Ever feel frustrated? I mean really frustrated? I mean ready to explode frustrated?

And then did it ever reach that breaking point where you finally exploded verbally on some unfortunate person when they were in the wrong place at the wrong time (think road rage)?

Here’s what going on underneath.

The more stressed you are, the more unhappy you are, and when you don’t have an outlet, the more powerless you can feel to make matters worse.

When that happens your brain (pituitary gland) signals your adrenal glands to secrete massive amounts of cortisol to ready the body to deal with the distress that your stress has now turned into.

In addition to your body getting physiologically ready, a part of your brain, more specifically what’s referred to as your mammalian brain called the amygdala, signals your brain to shunt blood flow from your higher/human/rational brain (that can pause, assess and think) towards your lower/reptilian survival brain (that reacts by either flight, fight or freezing). This is referred to as an Amygdala Hijack, where your ability to think and respond is hijacked away and you instead react based on prior and hardwired experiences. In essence instead of shooting from your head, you shoot from your hip.

Of those three, fighting (a.k.a. venting) is the most neuropsychologically immediately relieving and this releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.

Yes, venting, screaming and yelling all cause immediate release and relief of frustration, tension and explosive feelings.

Here’s the hitch.

What provides you the venter with immediate relief causes the recipient to feel immediate stress, distress, cortisol release and to be amygdala hijacked.

As a result, you may actually get your way in the very short run, but it will rarely last beyond that. That is because you may cause the other person to submit to you venting because they don’t want to provoke you even further, but after you calm down, what they feel is deep resentment and the next to last thing they want to do is cooperate with you. And the last thing they want to do is make you successful or happy for what you just did to them.

It is this dynamic that leads to gridlock in Washington, marital impasses, and the zero sum – and everyone loses – game that is so widespread.

What is the answer?

If you agree that venting provides relief, but resolves nothing and furthermore often leads to lasting resentment that makes resolution even more difficult, then the answer is to vote.

Sure, voting won’t give you the immediate and intense relief (especially if the result of November 3rd are not know for some time) that venting does, and you certainly run the risk of not getting your way if who and what you vote for loses.

However, it does gives you something that is better and lasting. And that is feeling proud that you dealt with your frustration in a more classy and mature way by exercising your right to vote instead of just venting and making a bad situation worse.

You can certainly go back to venting if that suits you.

However if you do, you might want to heed the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “An eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind” … and doomed we may add.


  • Mark Goulston, M.D.

    Author, speaker, podcast host, psychiatrist

    Dr. Mark Goulston is the inventor and developer of Surgical Empathy an approach that helps people to break their attachments to counterproductive modes of functioning and frees them to connect with more productive and healthier alternatives. He is the host of the “My Wakeup Call” podcast where he interviews people on the wakeup calls that changed who they are and made them better human beings and at being human and the host of the LinkedIn Live show, "No Strings Attached." He is a Founding Member of the Newsweek Expert Forum. He is one of the world’s foremost experts on deep listening, radical empathy and real influence with his book, “Just Listen,” becoming the top book on listening in the world, translated into twenty languages and a topic he speaks and teaches globally. He is an advisor, coach, mentor and confidante to CEO’s, founders and entrepreneurs helping them to unlock all their internal blocks to achieving success, fulfillment and happiness. Originally a UCLA professor of psychiatry and crisis psychiatrist for over 25 years, and former FBI and police hostage negotiation trainer, Dr. Goulston's expertise has been forged and proven in the crucible of real-life, high stakes situations including being a boots on the ground suicide prevention specialist and serving as an advisor in the OJ Simpson criminal trial. Including, “Just Listen,” he is the author or co-author of nine books with multiple best sellers. He writes or contributes to Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, Biz Journals, Fast Company, Huffington Post, Psychology Today and has appeared as an psychological expert in the media including: CNN, Headline News, msNBC, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, Psychology Today and was the subject of a PBS special. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, California.