Podcast: Can Swearing Improve Mental Health?
Ouch! You stub your toe or burn your finger and a curse word comes flying out. It’s automatic — and it probably makes you feel a little better. But have you ever considered specifically using curse words as a way to improve your mental health? That’s the idea behind our guest’s new book “Move On MF’er.”
In today’s show, we welcome psychologist and author Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt who explains how swearing can help us relieve the pain that overrides logic.
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Guest information for ‘Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt- Can Swearing Improve Mental Health’ Podcast Episode
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt is a board-certified health psychologist who swears her way to sanity using cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, humor, positive psychology, and profanity. Jodie has more than 25 years of professional experience helping others find meaning in a crazy world. Follow Jodie and get some inspiration on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @jeckleberryhunt and at jodieeckleberryhunt.com.
About The Psych Central Podcast Host
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt- Can Swearing Improve Mental Health’ Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to the Psych Central Podcast, where guest experts in the field of psychology and mental health share thought-provoking information using plain, everyday language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.
Gabe Howard: Hey, everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of The Psych Central Podcast, I’m your host Gabe Howard, and calling into the show today we have Dr. Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt. Dr. Eckleberry-Hunt is a board-certified health psychologist who swears her way to sanity using cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, humor, positive psychology and, of course, profanity. Jodie has more than 25 years of professional experience helping others find meaning in a crazy world Jodie. Welcome to the show.
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: Hello, it’s great to be here.
Gabe Howard: Thank you so much for being here. You know, Jodie, I wrote a book called Mental Illness Is an Asshole. And I get a lot of pushback from people who don’t like the swear word in the title. Now, the name of your new book is Move On MF’er, except it’s not MF’er. We’ve cleaned it up for the family show. It’s the whole word. Do you get pushback when people see that title?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: Interestingly enough, maybe I’ve insulated myself somewhat, the only person who’s really given me significant pushback is my mother who said, Oh my gosh, where did you learn that word? We never talked that way at home. What will my friends think? But what I have found mostly is people laugh. Their very first response is a good belly laugh. I think it’s pretty good if that’s the only bad feedback I’ve gotten so far.
Gabe Howard: I love the title because this is the way people talk. The reality is the majority of people are not sitting around at home wondering about their emotional well-being. They’re not wondering about the state of their mental health, right? They’re wondering if they’re going effing nuts. I talk to people all the time and this is how we talk. I’m going effing crazy. And even if we remove the effing, we say I’m going crazy. While I understand why we need to be professional about mental health and mental illness, and I support that 100%, I also think that we need to connect with the people we’re trying to help. Was that sort of your thinking in the title of the book?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: Absolutely. Essentially, how I came about, it was a whole personal experience and I learned that profanity packs a good punch and it also injects a little humor into very painful situations. And so then I experimented using some of this profanity, targeted profanity with people that I work with. And what I found was people really connected to this, to very common language, but just the ability to laugh at oneself. And then I realized that a lot of what we do in psychology isn’t accessible to the average person. Maybe they don’t have mental health benefits or maybe they’re thinking, gosh, that’s not for me. I would feel too weird. I just don’t connect. I don’t understand some of the language or concepts. And so I guess I put all of that together, at least I tried to in this self-help book so that people could access psychology in a very everyday way and apply it to themselves. That was my overarching goal, was to make psychology accessible to the average person in a way that they could connect to.
Gabe Howard: Well, we’ve spent a lot of time on the title, so I suppose that we should tell the listeners what it’s about. Now, the quick description or the elevator pitch, if you will, is it combines all of the evidence-based psychological techniques, CBT, mindfulness and profanity into a seamless, fun and hilarious self-help method, minus all the confusing psychobabble. Can you elaborate on what the book’s about?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: Yes, and you know what, I think some people have very quickly tried to call me out thinking that the title of the book was merely just an attention getter and it’s not. It truly encompasses the philosophy of the book. In psychology, the technique of cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is recognizing that we all have this internal dialog, what I call the inner MF’er, and it says things to us. Why are you doing that? You shouldn’t do that. Oh, my gosh, that was terrible. What are you going to do now? You’re such an idiot. I can’t believe you said that. So the technique is learning to identify that and argue back with it, that’s CBT. And mindfulness is being able to be present and self-aware and being able to let things go. But I’ll tell you, it doesn’t always work that seamlessly in using those techniques, because we have these horrible, painful emotions, shame and guilt, oftentimes emotional brainwashing from childhood or traumatic experiences or whatever else has gone into forming that. And those feelings override logic. What I found was a literature on profanity. And because we’re taught at a very young age, you shouldn’t say that, those are bad words. They’re off-limits. We have those words stored in a different part of the brain. They’re special. So those words pack a special punch. So if we can add in the profanity, It helps somehow relieve some of the pain that overrides logic.
