Cursing Away the Pain
mp3 | wma | wav
If you have any do it yourself projects this weekend, don’t call me. Because while hammering away at my house, I whacked my thumb!
You would have been impressed by my combination of swear words as I did a bizarre sort of dance.
Oh yeah… I know the one!
Hey, did you realize there’s now evidence cathartic swearing increases your tolerance for pain?
No, but I could have told you that!
Except this new study has data to show it works for most people. The study, involving college students, measured how long they could keep their arms immersed in icy water while repeating their favorite curse word versus a neutral word.
They found that when swearing, students reported feeling less pain and kept their arms in the water an average 40 seconds longer. Although both sexes reported feeling less pain when swearing, females did so to a greater extent and experienced a greater increase in their heart rate.
So, what is actually happening in our brains when we swear? Swearing seems to activate areas deep on the right side of the brain, where our primitive emotions lie. That’s where you find the fight or flight response, and swearing engages that response, which increases a person’s pain tolerance.
Swearing may also be instinctual - again, a primitive reflex. We’ve learned to control it by using our more complex cortex, including grey matter which is responsible for language and reason. Humans also have frontal lobes that can help rein in our emotions.
But as we all know, we’re not always able to control them. At this point, you may be tempted to justify cursing. Except, the more you swear, the less effective it is at easing pain.
So save those swear words for when you need them, like I did this weekend.