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Carl, June 15 Half the month had passed when I met a friend for lunch. She was the only multi-orgasmic person I knew. I had told her how my initial optimism about becoming a master in the art of autoerotic lovemaking had waned. I had been a committed student. I had followed the instructions and practiced breathing and contraction exercises, and I had set aside the mandatory twenty minutes each day for masturbation. Despite my best efforts, I was stuck. Becoming multi-orgasmic had proven daunting. Or rather, she looked like me. I try to focus on the part of her that is there in my reflection. I can almost see another face now, floating over the top of mine. You could ask them, Raylene says. Ask them if they will come to my party. They'll do it if you ask them. She obviously didn't overhear my conversation with Mia. I'm not nearly as popular as she thinks. I mumble something on the way out the door that she's supposed to think is a yes. Wait, Raylene calls out behind me as I walk back out to the crowded cafe. Just grasp it firmly by the legs, and find a place to slam it. And as you whack its stuffing out, yell, dammit, dammit,

Sounds like a good idea, right? I mean, we've been taught for years about the catharsis of venting our anger in safe ways and not letting it fester, about how expressing anger gets rid of anger, and about how we'll feel better if we let it out. So wouldn't it be a good idea to let loose with our frustration when we're at rock bottom? Well, the problem is that research disproves this idea. In the article Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) authors Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explain the findings. When people vent their feelings aggressively they often feel worse, pump up their blood pressure, and make themselves even angrier. Venting can be even more harmful if it involves an aggressive act toward another. Once this happens, a powerful new factor is involved--our need to justify the aggressive act. It required more than sheer discipline and hard work. It seemed to presuppose some kind of existential shift. During lunch, she explained how she'd learned to become multi-orgasmic. It's like meditation. When you've learned it, it's really easy, she explained. So you can pretty much come whenever you like? Yes, I could come right here and now. I have a particular mental image of me and my boyfriend. After describing the image in some detail, she added: I imagine that I'm looking at that image, masturbating. I concentrate my mind on myself getting aroused by the image. You're going to do it, right? I go back to the table.

When I see Mia again, she gives me a fake smile and I realize that yes, I will accept Raylene's challenge. Blair and friends will be at her party. I'll need a plan, of course, but I will do it somehow. Hey, Luis, the counter girl says. What'll it be? I freeze, then look over to see Luis ordering a double-shot Americano at the counter. I must have been in the bathroom when he came in. He doesn't glance in our direction. We try to convince ourselves that the recipient of our actions was truly deserving of them. This justification is preparation for more aggression, and so the cycle begins. The experiments that prove venting to be unhealthy shocked the scientific community, who expected opposite results. But it's true: Using a Dammit Doll turns out to be a misguided attempt at damage control. In our effort to cope with the damage, we tell ourselves that if we just take out all our negative emotions on something safe, we'll feel better. In reality, we're just digging ourselves deeper. So before you vent--whether it be verbally by attacking someone online or physically by beating on a Dammit Doll--ask yourself, Is this going to cause anyone, including myself, any harm? Because, at that moment, your job is to not make the situation worse. In the work environment, we tend to rely on email for our venting, permanently recording our negativity in cyberspace. When you send one of those dreaded angry emails in the heat of the moment, you'll probably have email regret later, when it's too late to take it back--and you will have lessened your chances of bouncing back from the situation. That's all I need. What, so the trick is to observe myself when fictively masturbating to an image of myself having sex.

How could I learn to do this, I asked? You need a better understanding of how you gain pleasure. Could you film yourself while having sex with Sally? That would help. I could ask. But it'd be a hard sell. You could also do it while masturbating. Either you film yourself or you use a mirror. I can't believe it, Blair says, wrinkling her nose. What's he doing here? What's the deal with you and Luis? I blurt out, no longer caring about how the question might sound. Mia turns to me. Blair and Frankenstein used to go out. Until he decided he liked dead people better than her. I'm stunned. Speechless. Blair and Luis? Jack Lampl, president of the A. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems, says that venting through an angry email serves as a relief valve, but tends to inflame conflict.

It takes a very corrosive role in the workplace, for gossiping and undermining others. You will likely be able to express yourself in a softer, less inflammatory way, which in turn will do less damage. However, suppressing anger or pushing things under the rug isn't the healthiest tactic, either. Once we've ensured that we're not making things worse, we can get on the path to making them better by being honest and communicative. Dr Sylvia LaFair, president of Creative Energy Options, has some effective suggestions: We should tell the truth about problems and frustrations, but keep our voices measured and calm. Use short, seven-to twelve-word sentences that state the problem and begin with I (I hear what you're saying but I disagree, for example). Instead of yelling, lower your voice and speak slowly. This dials down the overall volume and emotion in the room, and allows us to initiate damage control in a difficult situation. The point is that you need to understand yourself and how you look when you're in that mood of ecstasy. It was then I started to understand the nature of my obstacle. For me, sex was about escape. When I had sex with my wife, I preferred to think about her rather than myself. Whenever I masturbated, I was thinking about something else. Not myself. I had located the problem: it was myself, and the fact that I wanted to erase myself from the equation of sex, whether it involved other people or just myself. When I got home, I asked my wife if we could film ourselves in action. No fucking way, she said. I had to find another strategy. I must make some kind of noise, because Emily looks over at me with eyes narrowed. I -- I thought she hated him, I stammer, hoping the shock isn't showing on my face.