Gabe Howard: So let’s talk about the Move On MF’er approach. We see a lot of self-help books. What makes the Move On MF’er technique different? What is like step one?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: So I teach people the cognitive behavioral therapy to identify the themes in your negative self-talk based on maybe how you see the world. If you’re a negative person and you always see the negative first, or maybe you’re a pleaser and you’re always trying to make people happy. So understanding your programming and what kind of themes are in the things that you say to yourself and then also teaching people to be mindful again, self-aware in the moment. So some of the basic stuff. But then comes the fun part, which is helping people identify what profanities really pack punch, because that’s individual to people. Some things, some words people find offensive. And so you wouldn’t want to use those. And it’s also we don’t want you to be self-abusive. It’s not meant to beat yourself up. The words are meant to get you to laugh or to be encouraging. What words will sound like what our friend would say to you? Because ultimately, it’s trying to get you to be a friend to yourself. Once you get those words down and you’re identifying the times when you’re beating yourself up or you feel lousy and you want to do some exploration about why that is. The key in putting all of this together, the thing that is so important is helping people recognize, OK, there I go again. And at this point, because I’m enlightened, I have a choice. I can choose to listen to that crazy voice in my head or I can say, no, I’ve been down that path. I know where it leads me. It’s nowhere good. I’m not going to do that today. So it’s being consciously aware and deliberative and recognizing we have the choice whether or not to play the mf’er in that equation.
Gabe Howard: Let’s say that I am somebody who just sees the world negatively, I see the worst in everything. I’m very pessimistic. I hate everything. Can you give an example of how this technique might snap me out of that so that I can be a more pleasant person?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: Yeah, well, this will be a very relevant example, you turn on the morning news, which is always negative anyway, so it’s a great way to get those negative thoughts started. And you start to say to yourself, well, the world is just a screwed-up place. I can’t believe that this and this happened. Well, this just really sucks. And so you clench your jaw and you start to just feel nasty. It’s recognizing, OK, there I go again. Let’s stop. Let me stop and think about this. What is the evidence? What is the overwhelmingly convincing evidence that I’m going to have a bad day? Am I psychic? Do I know that already? So you start to argue back with yourself, already being mindful that you’re going there and being able to say, and again, I’m going to stick with mf’er because it’s easiest for me. You know what, MF’er, you’ve been down that path. If you continue to do what you’re going to do, what you’re doing right now, you’re going to have a headache. You’re going to be nasty with people. Do you really want to go there? What else? What’s another way to look at it? And at that point, it’s deciding what’s going to work for you in your wellness toolbox to help you reset. I’m a huge fan of even just doing ten minutes of aerobic exercise. Maybe it is doing a relaxation exercise, maybe it is doing a little bit of journaling. But whatever it is to help you interrupt the pattern that you set that’s been toxic in your life. And again, I didn’t use a lot of the profanities or curse words, as I described it to you, because I don’t know what’s going to work for a particular person, but it’s whatever is going to. The other term, I like to say is, OK, crazy ass, not going to go there today. So it’s inserting the words again, talking to yourself like a friend.
Gabe Howard: Is it all about finding words that are maybe unusual for you or just out of the ordinary, something to jar your mind? So just using words that are relatable, understandable, but also different, or I believe the words you used were pack an emotional punch or just stand out in some way? Is that the general theory or concept behind the technique?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: It is. For the hardcore research from the cognitive psychologists and the neurolinguistic is the profanities tend to do that because they’re stored in a different part of the brain. So, it is packing the punch. But the thing I really like and encourage is packing a punch that also gets you to laugh at yourself. Elizabeth Lesser wrote a book, Broken Open, and she talks about the example of if we can all just accept that we’re bozos on the bus and there is no bus for the cool people, the people who don’t have problems, there is no separate bus. We’ve got to quit telling ourselves that we’re on the loser bus. We’re all bozos on the bus. I like the profanities or the words that get people to laugh at themselves. I used to have a professor who gave me an essay on perfectionism and it was a very professionally, academically written essay. But my take home from it, which I use regularly in my own life, is who the hell do you think you are that you get to be perfect while the rest of us are out here being crazy humans?
