Swearing at the Coronavirus Might Just Do You the Power of Good

IMG 7473 - Swearing at the Coronavirus Might Just Do You the Power of Good

 

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

 

 

There’s No Need to Panic About this Pandemic

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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).

 

Anxiety Disorders: A Brief Overview

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As a rule, I tend to specialise in the areas of anxiety disorders and work-related stress management. Between the two, I cover a multitude of sins. And, but sins I mean I help people deal with a series of emotional and behavioural problems that have them thinking, feeling and acting in ways that they don’t like but don’t seem to be able to change.

The term ‘anxiety disorder’ on it’s own could mean any one of several things up to and including, but not limited to panic attacks and panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychosexual dysfunction, health anxiety and any and all types of phobias.

Broadly speaking, anxiety is your response to danger; it’s the fight, flight (or freeze, for those of you who experience brain lock) response to a threat or a danger. However, this response is being triggered in situations that aren’t that dangerous. Coming across a hungry lion whilst walking down your street is very dangerous, whereas sitting an exam is not. However, if you have anxiety, the same thoughts and feelings are being triggered in the face of an exam as they are when confronted by that hungry lion.

Anxiety problems are the number one presenting symptom here in the United Kingdom

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are an extreme type of fear response. They are an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement. They’re not much fun

Panic Disorder

This is where you have regular or frequent panic attacks that don’t seem to have a specific cause or trigger. It can mean that you are so afraid of having another panic attack that the fear itself can bring on a panic attack. Not good.

Social Anxiety Disorder

This is where your fear response is being triggered by social situations, such as pubs and parties, work and networking events. Basically, anywhere you have to talk to another person. This is also known as social phobia and it’s more common than you think.

GAD

Pity the person who is living with this condition, for they are experiencing regular or uncontrollable worries about many different things across most aspects of everyday life. It could be that there are many, many triggers or no specific trigger at all, making GAD a tricky little bugger to pin down.

OCD

This problem is made up of two parts, an obsession and a compulsion. Obsessions are unwelcome and intrusive thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind. The compulsions are repetitive activities that you feel compelled to do in order to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession. It could be checking that a door is locked, or repeating a specific phrase in your head and so on. Some people have what is known as ‘Pure O’ where they have the obsession but not the compulsion. This does not make it any less distressing.

PTSD

This is an anxiety problem that gets diagnosed after you have gone through something that you found traumatic. A close brush with death or a violent attack on you or someone near you can do it. PTSD can cause flashbacks and nightmares that make you feel like you are reliving the fear and anxiety you experienced during the traumatic event again and again. Who said the mind isn’t your best friend?

Psychosexual Dysfunction

When related to anxiety, psychosexual dysfunction is the inability to become sexual aroused or achieve sexual satisfaction because you are afraid of something happening or something going wrong. The problem is not physiological it is psychological. It can affect both men and women and, obviously can be quite miserable and debilitating.

Health Anxiety

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this means anxiety about your health. You will have an obsessive preoccupation with the idea that you have (or are about to develop) an illness. Common health obsessions including cancer, heart health, HIV and so on, but people can become preoccupied with any condition. Behaviours include researching symptoms, constant checking to see if you have them and many, many, many visits to your local GP.

Phobias

A phobia is an extreme form of anxiety that can be triggered by a particular situation or object, even when there is no danger. The sufferer knows that their reaction is out of proportion to the danger but they just can’t stop themselves. People can becoming phobic about anything and everything: spiders, mice, lifts, heights, thunder and lightning, buttons, ships, you name it.

Other anxiety problems include performance anxiety (stage fright and exam fears, for instance), body dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and more.

Thankfully, all forms of CBT are considered the gold standard of treatment for anxiety disorders. Hypnotherapy is also a highly effective adjunct to CBT. So, if you need to find a therapist to help you with your anxiety, look for someone who has CBT skills, or hypnotherapy skills, or both.

Obviously, there is quite a lot to digest here so I’ll leave the heady world of work-related stress (the number one cause of staff absenteeism) until next time.

Men, Mental Health, Barbershops and Talking

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It’s good to talk, isn’t it? Male or female, young or old, it’s good to have someone to turn to in times of trouble, yes? And yet, despite the many inroads made in raising mental health issues, men still struggle with talking about their feelings, or reaching out if they’re in difficulty. Which is problematic to say the least. And, it needs to change, but how? Read more

Do You Want To Stop Drinking?

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In just a few short weeks Macmillan Cancer Support will be asking you to commit to 31 days of sobriety in their annual Go Sober for October campaign (click here). It’s a fun way to be healthy and helpful. But for some people, that commitment isn’t as easy as it sounds. What do you do if you think you have a problem with drink? What do you do if you don’t think you can stop? Read more

Take the Stress out of Christmas

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Depending upon your point of view then, either sadly or happily, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But, what does Christmas mean to you? For many it just means stress. What was once a celebration of the winter solstice, then an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ and is now, for all intents and purposes, simply an invitation to boost the economy as much as you can, has become a very stressful experience indeed. But, how can you mitigate that stress? Read more

Brand New Bristol Based Therapist

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Well, fairly new; well, sort of new. New-ish; okay, I moved here from London in January 2016 but, due to other work commitments, it’s taken me this long to sort a private practice out. However, I am a psychotherapist and I’ve been working as one since 2004. Read more

It Gives me the Pip

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People are always looking for a quick fix, especially in today’s time-pressured world where we always seem to have so much to do. Sadly, when it comes to your mental health, there are no quick fixes. But, there are things that can help. Which is where smartphones and apps could come in handy.  Read more

Why You Need to Give up Your Demands

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In Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that I advocate, we say that your demands are at the root of your psychological disturbance. But, what is a demand exactly, and how does it disturb you?  Read more

Treating Phobias: Help is at Hand

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A Northern Illinois University (NIU) graduate in psychology has developed a measurement of fear, a unique psychological tool that could not only open up new areas of phobia research, but also be of use to therapists and other mental health professionals (click here). But, what is a phobia, and how can you deal with it if you have one?  Read more