Swearing for Pain Relief?

40-year-old-virgin

Now, I’ve never been a big fan of using “potty” words. But lately, I’m not so sure.

A girlfriend of mine has been going through a hard time. Someone close to her is very sick, with a disease that’s possibly terminal. Out of the blue my friend laughed and said, “We’ve been cursing and it’s helping…a lot!”

Hearing this made me laugh because, like me, she’s squeaky clean and the prospect of her cursing like a sailor is comical.

But she said that it’s actually helping… Cursing is helping to relieve pain. Very curious. It’s impossible for me to connect those two ideas (cursing) (pain relief) without recalling the chest waxing scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin. (Turn the volume down if you’re at work or with the kids. Yep, lots of potty words.)

In the scene, the mild mannered main character Andy (Steve Carrell) lets loose on the esthetician. Like, really loose. Maybe it was scripted. Maybe it was improvised. But I practically cannot breathe because I’m laughing so hard when he yells “Como se llama!” and “Kelly Clarkson!”

Scientists are actually studying the connection between cursing and pain relief. From Greatist.com, and the article’s source links:

Researchers found that study subjects who were allowed to let loose with their language had a higher pain tolerance, less perceived pain, and lower heart rates.

For many people, swearing (cursing) provides readily available and effective relief from pain. However, overuse of swearing in everyday situations lessens its effectiveness as a short-term intervention to reduce pain.

So, in short, if you curse all the time, it’s not going to have the same impact.

But is it really about the cursing? Maybe it’s just the physical, vocal expression of emotion that’s at the heart of it. Or that people who usually don’t curse also usually don’t let loose (in some meaningful way). What if instead of cursing you screamed with the same fervor “I AM REALLY REALLY SUFFERING!”

Not trying to hold it in. Not trying to be brave. But belting it out. Letting loose.

Although, now that I’m reminded of it, I’m kinda leaning towards yelling KELLY CLARKSON!

(Or meditating helps, too.)

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