Why Cursing Is Actually Beneficial for Your Mental Health

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One of the most beloved characters on one of TV’s most beloved shows is known, funnily enough, for his furious, no-punches-pulled profanity. Roy Kent hobbles through Ted Lasso cursing his “prick” teammates, his “wanker” of a coach and his “fucking” knee, which is responsible for the early end to his career and his daily dose of excruciating pain.

But Kent often uses that profanity for good, too, hence his universal popularity. When Rebecca Welton, the owner of AFC Richmond, starts dating around and remarks that a potential beau is “fine,” Kent explodes with one of the best lines of the show: “You deserve someone who makes you feel like you’ve been struck by fucking lightning! Don’t you dare settle for fine!” One of Ted Lasso‘s sweetest relationships, meanwhile, is between Kent and his grade-school niece, Phoebe, with whom he regularly drops every word under the sun. (It’s a costly habit; Phoebe keeps a swear jar, which sucks Kent of funds, and also starts habitually cursing in class to mimic her hero “Uncle Roy”…which gets her into hot water.)

It’s hard to argue that Kent’s habit makes anyone else’s life worse, though — if anything, he’s a reliable truth-teller and an endless reservoir for comic relief. Which makes him a golden example for the surprising, subversive impact of profanity. Its penchant for delivering both honesty and humor — as outlined in a recent column by Arthur C. Brooks for The Atlantic — is profound enough that we should consider it a mental health asset.

Brooks acknowledges that nearly half of all swearing is a response to anger and frustration. (This according to research published in 2006.) Frequent, hostile cursing is linked with Type-A personalities, unhappiness and a litany of disagreeable traits. Understandably, it’s difficult to foster kinship with a boss who swears at you over the phone or an in-law who curses at waitstaff.

But mindful profanity, of the sort that is meant for one’s own emotional release, or to inject levity or understanding into a conversation with another, can be a potent tool. Brooks cites a study where various participants plunging their hands into frigid water actually experienced less pain when they swore. In interpersonal relationships, meanwhile, people choice swearing has been shown to engender camaraderie and neutralize social distress.

Obviously, you have to read the room. Kent makes no concessions for anyone or any situation, which seems to be working out for him, but ultimately, he’s a fictional character on a television show. But in identifying reasonably appropriate situations, or going out on a lark where you think you (and those around you) just might benefit from some profanity, you might find a couple curses here and there well worth it.

Brooks recommends retaining some metacongition on your expletives (that’s to say — making sure you’re always aware you’re saying them, instead of just letting them fly without any meaning attached), rationing them so they’re “nice and fresh” and never using them to abuse or harass another person, at which point all of your credibility is lost. Not to mention: if you do want to curse as a response to anger and frustration, consider creating a “swear space” in your life (a room, a time you’re in your car), where you can deploy them as a form of scream therapy.

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