Last week at work, we were meeting to develop a course outline for training foster parents who are interested in serving higher-needs children. One component of training will be what behaviors to expect from these troubled and angry kids. One of the things a foster parent must be ready for, and be ready to let go of feelings of offense over, is colorful and sometimes quite imaginative profanity. This is common to almost all the verbal children care, sometimes learned from their parents, sometimes from the other children, but almost always present.
When we were talking about this, I remembered reading about a study that seemed to point toward profanity offering relief or protection from physical pain, and I wondered if the use of profanity by children in the foster care system (or anywhere, really) indicated that it might also help dull emotional pain. Since some of our neural pathways related to mood are also related to pain, (which is why chronic physical pain is one of the red flags for depression), it certainly seems plausible to me. And if it’s true for children, I would think it would be true for adults, too. Maybe the alcohol at the local bar isn’t the only thing easing existential pain.