Venting Is Powerful But It’s No Substitute for Inquiry

abandoned building

If there’s smoke in the house, by all means open a window.

Venting Is Powerful

When a stressful event occurs, the emotions that arise can be overwhelming. If left on their own, the stressful emotions and thoughts can build on themselves in a vicious cycle. One way to break the cycle is by venting.

Venting can be done responsibly by getting the emotion out without doing more harm. And one of the most powerful ways to vent responsibly is to simply write free-form all of the angry, stressful, sad thoughts onto a blank piece of paper. And then throw it out.

I believe there have been something like 200 scientific papers written on the effectiveness venting in this way. I’ve even heard of people getting rid of back pain by simply writing like this.

And there are many ways to vent besides writing: admitting publicly, crying, even just feeling the pain and allowing it to release. Venting is a way to release and move on.

It Allows You to Breathe Again

But venting only goes so far. In my experience, it does not deal with the root cause of the suffering. And if situations conspire again, the mind can easily get caught in the same vicious cycle again.

If there is smoke in the house, opening a window allows me to breathe again. But unless I put out the fire, the smoke will keep coming—even if the window is open.

When I question my stressful thinking by doing The Work of Byron Katie, I can often put out the fire completely. And then it’s done.

The Work Combines Venting and Inquiry

The first part of The Work is identifying stressful thoughts. This includes writing down all of the stressful, emotionally charged thoughts onto paper. This alone is powerful as a kind of venting. I can’t tell how many times I’ve written a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and felt better just for writing it.

But venting is just the first part of The Work. The real power lies in questioning each statement that I write. When I investigate with the four questions and turnarounds, I often find that what I thought was fire was not fire at all. I had fooled myself into a panic.

When I see the truth, it all falls away. That is the power of inquiry.

That’s Why I Love The Work

It feels like the ultimate in self-love. I allow my stuck parts to speak up, vent themselves, and be heard. And then I question everything to see if I can find the truth.

The more I question my stressful stories, the more they tend to unravel. And when they have unraveled, there is no need to suffer from them again.

For me, venting cleans up the immediate mess, but inquiry prevents future messes from happening.

Venting Is Still the First Step for Me

It is a life saver compared to bottling it up and pretending everything is fine, or wallowing in the pain. But I don’t stop with venting. I like to remove the very need for venting by questioning the thoughts that give rise to all of the emotions I need to vent.

Have a great week,
Todd

“…I’ll ask the child to close her eyes, talk to the monster face-to-face, and let the monster tell her what he’s doing under the bed and what he really wants from her. I’ll ask her just to let the monster talk, and to listen and tell me what the monster said. I’ve done this with a dozen children afraid of monsters or ghosts. They always report something kind, such as, “He says he’s lonely” or “He just wants to play” or “He wants to be with me.” At this point, I can ask them, “Sweetheart, ‘There’s a monster under your bed’—is that true?” And they usually look at me with a kind of knowing amusement that I would believe such a ridiculous thing. There’s a lot of laughter. This is the end of the child’s nightmare.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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