Sometimes, you’ve just got to call a spade a spade and, sometimes, you’ve got to look at something that’s a bit shit and just say, “fuck it.” Believe me, it will help you, as swearing at things can be a very empowering and life-affirming thing to do.
Many studies have backed up the usefulness of swearing in a variety of settings. Swearing can help you cope with adversity, get on with people more quickly, cope with difficult and demanding situations and, even, bolster the persuasiveness of your arguments, speeches and conversations.
One such experiment, from researchers at Northern Illinois University, examined the effects of swearing on the persuasiveness of a speaker. Participants were invited to listen to three versions of a speech. One where the word ‘damn’ appeared at the beginning, one where it appeared at the end and one where it didn’t appear at all. The results showed that swearing at the beginning or the end of the speech significantly increased not only the persuasiveness of the speech but also the perceived intensity of the speaker. 1
Meanwhile, Professor Richard Stephens, over at Keele University in Newcastle, has tested swearing in a wide variety of ways over the years. He and his team have discovered that people who do swear can hold their hands in freezing cold water for longer than those who don’t swear and that, in a test of anaerobic strength, people who swore produced more power wattage and a stronger handgrip on a stationary exercise bike than those who did not.
Elsewhere, other studies have shown that people who swear, as long as swearing is part of their overall and otherwise extensive vocabulary, tend to be healthier, happier and a whole lot more honest too.
Swearing then, is not only good for your physical and mental health, but it is also a great way to gain control over your pain, your stress and your emotions.
There’s a lot going on at the moment; a lot of things are currently out of our control and it’s easy to feel powerless and lost. However, if you want to lift your spirits and feel more resilient in the face of the current adversity, don’t be afraid to drop the F-bomb.
It’s not for nothing my therapy book is called The Four Thoughts That F*ck You Up (and how to fix them). In fact, it when it comes to self-help books with swearwords in the title, it’s not alone.
We have The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (as well as his follow-up, Everything Is F*cked) and The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight, as well as Healthy as F*ck (Oonagh Duncan), Wake the F#ck Up (Brett Moran) and, my favourite, Fuck Off (a mindfulness swearword colouring book for adults). Finally, there’s the daddy of them all, F**k It Therapy by John C Parkin (plus his two f*ck-related follow ups). In a similar, but also slightly different refrain, we have Get your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight and (proving that even Knights of the Realm thing swearing is good for you) How to Fix Your Sh*t by Sháá Wasmund MBE.
Swearing crops up very frequently in my therapy room.
I once had a client who had an anger management issue and a very short fuse. “You must respect me,” he believed. “It’s intolerable to not be respected and people who don’t show respect me are arseholes.” This belief allowed him to kick off whenever he felt disrespected by anyone and, even, anything. He once ripped an IKEA cabinet to little bits and pieces just because ‘Thing A’ disrespected him by not fitting into ‘Groove B.’
The healthy alternative to all this was, “I like to be respected but I don’t have to be respected; I find it difficult to deal with when I’m not, but I know I can stand it; people who don’t respect me are not arseholes, they are worthwhile fallible human beings.”
With a little vim and vigour, his healthy beliefs became “I like to be respected but I don’t fucking have to be respected; I won’t like it when I’m not but it won’t fucking kill me and people who don’t aren’t fucking arseholes, they’re all-fucking-right really.” Eventually, over time, he whittled all this down to just, “fuck it.” And that was enough for him to gain control over his anger and keep calm, even when other people were being less than his ideal.
Profanity can be quite profound, you see; and this Coronavirus well, it can just fucking do one, can’t it?
1:Cory R. Scherer & Brad J. Sagarin (2006) Indecent influence: The positive effects of obscenity on persuasion, Social Influence, 1:2, 138-146, DOI: 10.1080/15534510600747597
Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) makes a distinction between unhealthy anxiety and healthy concern. Both share the same theme, or inference, as both are about the threats and dangers of everyday life. It doesn’t matter if the threat is real (something that is happening or is about to happen) or imaginary (something that hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t happen at all); anxiety and concern are all about threat and danger.