Gabe Howard: I can only see the world through the lens of my own eyes, but I think I don’t think I’m perfect at all, are there people that think that everything is going well and perfect? I suppose to really get to the crux of my question, who is this book perfect to? What is the makeup of the person who would absolutely benefit from this technique?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: I think if you asked people rationally, do you think that you’re perfect, 100% of people would say, no, I don’t, but that’s the mind and the heart goes a different way and the heart keeps telling people you should be or at least you should try to be. And it keeps pushing for that. And so the MOMF, M O M F, Move On MF’er is about calling that out and saying, no, that’s screwed up, that’s screwed up programming. So I don’t think that people are out there striving for perfection rationally. I think that it’s a drive and it’s a messed-up drive. The second part of your question about who the book is really good for, I will say flat out it is not a primary treatment for serious mental health issues. If you have depression, you don’t just move on. I’m not saying that people who have depression couldn’t benefit from some of the things in this book. And it’s also not for somebody who’s primarily being treated for trauma, a past history of trauma. You don’t just move on. However, it is good for people out there struggling with everyday stressors and with feeling bad about themselves.
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Gabe Howard: And we’re back with the author of Move On Motherf***er, Dr. Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt. What personal techniques from the MOMF method do you personally use most frequently?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: One thing that I am very honest about is that I have generalized anxiety disorder, and as I describe some of the things that I use to treat people, I’m also very familiar with the pain of anxiety and the paralyzing self-doubt and guilt and shame that seem to come out of nowhere. And one of the most common times that comes out is around 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning when I wake up and I have these crazy thoughts. And as painful as it is to admit this, I will wake up and have this feeling of something is not right and my mind will go through what could it be? And I’ll say, oh, somebody in the family has died. And if I spend time thinking about that, I’m up for two hours. If I argue the thoughts, I’m up for two hours. But with MOMF, if I say, oh, no, you crazy ass, that’s not real. This is your mind playing tricks on you and you’re not going to go there. And again, if I can laugh, it takes away whatever pain that was squeezing my insides and I just let go and I’m able to sleep better. That’s my favorite technique.
Gabe Howard: Anything that leads to a calming feeling and of course, I feel that sleep is just very misunderstood and devalued in this country. So I really appreciate that. I think, though, I still am a little hung up on the idea of what makes the MOMF method work so well. Can you provide some feedback surrounding just what gives it its oomph?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: I think my hesitance is that I don’t know that I fully understand all of that myself. Again, I could look at the research and talk to you about the way that profanities are stored in the brain, but I don’t think that’s entirely it. I think that when I’ve used it with people, it has just come so far out of left field that it just blows their mind a bit. And again, hearing it from a professional, people are typically, Oh, I didn’t expect you to say that. But it just makes very complex things, concepts, techniques, accessible. People feel less alone, less isolated. And somebody had asked me recently, how come we can be such a good friend to other people and say such horrible things to ourselves? Gosh, if a friend came to you and said, I just lost my job and I’m just I feel so inadequate, I feel horrible, I’m not good enough. Nobody’s ever going to hire me. I’m never going to go anywhere. Would you then say to the friend, yeah, you’re right? You really do suck. I’ve been thinking about telling you that for a long time. You should just give it up. And people usually look at me with this horror, no, I would never talk to my friend that way.
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: Then why would you talk to yourself that way? So, this person who was interviewing me, said, why are we so well able to do that for other people, but not for ourselves? And my response was, I think it’s because we’re not looking into our own eyes. We’re looking into the eyes of another human being. And it’s so much easier to extend that compassion and empathy, and we don’t do that for ourselves. I’m also well known for a tough love approach. Certainly, people who have come to see me in my office because I do really care about people, but I don’t see them as a victim. I see people as survivors and I am more likely to say, get your ass up and let’s fight this. Let’s do it together. I do honor what people have been through, but I don’t get into spending a lot of time feeling sorry for people. And so I also think the approach of talking back to yourself with profanity is about seeing oneself as a survivor and strong and able to hear that and can get the energy to muster to do something about it.
Gabe Howard: That is awesome, and I appreciate that answer a lot. Now, I noticed that in the book it has self-awareness exercises or journaling. Do you have a favorite journaling or self-awareness exercise?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: Yes, the chapter is about getting over past hurt. I specifically don’t use the term forgiveness because people are offended by that term. They don’t feel like others deserve forgiveness. But I talk about finding peace. Finding peace starts with really making an inventory of the hurt that you need to find peace around. And I think a lot of people get frustrated around the process or the journey to finding peace because there is a start date, but there’s no end date and they don’t know how long it’s going to take. But I tell people that breaking it down and making a complete inventory is a way of honoring and realizing the things that you actually are consciously trying to let go of. And I think that there needs to be some time around that in breaking it down so that you understand how each of those things impacted you going forward so that you can make a decision about the meaning you want to take from those insults or events or hurts.
