Since the days of Sigmund Freud, psychologists have believed that the best way to deal with emotional trauma is catharsis. When you're really angry and you keep it bottled up, you need to vent your anger lest it explode like an overheated steam boiler.

As pervasive as this concept has become in Western culture, the science says the exact opposite. Airing your grievances doesn't alleviate the anger and allow you to heal. It merely makes you, and those around you, more miserable.

As a researcher quoted in a recent Slate article succinctly put it, "Venting anger is like using gasoline to put out a fire." The analogy is apt, because fire has a tendency to spread from its source to everything surrounding it.

I once worked for a boss who'd explode at one of his direct reports not just because he was a bully, but also because he felt noticeably more relaxed after he'd blown a gasket. It never lasted, though. He got angrier every meeting, even though his staff was working overtime try to make him happy.

What's worse, most of his direct reports started imitating his behavior and blowing up at their direct reports. It was a miserable place to work, so miserable that the number of divorces in the group was jokingly held up as a positive measure of productivity.

What's true at the workplace is doubly true in online environments. A peer-reviewed study of online commenting behaviors cited in the Slate article, discovered in 2012 that venting (aka "ranting") on social media and reading those rants simply made people angrier.

Since then things have only gotten worse. Online venting, combined with grievance-laden cable programming (Fox News comes to mind, but MSNBC too) has created entire demographics of people who are permanently in a state of umbrage.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

One explanation is that venting is like scratching an itch--it relieves the itchiness for a while but then the itch returns with a vengeance. Another is that expressing grievance-laden anger is addictive. The more you do it, the more you want to do it.

Because your brain has neuroplasticity, the more you express an emotion, the more you'll feel that emotion. When you vent, you're not relieving the pressure, but rather digging a channel, like a river, that directs you to feel those emotions more strongly.

Emotionally intelligent people, on the other hand, have always shied away from the idea of catharsis. They focus on the self-awareness that they're angry, and may express (calmly) that their angry, but they don't start ranting about it.

Instead, emotionally intelligent people do one of two things: 1) do something about whatever is making them angry to make the situation better, or 2) transcend the anger by accepting the situation and making the best of the situation.