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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

A Messy Situation

Photo credit, Nickelodeon, fair use

Mudslinging is defined as the use of insults and accusations, especially unjust ones, with the aim of damaging the reputation of an opponent. What then is the term for metaphorically throwing mud when venting, whining, moaning, bitching, and complaining?

It seems to me that mudslinging has a specific connotation to harm. Still, I wonder if it’s possible to assigned a description regarding someone who incessantly grumbles about various topics which could also be associated with the infliction of impairment—even if unintentional.

I propose the term “mud-flinging” for that which causes a messy situation in one’s own life.

I posit that not only is it possible to mud-fling, people behave in this manner with relative regularity. I suspect individuals act this way for cathartic effect—the result of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or uncomfortable emotions.

However, I doubt that mud throwing of this sort actually achieves the desired effect beyond the initial relief of discomfort when venting. Even during the process of complaining, research suggests that bitching may not actually provide relief in the first place:

We could not even find a catharsis effect when we led people to believe in it and to act upon that belief. Surely if the catharsis theory were true at all, under any circumstances, it should have been obtained under the highly conducive circumstances we set up. Yet, it did not. If anything, we found the opposite: Aggression remained high throughout the procedure.

Take a moment to reflect upon your own experience, dear reader. The last time you had a bad day at work, unpleasant experience in public, or were exposed to some other undesirable circumstance, did whining about it to someone alleviate the situation?

You may have felt something (emotion or bodily sensation), no doubt. However did the matter about which you were complaining change?

Chances are you actually worked yourself into a more emotionally challenging state of being while venting. As one source comparatively states, “Venting anger is like using gasoline to put out a fire.”

Allow me to mix metaphors, as I began this post by discussing mud. Consider the following messy situation:

You’ve come home from a challenging day at work. Interacting with the public, balancing different personalities and emotional expressions, your job requires professional tact. You can’t simply yell back at people when they scream at you.

You can’t speak your mind when others present whatever grievances they may have. Instead, you actively suppress (push down) strong and uncomfortable emotions. However, forcing down these emotions and bodily sensations doesn’t mean they merely disappear.

They’re waiting for you whenever you arrive home. You went to work with a spotless appearance and then proceeded to wade in mud throughout the day. You’re covered in filth, you’re uncomfortable, and now you’re on the edge of breaking down on your drive home.

At home, when asked about your day by a loved one, you immediately start flinging mud in the person’s direction. It isn’t as though you intentionally seek to do this individual harm. Rather, you delude yourself by believing that by throwing mud away from you, you will somehow become clean—free from discomfort and suffering.

Perhaps ignorant of the fact that the mud puddle didn’t remain confined to your workspace, you scoop up handfuls of muck that surrounds you. Furiously, you fling mud in every direction. Some hits your loved one, some splatters against the walls of your home, and some gets in your mouth.

The faster and harder you fling the mud, the messier you and everything and everyone in your immediate vicinity becomes. Now, instead of having a cathartic effect, you realize that venting isn’t resolving your uncomfortable feelings (emotions and bodily sensations).

As well, you become aware of the fact that your behavior at home reflects the actions of those who flung mud at you when at work. You experienced mudslinging at work and then resort to mud-flinging at home. You’re in a messy situation of your own creation.

When working with new clients who initially seek help for a host of problems, people sometimes behave in the manner described above. When I then begin practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), they soon understand that I’m not the sort of psychotherapist that sits by passively and allows a needless mess to be made in our sessions.

I invite clients to consider the two main pillars of the assistance that I provide: The ABC Model and unconditional acceptance. A person can use the former to dispute irrational beliefs and the latter to tolerate and accept muddy situations without self-disturbance (flinging mud).

In fact, within this very post, I’ve provided the reader with a number of resources specifically designed to help people improve their lives. Nevertheless, perhaps due to rehearsed behavior or the silly notion of achieving catharsis through bitching, I suspect the reader will continue flinging mud.

Regarding this, one researcher states, “Catharsis theory predicts that venting anger should get rid of it and should therefore reduce subsequent aggression. The present findings, as well as previous findings, directly contradict catharsis theory.” Make a messy situation, if you want.

For the rest of you, if you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.

As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.

At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!

Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW


Bushman, B. J. (2002, June). Does venting anger feed or extinguish the flame? Catharsis, rumination, distraction, anger, and aggressive responding. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Retrieved from

Bushman, B. J., Baumeister, R., and Stack, A. D. (1999, April). Catharsis, aggression, and persuasive influence: Self-fulfilling or self-defeating prophecies? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Retrieved from

Cornwall, G. and Fraga, J. (2022, March 8). Stop venting! It doesn’t work. Slate. Retrieved from

Herb, J. (2023, January 28). Sand? no. mud? yes. we actually see this during the third season when toph and katara were not on good terms [Image]. Quora. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, April 28). Pillars. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, November 9). The ABC model. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, February 16). Tna. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

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