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Can swearing help you beat stress? F**k yeah
Warning: this feature contains a high level of profanity. Tracy Ramsden meets the therapists teaching expression through expletives
It’s 10.30 on a Saturday morning and I am in a London hotel room, shuffling awkwardly from foot to foot while doing half-hearted jazz hands. To my right, a woman – late twenties, leather jeans – kicks out her Converse, arms windmilling like a child at Disneyland. On my left, a thirtysomething man in jeans hops around barefoot, playing air maracas in the manner of Bez. There is no music. Yet 35 people are dancing their hearts out, heads back, eyes closed in abandonment. Welcome to F**k It school, where nobody gives a shit.
The brainchild of John Parkin and his wife Gaia Pollini, two former London ad execs turned maverick healers, the F**k It philosophy is the art of giving less of a damn. Caring too much about what other people think is a predominantly female malaise. In his book The Stressed Sex, psychologist Daniel Freeman analysed the best evidence available: 12 large-scale, national epidemiological surveys from the UK, the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa and Chile. A remarkably consistent picture emerged: in any given year, women appear to experience higher rates of stress disorders than men. In fact, the difference is typically 40 per cent. According to a similar study by the University of the Basque Country, women simply feel guiltier than men. It was Erica Jong who said, ‘Show me a woman who doesn’t feel guilty and I will show you a man.’
This could go some way to explaining the spike in thirtysomething professional women booking into F**k It retreats. (The asterisks, incidentally, are purely there so the website gets through your work’s computer firewall.) They now turn away up to ten people per session, and John and Gaia have recently launched their first women-only retreat. Today, in London, the backdrop is a far cry from the sun-drenched Italian hills where the couple live and have quietly been preaching the art of profanity since 2008.
‘But it’s easy to relax in paradise, right?’ John says. ‘In London, we’re helping people to switch off when they’re moving at 100mph in a world of constant distraction.’ Sirens wailing from the street below emphasise his point. According to Gaia, one’s early thirties are prime F**k It territory. ‘We are told, look at all these opportunities, now go get them!’ she says. ‘But nobody is there to teach us how to edit our options, so we end up guided by external messages from friends, parents, bosses, mass media, Twitter and Facebook rather than by what we feel inside. Our retreats are about saying “fuck it” to all the incessant chatter out there.’
It’s something that Kate, 34, can identify with, she tells me when we are paired up for an exercise. She runs her own social-media marketing agency and discovered the F**k It philosophy in 2011. ‘I was going through a rough patch with my business, wondering whether to jack it all in,’ she explains. ‘At the same time, all my mates were settling down and having babies, and I kept reading headlines about ticking biological clocks. It left me panicked. Somehow, the stakes feel higher when you hit 30. F**k It helped me to tune it all out and work out what I wanted, not what I thought I ought to be doing.’
In her book,Eyes Wide Open: How to Make Smart Decisions in a Confusing World, Noreena Hertz claims that we have to make up to 10,000 trivial decisions every day – 227 of which are just about what we eat and drink. And although the consequences of a skinny latte versus a flat white are minimal, throw in a biggie about your health, job or relationships and you’re looking at some serious low-level but constant anxiety.
Video: Fck That: An Honest Meditation
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