The blog post, Why do people swear and why do I swear, brought me to the effort to stop swearing when some little thing didn’t go right. Such things as dropping a spoon on the floor and thus having to pick it up, would frequently result in a typical swear word being uttered spontaneously. The swearing didn’t happen in a random way – there were conditions where it didn’t happen and there were conditions where it was constant. All of this happens so quickly that my conscious self doesn’t have time to prevent the spontaneous and instantaneous behavior. These observations are an ongoing effort to expose my unconscious self, which I have been calling my zombie, to my conscious self. It is easy to observe instantaneous behaviors, but it turns out to be difficult to control them.
It appears there is a social component to swearing, because when no one is present to hear the expostulation, I either don’t make one, or it is more of a mutter, said to myself than a pronounced word; but, it depends on who is present also, because if I am in a polite social group the swearing doesn’t occur, but if I am in a group where swearing is okay, or even expected, then the spontaneous words will spring out instantaneously. It is like my zombie is monitoring the social environment and has prepared an entire set of appropriate behaviors, including excluding inappropriate spontaneous swear words.
The suppression of the loud utterance may be like hunting, where either I am the prey or the predator, and it’s absolutely essential not to alert the other animal of my presence. This kind of noise repression of behavior could be as old as the first animal that walked on land 375 million years ago, the Tiktaalik. That creature probably exited the water for short periods to avoid predators in the water, similar to the modern flying fish’s behavior, and then eventually became adapted to breathing air. Ticktaalik’s behavior at that moment was to avoid visibility to other creatures, but it would be easily adapted to the aural environment in the air as well. My hereditary stealthy behavior may not go all the way back to the Tiktaalik, but it is certainly ancient. So, why would my zombie start expostulating socially unacceptable words, primarily in a social situation? Did my conscious self train it to do these things to fit particular situations, and if so why?
My zombie is in control, but I can offer some general suggestions.