Hurt yourself? Try f**king swearing
Cussing relieves pain, psychologists confirm
A team from Blighty's Keele University has confirmed what all of us who've ever hit our thumbs with a hammer have known for years - that swearing can relieve pain.
To confirm this foul-mouthed finding, psychologist Richard Stephens and his colleagues asked 67 student volunteers to stick their hands in icy water and either gob off with the expletive of their choice or "chant a neutral word", as Scientific American puts it.
Those indulging in cussing said they suffered "less pain and on average endured about 40 seconds longer".
The explanation may lie in "evolutionarily ancient structures" in the right half of the brain, such as the amygdala, which triggers a "fight-or-flight response in which our heart rate climbs and we become less sensitive to pain".
Unlike non-offensive language, which "relies on the outer few millimeters in the left hemisphere of the brain", cussing appears to be linked to the amygdala - a fact suggested by a rise in the subjects' heart rates when they swore.
Psychologist Steven Pinker of Harvard University explained that bad language may form part of an animalistic defence reflex. He said: "I suspect that swearing taps into a defensive reflex in which an animal that is suddenly injured or confined erupts in a furious struggle, accompanied by an angry vocalization, to startle and intimidate an attacker."
Richard Stephens agreeably concluded: "Swearing is such a common response to pain that there has to be an underlying reason why we do it. I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear."
The team's findings are published in the journal NeuroReport. The abstract is here. ®
Have you just hit your foot daddy?
My own recent non-scientific experiment would concur with these findings. During some recent DIY maintenance I was distracted by my three year old daughter toddling towards the hole in which I was working, enough to hit my own foot with the sledge hammer I was using. Because of her presence I could not use the vernacular and I can testify it hurt more and for longer than if I had been able to explete. My pain was further compounded by her innocent questioning "Daddy, have you just hit your foot?" the answer through gritted teeth was "Yes darling I have" and, as I hobbled out of the hole "does it hurt daddy?" - it would have hurt a damned sight less had I been able to say "Of course is f@</ing hurts, oh sh1t and bl@@dy balls"!!!!! This is the real reason you never see young children on building sites.
Why wait till you hurt yourself?
The more BOFHly amongst us will assuredly inflict pain on others while also swearing at them. It certainly helps make me feel better.
"Our big cat definitely swears loudly when you tread on his feet."
With all due respect, your fat moggy is by no stretch a "big cat".
"And the whole point of the huge amounts of training that martial artists go through is so that they can do things DESPITE generations of evolution. What they do is logical, sure, but it ain't what the vast majority of the animal kingdom (including us) do when we are in pain."
If you say so. Believe what you like. Personally, looking past the pain to figure out what to do next makes more sense that bitching about something that already happened. I don't LIKE pain, mind, but allowing pain to keep me from doing what needs to be done when I'm hurt isn't an option. Instead of turning my mind off, I use it to focus. As I said, it's a survival thing.
Dealing with pain can also be a "living life to its fullest" thing ... Have you ever actually tasted what a habañero tastes like? They taste of tropical fruit salad ... mango, banana, papaya, starfruit, citrus and pineapple (sometimes) ... Lovely stuff, if you can get past the heat.
No, I'm not into BDSM ... but I understand why some people are. More power to 'em :-)
"So I don't think there is any evidence that the scientists are, as you so inelegantly call them, fuckwits; and. with respect, I think the only person talking bollocks is you."
Whatever. From my point of view, the experiment was badly designed & inelegant, yielding results that will not stand up to peer review. YMMV.