Indication of individual moral code?
By Melissa C. Water
Some words stand out among others, especially when they come from those affected by the aspect of Tourette Syndrome that causes involuntary profanity. Unfortunately, this crudeness can disguise the real person behind the swearing. It’s easy to forget that although someone with this form of tic will have harsh words forced from them, it is no reflection of who they are behind the noise.
Though they may be desperate to blend in, there are those who can’t help but stand out. While some may perceive any sudden unseemly outbursts as an indication of poor values, it actually often means the opposite.
The yelling of this ugly language is not out of anger, nor out of disrespect. Any strong tones do not represent any feelings behind the usual use of such a provocative statement. These words are not aimed at any one person, and although there may sometimes be a visual or auditory trigger for these words, the reasoning is mostly an inability to keep from saying what we most fear to, or what we know is unacceptable.
As a person who experiences tics of this form known as coprolalia, I can tell you that the words I shout are not characterized by those that others find offensive, but rather the ones that I personally feel are wrong. If I’m unaware of a term being taboo, or if I don’t personally consider it to be obscene, the coprolalia will not manifest the use of it.
If your loved one experiences this, take consolation that when they yell racist slurs or general foul language, the meanings for them can actually be of strong feelings against discrimination rather than for it.
It may be that these slurs upset and embarrass those in our family or social circle, especially when in public. Reactions that follow may be to reprove the person uttering these words. In truth though, the most supportive way to approach the matter is to let them know you are doing what you can to understand, and that you are honestly proud of the beliefs that these phrases actually reflect.
Telling those who shout these obscenities to stop, or to try harder to suppress them, will only increase feelings of anxiety and shame towards what they already believe is wrong. If these outbursts are made, the person is already aware of its negative implications. Compounding the existing difficulty of the issue with reproaches adds to heightened stress that in turn contributes to further tics, as well as feelings of being misunderstood and alienated.
One of my fonder memories of when my tics would release in the form of cussing was when a good friend of mine would respond to each manifestation with a very affectionate, “I love you,” as well as a fond look in her eyes that I held dear. These three words made such a difference in how I felt about myself, as well as to lift my feelings of believing that I was a burden to those around me.
I offer hats off to those who face this confrontational tic. I also extend recognition to those who lovingly understand and support them.
Melissa is the Virtual Support Coordinator for Tourette Canada. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.