There is a reason I have always loved working with adolescents. Perhaps it’s my adolescent sense of humor, perhaps it’s the capacity to inspire shifts that change the course of a life. Or perhaps it’s the fact that they drop a lot of F bombs.
You may not be a fan of foul language, and I respect that. I still think you’re f*ing fabulous. Hear me out on this one though, rather than throwing these words in the gutter where all things foul and offensive live. This is a gem of truth you can apply to your more refined vocabulary and will offer you massive emotional, mental, and even physical health benefits. Plus, you can always fall back on the solid and very expressive word fuuuuuuuuuuudddddge (the more u’s the better, just ask my cousin Michelle) to keep it PG if there are impressionable minds around. I also recommend adding the phrase, when appropriate “Things are rough.” I’ll explain.
You see, research tell us that simply labeling emotions helps us to process them, and while we don’t want to get stuck in a negative thought loop, keeping it real and calling your feelings as they are is step one in moving through them. So by saying “fuuudge, things are tough right now!” you allow yourself to recognize and feel the struggle that is in front of you. It may also help you put the challenge at hand into perspective. You missed the bus? Fudge, that’s rough. But another bus is coming, you’ll be alright.
Of course, missing the bus is a small example, unless it was the only bus you could catch to show up in time for your wedding, or to arrive in time to present your work at the White House. Point is, it’s pretty useless to pretend you’re not frustrated. Building up your yoga and mindfulness muscles is not about never being frustrated – it’s about being able to tolerate being frustrated, angry, sad, inspired, joyful, horrified and happy – all of it, the full range of emotions that life presents.
So if you have the idea that you have to be a zenful Buddha and never let anything bother you, please for the love of all things holy (like the hole-y lace table cloth, my Rev. grandpa liked to point out;), please let that go. You are human. You are whole, you are raw. And when you censor yourself too much, nobody wins. This, like many things, is a balance. We do practice yoga and meditation to be able to keep perspective and, as I said, tolerate these feelings without being reactive. I don’t want you (or me) to spill cuss words on an unsuspecting stranger at the super market. Even when they deserve it.
Perhaps, instead of swearing at your co-shopper you send a text to a supportive friend, or even snap a picture of whatever pissing you off and post it to social media with the hashtag #99problems. To go back to the bus example, say you did miss a very important bus and it drove off with you 5 feet from the door. You may want to kick the fire hydrant out of frustration and anger, and yet, thanks to your capacity to 1) know your feelings and 2) make good choices you let out an expletive, swing your leg into the air instead and avoid a foot fracture. Bravo! Additional suffering intercepted. Hopefully you get it all out before that unsuspecting grocery shopper gets a load of you.
If you’re still on the fence about dropping f*bombs I have two more points of inspiration for you. The first is a study that found swearing to increase pain tolerance. Beyond labeling emotions, Stephens, R., Atkins, J., & Kingston, at Keele University found that swearing while experiencing pain reduced the reported intensity of pain. These researches found that swearing decreased perceived pain, and hypothesized that the pain-lessening effect may “nullify the link between fear of pain and pain perception.” (Stephens, Atkins, & Kingston, 2009).
So, if you didn’t get mindful enough to avoid your foot hitting the fire hydrant, good idea to add some foul language to help you cope with the pain of your freshly broken foot. Better yet kick the air, curse it out and watch your experience of discomfort transform before your eyes. Just talking about the relief it brings makes me want to shout expletives!
Now for my right brained, musically inclined folks. Go to this special page on my website to hear a song by the lovely and talented Sara Bareilles. A classmate of mine at UCLA, I am beyond proud of her talent in capturing the healing capacity of song and swearing, all wrapped into one: www.howwecanheal.com/fbombs.
Sometimes you just have to call it like it is. The fact that you’re still reading tell me this: you’re pretty fucking awesome.
Stephens, R., Atkins, J., & Kingston, A. (2009). Swearing as a response to pain.Neuroreport, 20(12), 1056-1060.