Laughter is the Best Medicine
Reading about this week’s topic reminded me of a scene that took place years ago. I was traveling with friends when one of them had a medical problem. As far as I remember, she wasn’t in a lot of pain, but she was scared as her body reacted in ways she was not accustomed to. Three of us, including my friend’s sister, brought her to the hospital to have her checked. So, off we went in the car. Seeing her distress I started making comical remarks. No joke telling, as I suck at that. But I simply tried to make her laugh, and if the others would join in even better. All of a sudden her sister turned to me with a fierce look on her face scolding me: “What do you think you’re doing? This is not a time to make jokes, this is serious!” Wow, I hadn’t anticipated that. It was my friend on the gurney who answered the question: “Leave her alone! It’s helping me to relax!”
I remember how very surprised I was by her little sister’s scolding. I just didn’t understand why she would be angry with me for making her sister laugh. For me, it has always been a natural tendency to apply humour to tense and stressful situations. So natural in fact, that I had never given it a second thought. Until that point in my life, I had not been aware that others might not be the same, or might even find this behaviour inappropriate. In this situation, as well as in a few later on, I was accused of not seeing the seriousness of the situation, but that’s simply not true.
Using humour in a moment of stress is not a denial of the severity of what’s going on, but it’s an attempt to lighten and soften the effects of the seriousness we add to experiences by our emotional responses, such as fear, defensiveness, aggression, or worry. For me, humour lightens the mood, has the ability to ease the tension in everyone involved, and brings more clarity for me concerning what’s really going on, which often allows moving forward with more ease.
Just this week I shared my thoughts and feelings concerning a current situation that depressed me, and had the ability to wear me out with a friend. Purposefully I did so in such an extremely exaggerated way we both had to laugh. With the laughter I was able to detach myself from my overly tense emotional response, so I could see the ridiculousness of the vicious circle: I was creating the stressful feelings myself by engaging with thoughts of worry, fear, and judgement.
Over time I have learned to be more sensitive with how I am using humour when others are involved. Also, I have seen the positive affect of humour in my life often enough to know you can never have too much of it. It’s true that worry will never change the outcome, but I think humour can!