Distinguishing Between Emotional Dumping and Healthy Venting

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between emotional dumping and healthy venting. The former might feel good to the person doing the dumping but, ultimately, it doesn’t change their situation and it may harm their relationships with the listener.  

Emotional dumping is marked by the following traits:

– It feels non-productive (at the very least) and, more typically, feels toxic and destructive.

– It feels like you are being used.

– It is also likely you feel trapped by that person. You feel pinned down, as if you can’t escape.

– The person appears to be unconcerned about your emotional state, and the impact their dumping might have upon you.

– It feels like person has no respect for your time, your feelings, and whether you want to participate or not (in listening to their feelings and grievances). In fact, your wants and needs are irrelevant to them.

– The person doing the dumping doesn’t want to consider their possible contribution to the negative situation.

– The person keeps returning, again and again, to the same old issues, grievances and complaints. It feels like they’re not really looking for solutions. They just want to unburden … and unburden … and unburden.

In contrast, healthy venting is marked by the following traits:

– The person is open to receiving feedback about, and would really like to find a way forward in, the situation.

– They are open to looking at any part they might have played in creating, or maintaining, the problematic situation.

– The conversation is focused on, and has more of an emphasis on, developing healthy coping skills (as opposed to venting, with no other goals in mind).  

– The person typically only deals with one incident, or issue, at a time. The don’t keep harping back to other things that also happened in the past. That is, to other old grievances and resentments.

– Although there is a need to talk about their feelings, and the impact this is having on them, they are sensitive to your needs, and they respect your boundaries. Hence, you don’t feel they are using you.

– Although they are upset, they are able to regain control of their emotions. They know how to self-soothe and self-calm.  

– At the end of the conversation, you feel progress has been made. You feel it was worthwhile, and you don’t feel drained.

If you find yourself the victim of emotional dumping, remain warm, respectful, understanding and calm. However, it is also important that you find a way of saying that it might be best to take time out. You can then suggest the person invests in self-care, and actively does something that will help them to de-stress.   

“Detachment isn’t selfish. It’s caring for yourself whilst encouraging others to cares for themselves, too. It’s choosing to establish healthy boundaries.”

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