Buddha said the following are unskillful verbal action :

He engages in divisive speech. What he has heard here he tells there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he tells here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus breaking apart those who are united and stirring up strife between those who have broken apart, he loves factionalism, delights in factionalism, enjoys factionalism, speaks things that create factionalism. He engages in abusive speech. He speaks words that are harsh, cutting, bitter to others, abusive of others, provoking anger and destroying concentration. He engages in idle chatter. He speaks out of season, speaks what isn’t factual, what isn’t in accordance with the goal, the Dhamma, & the Vinaya, words that are not worth treasuring.

I have a question about this. When someone has wronged us or others, it is very helpful psychologically to speak about it to someone to "let off" steam. For example : if going through a divorce a woman speaks about why she is getting divorced and the wrongs her husband has done her to her best friend. This helps her work through it and offload some steam. Does this sort of comfort seeking with someone qualify as " unskillful verbal action"

1 Answer 1


Perhaps, according to Buddhism and modern psychology, it isn't helpful to "speak about it to someone to let off steam".

If you are in some abusive relationship, then doing something about it (something other that what you have been doing previously) may be healthy; and so, talking enough to understand what's happening, and to make new plans, may be healthy; but "letting off steam" doesn't sound right.

To pick just one example from Google, here's a quote from Psychology Today: You Can't Punch Your Way Out of Anger -- You can’t let off steam with violence. Posted Sep 24, 2009

As for Buddhism I think there's an obvious quote at the start of the Dhammapada:

  1. "He abused me, he ill-treated me, he got the better of me, he stole my belongings;"... the enmity of those harbouring such thoughts cannot be appeased.

  2. "He abused me, he ill-treated me, he got the better of me, he stole my belongings;"... the enmity of those not harbouring such thoughts can be appeased.

What's "skillful" might depend on how you talk about it and who with; but I at least want to challenge the premise that it "lets off steam" and that that's helpful. Instead of letting off steam it might keep the fire (of anger etc.) burning ... "fanning the flames" if you want a metaphor.

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