MOMF: How to Cuss Yourself Out and Feel Better
Let me start by throwing out that I am not your conventional psychologist. I don’t sit quietly and nod my head, and I don’t ask how you feel about that. I’m sure it is associated with my unconventional training. Back when I was young and knew everything, I had a professor who used to playfully ask me, “Who the hell do you think you are?” when I pontificated on various topics, most notably parenting (which is extraordinary because I had yet to experience being a parent). It was his way of calling me out on my narcissism. I think that is when I first learned to use profanity for self-improvement.
The Voice Inside Your Head is Your Own
We all have an inner voice that is yapping away most of the time. Sometimes the voice is critical; sometimes it is scary; sometimes it is validating. The point is that the voice is incessant. It is important that we are aware that the inner voice is our own and what the inner voice is saying affects how we feel. In a nutshell, that is cognitive-behavioral theory. The self-talk comes from how we are biologically wired and early life experiences. If the self-talk is positive and validating, we feel good and happy. If it is dysfunctional or self-defeating, we feel anxiety, irritation, and overwhelmed. Psychologists, like me, help folks identify their negative self-talk and argue back with it in order to feel better. I tell people to identify the crazy things they say to themselves, and prove that those things are true (with actual evidence) in order to determine if the self-talk is valid. For example, if you are worried about not having money to pay bills because you don’t have money, well, perhaps that worry is useful in order to get you to do something different. If you are worried that you won’t be liked by another person without facts to back it up, that is just self-torture.
Similarly, psychologists also teach mindfulness techniques, which are aimed at identifying what you are thinking and letting go. Mindfulness techniques are less about arguing with your self-talk and more about just noticing it and not reacting. Mindfulness is about acceptance. Acceptance is just acknowledging that it is what it is, but it is not that you don’t care. Letting go is looking around and saying, “This is the situation whether I like it or not, but I am not going to get worked up about it by judging it.” I tell my patients to notice the negative self-talk, and say, “There I go again. I’m not going to listen to that voice. It makes me feel crazy.”
Enter Profanity — MOMF
There is a lot of research to back up that cognitive-behavioral and mindfulness techniques work to improve mood and well-being. However, there are times when you just need a little more. I like to introduce humor, and that is when the profanity comes into play. I integrated cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and profanity to develop MOMF or Move on Mother Fucker. And, yes, you are the mother fucker. MOMF is a method of identifying when you are thinking self-defeating thoughts. You imagine your cool, calm self putting your arm around your stressed self — like a friend — saying, “Move on Mother Fucker” — meaning, “Let it go. Move on. Enough already.” It is not done in a way that is self-abusive or derogatory. It is done so that you are being a friend to yourself.
Why does MOMF work? Simply introducing profanity in a way that is funny works to defuse people from self-defeating thoughts. The key is to inject humor into the equation, and it can neutralize the emotions. MOMF is calling yourself out for getting in the way of getting better… for holding onto the past or things that cause pain. You acknowledge that you are part of the problem, but you are able to laugh at yourself. Many people get stuck in painful or negative thoughts and just can’t seem to let go. I think that MOMF catapults people beyond the emotional barriers that get in the way of accepting reality. It is acknowledging that yes, we all screw up. As Elizabeth Lesser wrote in Broken Open, we are all “bozos on the bus.” We are all human beings with quirks, baggage, and crazy self-talk. Once you accept that as reality and let go, you are free. When you use MOMF, you actually have control over feeling better. I will add that you cannot be effective in the future until you accept where you are …. good and bad.
MOMF’ing is not just moving forward mindlessly. MOMF’ing is not about forgetting. MOMF’ing is not about giving up on caring. MOMF’ing is about taking a moment, analyzing your self-talk, reflecting on what can be learned, and making the conscious decision to move from the past into the present. MOMF’ing is about transcendence.
1. When you second guess your decisions, MOMF! What’s done is done. Let’s see where it goes without judging and sabotaging.
2. When you are worried what someone thinks about you, MOMF! They have their own issues. How is helpful to be what someone else wants you to be anyway? (In actuality, they probably aren’t even thinking about you. My guess is they’re thinking about porn.)
3. When you mess up on your diet, MOMF! The more you beat yourself up, the more likely you are to stay off track. Reflect, instead, on what you learned when thing went awry.
4. When you get too caught up in what your friends are doing on social media, MOMF! It isn’t reality anyway. You’re getting worked up about fiction.
5. When you have a hard time getting past the election, MOMF! Look around. Accept. Take stock. Make a plan, but it’s over. Every circumstance brings opportunity. Maybe you too can become president.
6. When you notice that you are about to repeat past patterns of bad choices, don’t MOMF. Run Mother Fucker!