No offence to researchers or anything, but we don’t need a study to tell us that letting out a four-letter swearword when we stub our toes or walk into a glass door makes us feel the teensiest bit better about ourselves. After all, a good cuss can be a very cathartic experience.
Perhaps we do need science though, to validate something else we’ve long suspected: that swearing in response to emotional pain can feel just as damned good.
So we’re kind of embracing this new study from Massey University’s School of Psychology, that says swearing can relieve both physical and social pain, especially for people who have been slighted or are experiencing short-term social distress.
Wait, so what does that mean exactly? Well according to Dr. Michael Philipp, director of the social cognition lab at the school, swearing in response to having a tiff with a bestie or being excluded from a social situation can make a person feel better. At least that’s what he found when he analyzed the responses to a distressing social event from 70 participants. Half the group was told to swear out their feelings, while the others shut their mouths. He found that those who let out an f-bomb or two felt less pain in the long run.
“The results suggest that socially distressed participants who swore out loud experienced less social pain than those who did not,” he said. Not surprisingly, he found the same results when he tested the theory on physical pain. “[One theory] suggests that social distress feels painful because both social and physical pain is biologically coupled… [and] that anything affecting physical pain should have similar effects on social pain.”
Like anything, there’s a catch though. Before you invoke your inner Samantha Jones and turn every situation into a cuss-able moment, Philipp also pointed out that using swearwords as part of your everyday vocabulary could actually weaken the effect. So if you want to use your swears as a healing tool, choose your verbal tirades wisely.
Also worth noting? Swearing is never a cure-all solution for major life events, heartbreak or trauma. In cases like that, only good old-fashioned time and potential clinical care can really help.
Still, sometimes it just feels really f—ing good to break social norms, doesn’t it? Well now we have an official excuse to. At least once in a while, anyhow.