I LOVE utilizing humor in therapy sessions and for coping with challenging seasons in my own life. In my family of origin, a sense of humor was highly valued. As a child, to get a laugh from grown ups (and my siblings were lumped into this category as they were/are older than me), felt AWESOME and gave me a sense of autonomy and empowerment. This use of humor often translated into a coping mechanism for wearisome times in my life, in order to make everything just a bit more bearable.
You’ll often hear comedians talk about comedy and humor in this way as well. Dave Chappelle recently talked about his utilization of humor (I believe it was on the show, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” -- This is a good one, if you’re look for a recommendation). And while I don’t claim to be anywhere near the same level as Dave Chappelle, I get it and it speaks to me.
It’s a point of pride for me that I can look for the humor or “find the funny” in very challenging, emotionally difficult situations for myself, and to join others if they are so inclined to find the funny in their own situation. I will gladly laugh with you, laughter is a release. Have you ever been laughing then all of a sudden, you are in tears, crying, sad or upset tears? What is that all about? Brain, you’re weird. Laughing serves as a catalyst to push what needs to come out and be expressed with tears or giggles, or an inexplicable combination of both...concurrently...at the most inopportune time. Again, thank you Brain. Furthermore, laughter is a human connector. Laughter and joking around with someone is such a strong bonding activity. And as we already know, we are social creatures, so if we feel bonded, we feel better. Additionally, laughter and comedy can serve as a sound method for distraction, when used in good measure.
I encourage my clients to engage in a healthy amount of distraction and detraction from difficult situations and the challenging emotions that accompany those situations. Humor is an excellent way to do this. For example, I had a client who began each day by watching a funny YouTube video (usually involving animals --- have you seen the montage of cats getting scared by cucumbers? It’s PURE GOLD! But, I digress). Although I don’t want my clients to avoid their emotions, one cannot sit in an intensified emotional state, indefinitely. We all need a break, or many (perhaps scheduled) breaks. If we can break up distressing events or phases, into more bite-sized pieces by taking necessary breaks, we can digest and manage these times more effectively. A good metaphor for this is the rainfall here in Houston, and specifically last year’s Hurricane Harvey. Many parts of our fair city and the surrounding areas, simply could not withstand the sheer amount of rain within the short amount of time that it fell (and fell, and kept falling, *flashback* ummmm, is it ever going to stop raining? Is this my life now? Should I make Water World preparations? What would Kevin Costner do??). However, if we would have received the 50+ inches of rain (yes, 50) over several weeks as opposed to 3 days (yes, 3), we would not have been newsworthy (in this case, this is the goal, we don’t want to be in the news for this...now the world series that followed shortly after, that’s a different story - Go Astros!). Our mental and emotional states are similar, there is only so much stress, strain, crisis, and intensity that we can handle all at once.
So, what’s it going to be? Do you think this is a coping mechanism you could benefit from? Do you feel motivated to #FindTheFunny in your situation? At the very least, it’s worth a shot, right? Go forth and LAUGH...