I was looking at the difference between complaining and venting, if any.
Complaining has a bit of a reputation as a protracted, repeated occurrence of dissatisfaction that focuses on the “object” (you are complaining to someone about a particular something – the object). We seem to be in two minds on the subject of complaints. Ask any business and they “would love to hear from you about any improvements we need to make to our product” while our innate wish to belong and our subsequent loyalty to the entity we belong to (say, that business) means that we don’t regards the complaint with “yay, someone complained, isn’t that wonderful?”. The true reaction would be somewhere in between “oh no, not him again” to “we already know there’s something wrong, now stop complaining so we have time to fix it”, plus a few other possibilities
Venting is a different beast altogether. The focus of the venting is somewhere in between the two participants, with the object more of an incidental and the sole purpose being the sharp releasing of a strong negative emotion, usually some form of anger. Most of the time we are not aware of anything wrong, we ask a simple “how are you” of someone and 10 minutes later we are still looking for the truck that hit us. When we do it to others we deal also with the shock of our brains at what comes so effortlessly out of our mouths (over which said brain is supposed to have some control). Venting on a regular basis is also, for me, a sure-fire way of becoming depressed and socially isolated (because no one needs that kind of negativity in their life, even when you are right!)
Attempts have been made to channel venting (time limits of 5 minutes, agreed at the beginning, seem to be preferred) and professionals are still split between “it’s useful” and “it’s damaging”, and that is what actually caught my attention.
It’s no surprise to anybody who knows me that I love my self-control – it does not come naturally to me, so I treasure it. I am uncomfortable when someone around me loses that control. I am appalled when I lose it. Sauce for the goose and all that I also live in a country that praises that control and allows very few outlets for negative feelings (getting drunk is one of them – so of course you won’t be taken seriously). So actually any form of negative emotion display is discouraged and if you still do it then your mental health is being questioned.
And for me that is where the problem is. You are unhappy about something. You have tried your best to solve it. You have expressed your unhappiness. And it stops there or there’s a suggestion you go to counselling.
But what if your issue isn’t personal? What if it is systemic?
Then that lack of good feedback puts the blame on you as an individual for something that is beyond your control. When we say that the system is broken (and how many times have you thought, said or heard THAT?), this is what we mean: there is no way to steer it. And as any machine has to do, it continues to go in the direction it has initially been pointed to, crushing anything in its path underneath.
Solutions? Change the system (despite the fact that some things are actually going well), get out of part of it (maybe a job you love in the industry of your dreams), fix the feedback loop of the system (good luck with that, with so many of us!) or continue to moan, whinge, whine, grumble, mumble, rumble or similar.
Or go to counselling… you’ll feel better after it, even though you will still have the track marks on you from the crushing…
You could also find some loopholes (my specialty!) which will work for some of the people, some of the time, but requires quite a lot of your energy… and leaves all of us with the same blind unsteerable machine.