Gabe Howard: Now, aside from swearing, how does Move On MF’er differ from other self-help methods?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: I think that it is the emphasis on holding yourself accountable, it is recognizing that we all have a choice, and if you want to have a bad day or you want to let some jerk who cut you off in traffic, if you want to let that person ruin your day, then go for it. But it is a choice. And the reason why that is so important is a lot of things that happen in our lives lead us to feel powerless. I think if we really sit down and think about it, we have more power than we recognize and the approach is empowering. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who was in a concentration camp. It was horrific, his whole family was killed and he was trying to make sense of how in such horrible circumstances, people were still going around giving away their last piece of bread. What conclusion he drew was that everything can be taken from a person except for control of your mind, unless you choose to give it away. And I think that is the thing that I try to emphasize in the MOMF approach is that we all have a choice. And even in the worst of circumstances, we get to choose whether or not we let something be a cancer in our mind.
Gabe Howard: Jodie, is there any misconceptions about your book or one thing that you want to make sure that everybody knows about the Move On MF’er method?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: Yes, one thing that concerns me is that people will read the title and jump to the conclusion that I’m just saying get over it, move on, get on with your life. And it’s not that at all. I think that if you take the time to get into the book, you’ll see that there is a whole method of understanding oneself at a deeper level, honoring things that you’ve experienced that have made you the survivor that you are. It is not at all the sound bite of just get over it. And so, I hope that nobody draws that conclusion.
Gabe Howard: It reminds me a little bit of a skit that was out there with Bob Newhart where he did therapy and no matter what problem people had, the answer was stop it. It’s very famous. I recommend that everybody go to YouTube and google Bob Newhart therapy or Bob Newhart, stop it. That’s tongue in cheek, of course. And if you actually saw a therapist do that, you should rightfully find a new therapist. But I understand that this idea of moving on or moving forward, it can seem really you’re just saying, oh, get over it, say a swear word, throw your hands up and move forward. But it’s much more involved in that. Is that really what you want to make sure that people understand
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: Absolutely, I think that says it very well.
Gabe Howard: You’re going to have to do some work. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just buy a book called Move On or Leave It Behind or Stop It? And everything would just be perfect? Like you could charge a lot of money if that book worked exactly that way.
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: If only.
Gabe Howard: I cannot help but love the idea of interjecting real talk into psychology. So often I read these things and they say no psychobabble, but of course they have no real talk either, which sort of leaves many self-help books dangling in this middle area where they’re not quite from the expert perspective, but they’re not quite from the perspective of the people who are actually being helped. And I’m certainly not insulting any of those self-help books, especially whatever works for you. You should absolutely do. But I absolutely love this trend of including the language that we use in our day to day world. Why is this book and talking about Move On MF’er important to you personally?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: I have been given a lot and there are so many things that so many, so many people in need in the world that I would like to contribute something that is accessible to people who I can’t personally help. And how shall I say? I’m not arrogant enough to believe that my book is going to change someone’s life. But if I can give somebody a skill that will help them feel more powerful in their own life, then I’ve been successful. It worked. It’s something I used with myself, something I’ve used with other people, and I just wanted to share it. Not everybody has mental health benefits. Not everybody can go for counseling. But my hope is that the book speaks to somebody who needs to hear it.
Gabe Howard: Jodie, thank you so much for being here. Now the book is called Move On MF’er, except they say the word. So, when you’re googling that’s what you need to look for. Where can we find it?
Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt: It is available with my publisher, at New Harbinger. It is also on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, which is for independent bookstores and your local bookstore. You should be able to get it anywhere they can order it for you.
Gabe Howard: Awesome, and thank you so very much. All right, everybody. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of Mental Illness Is an Asshole. See the trend? Books with swear words. It’s also available on Amazon. Or you can get a signed copy for less money by heading over to gabehoward.com. And I will include some show stickers that you can smack on your laptop or decorate your house with. We also have a super-secret Facebook page. Just go to PsychCentral.com/FBShow and join that. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling anytime, anywhere simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We will see everybody next week. And hey, use that free time between now and next week to subscribe to the show. Rate us, rank us, review us. And hey, it doesn’t hurt to tell a friend. Thanks, everyone.
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