Who knows the answer to my conundrum — why have I been swearing lately? Life has been getting more pleasant by the year, and with my recently turning 76 it seems I have quite a few opportunities to accumulate improvements, and so when Debbie asked me this afternoon, why I had been swearing so much lately, I was a bit taken aback.
It is true that I have been using obscene words when my computer doesn’t do what I expect of it, and when drivers behave in improper ways it will sometimes generate some statement which would get bleeped on the evening talk shows. Nothing particularly vehement, but all the same the words uttered should be off camera. So I said I would quit saying those words. Debbie thought there should be a list, but it really isn’t the words, it is the emotional relationship to what is happening. I am letting things annoy me which I should be able to let pass me by, especially with my thoughts on morality which have been discussed in this blog. Just a few days ago I posted Everyone is trying to make the world better, and I thought that those ideas and values were deeper into my habitual patterns than my present spate of swearing would indicate. Zeroscaping your life will make you more successful, was another attempt to clarify the important things about one’s personal life and make appropriate choices and adaptations.
Into these optimistic ideal thoughts have come some unpleasant real world moments, and I have been all too quick to release my emotional annoyance with some explicative. Why do I do this? It is unpleasant for those people around me, so it is detrimental to our social relationship. It is unpleasant and in the long run counterproductive for me because it ingrains into my habit structure things which are not helpful to the successful accomplishment of whatever the task is which comes to hand.
Can I stop swearing? A couple of years ago a close friend of mine of many years had fallen into the habit of using swear words in ordinary conversation; I challenged him on that, and we had a several minute conversation about the usage of swear words. The way he was using those unpleasant words was not for explicitness, but as verbal space fillers and for emotionally charging the conversation. As we discussed this, it became apparent to both of us that in those situations using swear words was actually counterproductive for communicating the underlying ideas. To my astonishment he instantly stopped using swear words, at least in normal polite conversation.
My problem with swearing is different; it isn’t to emphasize a point so much as it is an involuntary statement, like ouch. Even that word or the work yikes has much of the quality of a swear word, but those words don’t currently have an unpleasant real world meaning. Usually, my swear words are taking some otherwise positive thing, or a natural bodily function and pronouncing it in a rude and unpleasant tone, but they are spoken almost as a reflex. It’s my inner zombie self acting automatically, but this is an example of that entity acting counter-productively for my and its long term benefit.
Is it better to just stop, cold-turkey, or to replace the spontaneous bursts with a moment of reflection and challenge to improve one’s self? Perhaps I will return to this in a month and reconsider what has come of my efforts.