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People who badmouth others undermine their own physical, mental health

17 Comments

“The way that woman dresses! The makeup she wears! Doesn’t she see herself? Doesn’t she know that that look went out of fashion 100 years ago?”

“Imagine my mother-in-law, going to a gym at her age! How long does she plan to live anyway?”

And so on and so on. It’s what the Japanese call warukuchi – bad-mouthing. Endemic at the best of times, it’s worse now, with COVID-19 stressing us all beyond the most elementary civility.

Josei Seven (Nov 19) uncovers a new twist to this age-old social problem. Warukuchi is bad for your health. It can shorten your life – by as much as five years. Really, you’d be better off sweetening your bitter thoughts, if at all possible.

The trouble is, it feels so good. You can analyze the satisfaction it brings psychologically, socially or chemically. The chemical in question is dopamine, otherwise known as the pleasure hormone, secreted by the brain to encourage us in certain pursuits – reproduction, among others – that we might neglect otherwise. It’s a kind of natural high, and cutting other people down to size stimulates its flow.

The psychology of it is not terribly mysterious. Calling someone ugly makes you feel beautiful; if you neighbor, boss, spouse and political representatives are idiots, you, by implication, are intelligent; if this or that person has the morals of the sewer, you are virtue personified.

 Any social activity, however friendly, activates a competitive streak in us. “We’re always comparing ourselves to others,” says neurologist Risa Sugiura. “To fall short is to feel inferior, which brings on stress., which calls for redress.” Redress stimulates dopamine secretion. Being natural, dopamine should be harmless and even beneficial – as, in moderate doses, it is. If we were all content to feel moderately good, there’d be no such thing as addiction. But warukuchi, like other satisfactions, stimulates an appetite for more satisfaction, and still more. Suddenly you find yourself bad-mouthing everyone and everything – often for nothing.

Granted that warukuchi is a bad social habit, why should it be unhealthy? Because, says psychiatrist Shion Kabasawa, the brain is so configured that the taunts and insults you fling at others boomerang on you, wounding you no less than your targets.

Picture this, he says: you’re walking down the street and hear someone bellow, “You damn fool!” Your instinctive response, quicker than thought, is a fearful alertness. It’s triggered by the amygdala, the brain’s most primitive region. We have it in common with the lowest animals. The thinking part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, is slower. By the time it kicks in, assuring you that the shout has nothing to do with you, the damage has been done – negligible enough in this case, but stress accumulates, and every little bit counts.

Kabasawa’s startling insight is that the amygdala makes no distinction between what you hear and what you say. Whether someone bad-mouths you, or you bad-mouth someone, the  amygdala braces equally for danger. Your own bad-mouthing of others is, from its point of view, as much a threat as someone else’s of you. In bad-mouthing others you’re stressing yourself. The more you do it the more stressed you become. Stress leads to overeating and poor-quality sleep, with their attendant health dangers.

 And the more you activate your amygdala, the more your prefrontal cortex must, so to speak, speak reason to it to calm it down. Overworking the prefrontal cortex in this manner, says Kabasawa, can exhaust it prematurely, generating memory loss and other symptoms reminiscent of dementia.

These are weighty reasons for reining in your tongue – or your fingers, if social networking is your medium. It’s an imperfect world and these are tense times, Kabasawa admits. There’s a lot to carp about. Some bad-mouthing is natural and even healthy. Josei Seven’s implied message is: Keep it within bounds.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

17 Comments
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the brain is so configured that the taunts and insults you fling at others boomerang on you, wounding you no less than your targets.

The Golden Rule wins every time.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

It's called karma.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

People who badmouth others undermine their own physical, mental health

explains a lot about people here.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Why is it that the first thing I thought of when I saw this article was 'Trump'?

6 ( +9 / -3 )

People who read articles like this undermine their own mental health...

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Josei Seven is hardly a scientific or medical journal so if what they're saying is true, that speaking ill of someone can shorten your life by five years, why isn't trump dead already?

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Pukey2Today  09:50 am JST

Why is it that the first thing I thought of when I saw this article was 'Trump'?

That's what I thought too! All he does is sass off like a brat, and he projects his hateful demeanor on everyone else.

dbsaiyaToday  11:26 am JST

Josei Seven is hardly a scientific or medical journal so if what they're saying is true, that speaking ill of someone can shorten your life by five years, why isn't trump dead already?

That's all he is. Boastful, bragging, arrogant and loves to bully eeryone else. Yet there's Stormy Daniels and that magazine. Maybe deep down inside he really can't stand himself either. Either way he has not handled the stresses of the office very well because he never took responsibility for anything. All he has done is run his motormouth and sling boorish hateful trash.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I do not hang around with people like that, I make a real point of not wasting my time with negative people.

If they're bad mouthing other people to you, they're probably bad mouthing you to other people.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I disagree with this. People who bad mouth others seem to have very long lives, making those around them miserable. How many sweet, really old people do you actually know? I mean a few, maybe, but really?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

explains a lot about people here.

I thought of posting something like that, but then I realized how embarrassingly contradictory it would have been.

How many sweet, really old people do you actually know? I mean a few, maybe, but really?

I find the oldest people to be generally very positive. There are exceptions, of course. But when I watch old people and wonder what the secret is to their life, I notice sparkling eyes, an easy laugh, and a lot of activity.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

FarmboyToday  05:40 am JST

I disagree with this. People who bad mouth others seem to have very long lives, making those around them miserable. How many sweet, really old people do you actually know? I mean a few, maybe, but really?

There are some. Some of the older vets I know at my local VA chapter are pretty cool, they can tell you a thing or two interesting about their lives and/or careers. Some of them are like 'Yoda's.

And then you have these nasty barracudas and lippy loudmouths who bellyache about everything under the sun. Then they wonder why they ain't got no friends.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Everybody's done it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The emotions of hate and fear can be very powerful motivators, but at a very high cost. Those consumed by hate and fear are capable of amazing feats, but they risk destroying themselves, as well as those they stigmatize.

Thus, in the end, I prefer slow and steady, even boring, leadership, rather than flashy and entertaining showmanship.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

How many sweet, really old people do you actually know? I mean a few, maybe, but really?

@ Farmboy: I'm going to call out the ageism in this comment. I have a few questions.

How do you define "really old"? By the numbers on a birth certificate? Isn't it relative? For example, any 13 year-old will undoubtedly think that their parents are "way too old to have sex" and that such indulgence is disgusting. Does that make it true?

How many "really old" people do you know? That is work with, live with, interact with in a meaningful way other than watching them pass on the street or in shops? The more "really old" people--or people of any age group--that you know, the greater your chance of finding sweetness in them.

And if you do meet a "really old" person who seems less than sweet during your brief encounter, have you considered their situation from a default position of compassion? Isn't everyone is entitled to a bad day when they slip up and let their irritation show? Might there be a good reason--physical pain, recent bereavement, bad news or the like--that might colour their responses in the moment? Couldn't you extend them a measure of grace?

Just asking...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There are posters on this forum who seem to enjoy bad mouthing and insulting others. Guess hiding behind the internet allows them the space to do that.

But on a serious level there are trolls, and internet bullies who do it even to young people who end up ending their lives over it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Bad mouthing is a waste of precious time

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In Japan not only bad mouthing is forbidden but just critical thinking when the obvious must be discussed like Suga is not leading a proper policy against covid so he is totally incompetent although boasting like a rooster, even in the medical where he has no competence either.

Bad mouthing is what some only have to exist. I try to level them up rather to ignore them, because they are ignorant for most, and far from necessarily bad person.

Here hardly no one will tell you bad about a person to avoid breaking the ha harmony.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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