”
And in a haste I would reply, worried about the person on the other side who sounds as though they will most likely end their life if help isn’t granted immediately. These are women who have either found my work online or have been previous participants of my free course on healing the other wound or re-parenting the inner child…and they, upon being triggered felt that I’m the only one who can understand what they are going through and then decided to contact me.
I felt a sense of responsibility to these wonderful women, as someone who has been triggered multiple times before without someone to hold space for me to unpack my emotions. As a result, made myself available to listen and guide — always!
It, however, didn’t take long for me to realize that I have to redefine my role in my client’s lives and the parameters under which I show up for each and every one of these hurting women. This realization came after noticing a pattern in these interactions. They all eventually took the same form… of venting and then becoming calm enough to continue with life without truly addressing the triggers, only to come back a few weeks or months later, to vent about the same thing and still not follow the guideline to work through these triggers. It then became apparent to me that growth was not taking place and I had in fact in these cases rendered myself an enabler. A total disservice to these women and mostly myself. I had become a vent buddy, though that was never my intention.
Please do not interpret this as saying alienate yourself from your friends and offer them no emotional support because that is in no way what I’m saying if anything I’m encouraging you to study patterns and the many ways that In trying to offer the support you become an enabler. I’m also not saying that you should internalize your emotions never express them to anyone. My intention to empower you to be aware of the following three reasons why venting is delaying your healing and keeping you small.
1. Venting is often an escape
Just like alcohol, drugs, sex and the many mechanisms that people use to cope with the pain that often offers some type of numbing, venting too can be a toxic coping mechanism that only delays your healing. It is important to note that healing in its entirely is basically awareness and working through triggers. And having someone always available to “listen to us vent about our problems distracts us from being present with our emotions and truly evaluating our triggers.
Don’t get me wrong, talking about our problems with someone is important for our mental health but for these talks to be effective, there have to be boundaries in place and a desire to heal and grow. If we find ourselves constantly talking about the same things, these conversations have then become venting and we are emotionally bypassing addicts. And all our vent buddies are offering is an escape from our experiences and ourselves.
So how do you know if you are using your loved ones as an escape?
One of the major patterns that you can be on the lookout for to help you overcome your venting syndrome, is to note the time it takes for you to contact someone to vent after an incident.
1. Is it immediately?
2. And if there’s an extended period of time before you vent to someone, what’s your relationship to your emotions during this waiting period? Are you numbing in other ways? — Social media, alcohol, smoking, etc
If you are so uncomfortable with your emotions that it can never sit with them and work with them all on your own. Your vent buddy is an escape.
This is what you should do instead of reaching out to someone.
Sit with your emotions?
Name them. What emotion are you feeling? Is it sadness, hurt, guilt?
Ask:” why do I feel this way?”, “How old were you when you first felt this emotion? What was happening?
In this way, you are able to make room for your emotions, address the current situation and find the true source of triggers.
2. There is a fine line between venting and being a chronic complainer
It is quite easy for innocent venting to a friend, to turn into chronic complaining. And this is due to many reasons one of which is the reason mention in # 1. Simply because numbing techniques can be addictive!
Reason number two being that It is a human basic need to want to belong and be loved, and having a vent buddy can offer an illusion of both these needs being met. The feeling that we are accepted as we are, that our problems are not frowned upon, that we not too much to someone. Causing us to cling to our vent buddy and continue venting to them as a way to fill these emotional voids. And this is just complaining. And constantly complaining makes it impossible for us to see and seek solutions.
3. Constant venting strains relationships.
The thing with venting is, for it to be effective, the one offering an ear should offer just that — an ear to listen. They should try not to advise, judge or even take sides. And by default, our loved ones become our vent buddies. We text and call them with the expectation to drop everything and attend to us oftentimes without checking if they have the capacity to carry us emotionally at that time. Totally disregarding any emotional or physical boundaries they may have at that time.
And If they do not attend to us when we feel we need them, we assume it’s because they do not care about us or even have time for us. Therefore holding our loved ones ransom to our venting.
This offloading and often violation of boundaries strains our relationship and breeds resentment.
So next time you feel the urge to call your vent buddy for a venting session consider asking if your vent buddy has the capacity to listen to your problems. Resist this urge to offload without checking if its ok or not and most important bare in mind that by using others to emotionally bypass you are actually derailing your own growth and healing and risk repeating the same patterns over and over again.
Photographer: Lexon Photograph