Unhealthy anxiety is the result of irrational (or unhelpful) beliefs about a given event or situation; whilst healthy concern arises when you hold rational (or helpful) beliefs about the exact same event or situation.
When you are unhealthily anxious you overestimate the probability of that threat occurring and underestimate your ability to deal with it, you can create an even more negative threat in your mind and might find it difficult to concentrate on other matters. Typically, the anxious will avoid the threat (physically or mentally), ward off the threat, tranquilise their feelings and seek reassurance about it.
When you are healthily concerned, however, you are more realistic about the probability of the threat occurring and are equally realistic about your ability to cope with it. You do not create even more negative scenarios in your mind, and you are able to concentrate on other tasks and matters. As a result, the concerned are more able to face up to the threat (if it even occurs) and are more able to take constructive action to minimise said risk or danger.
This also applies to health anxieties. A health anxiety is an obsessive and irrational worry that you have caught or are about to come down with a severe medical condition.
And, right now, as a health anxiety, as a public and medical concern and as a severe medical condition Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is right up there and scaring us all.
But, are our news outlets and our governments overdoing it or not; are we all literally making a drama out of a crisis; are our fears rational or irrational; founded or unfounded? In short, are we experiencing collective Coronavirus anxiety or COVID-19 concern?
Considering the statistics (at the time of writing of the 107,828 cases so far, 86 percent have been of a mild condition and a massive 94 percent have so far recovered and/or been discharged.) it would seem to be the former. And so, asset stripping the shelves in supermarkets and chemists of bog roll, antibacterial hand gels and facemasks does seem like reassurance seeking writ large, whilst completely shunning people, public places and public transport could count as avoidance.
Beating people up based on their ethnicity or holiday choices, meanwhile, is definitely overkill.
Yes, people have sadly died but there have been other factors involved (such as age and other underlying health conditions).
Caution is advised, certainly, but the current advice is to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds) and that’s about it. That is considered effective protection, not just against COVID-19, but all other cough and cold-related germs and viruses.
Whilst the Coronavirus is something to be concerned with, and something to take reasonable precautions against, it is nothing to get anxious about.
For more on the current global pandemic panic, please feel free to read my post over at Psychology Today (click here).
If you want to know more about REBT, the thoughts that can freak you out and, more importantly, how to deal with them, please feel free to purchase a copy of this book that I wrote (click here).
Today, is February 14th; Valentine’s Day, the day for lovers, the day for romance, the day for card companies, florists, chocolatiers, jewellers, and restaurants up and down the country to make you make the most of this day, come what may. Back in the day (my day, that is) you were lucky if you got a small card and a cup of tea in bed. Now, it’s nothing but pressure to perform, please and be more loved-up than thou (we can partly blame social media for the latter, but only partly). Basically, Valentine’s Day has gone and gotten all a bit crazy, when you think about it.
But then, love is not the most rational of emotions.
Enter then, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). Not only is it a form of psychotherapy but it is also considered to be a school of thought. This means that, while it is great for dealing with specific emotional problems such as anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy and so on, it is also (and at the same time) a brilliant way of looking at life and all of life’s problems in a whole new way.
This is important as irrationality surrounds us and penetrates us (a bit like The Force in Star Wars only crap), and it can bind us together in unhelpful ways if we are not careful.
With it, we can develop the tendency to blow things out of proportion, magnify their difficulty, throw our toys out of the pram and, generally, rush headlong into foolish decisions that we later regret.
REBT offers a way of stepping back a little, and of questioning a thought and the emotion it engenders, before you react (or overreact) according to it.
Once you start to question the validity and rationality of your thoughts, you will soon start to see just how silly life, and by default, our everyday language really is. Like, really, amazingly, off-kilter crazy.
This goes double for love songs.
To find out how truly ludicrous love songs actually are, to wise up to their irrationality, please read my new post over at Psychology Today (click here).
As you do so, whilst remembering that Valentine’s Day can be as restrained or as OTT as you allow it to become, it means that you can still be as romantic as you wish, but it also means you won’t be no fool for love (or any other emotion) again.
How’s that for heart-warming?