There were so many gems in Sally Brampton’s book ‘Shoot the Damn Dog‘ that I have already shared here before. This is also utterly true and resonated for me – humour as a defence. I’m a nurse – gallows humour is our professions stock-in-trade.
First Sally’s words:
They don’t like jokes in group therapy. Humour is a defence. I am in denial, they say, which is just another word for smart ass. I use humour to hide behind, because I cannot bear to feel my feelings, cannot face the truth. I use too many words, they say. I hide behind language. I intellectualise my feelings and then explain them away.
‘Stop using your head, Sally. How do you feel?’.
‘How can I tell you how I feel if I don’t use words?’
They sigh. I can see the word ‘difficult’ captured in bubbles above their heads.
‘Feel the feelings’ they say, again.
And then what? My feelings are stuck in my throat. The feelings that I can’t, actually put into words.
Once again, she nails me, completely. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you Sally 🙂
And this is what Psychology Today says:
This may explain why some psychologists classify humour as one of the “mature” defense mechanisms we invoke to guard ourselves against overwhelming anxiety (as compared to the “psychotic,” “immature,” and “neurotic” defense mechanisms). Being able to laugh at traumatic events in our own lives doesn’t cause us to ignore them, but instead seems to prepare us to endure them.
Perhaps laughter could be most properly considered as a weapon against suffering and despair. If we can joke about a disappointing or traumatic event, we’ll often find ourselves feeling that what’s happened to us isn’t so bad and that we’ll be able to get through it. This expectation serves two vitally important functions:
- It diminishes or even eliminates the moment-by-moment suffering we might otherwise experience as a result of a traumatic loss, which
- Actually makes it more likely we will make it through a trauma unmarred and flourish once again
So back to gallows humour then. This is what Wiki says:
Sigmund Freud in his 1927 essay Humour (Der Humor) puts forth the following theory of the gallows humor: “The ego refuses to be distressed by the provocations of reality, to let itself be compelled to suffer. It insists that it cannot be affected by the traumas of the external world; it shows, in fact, that such traumas are no more than occasions for it to gain pleasure.”
As the Psychology Today article continues: Laughter is a powerful means by which we can encourage ourselves. That when confronted with setbacks, adversity, trauma, or terrible news, even if it may seem socially inappropriate, we should reach toward humor. We should try to find a way to make light of whatever circumstances make us afraid. Because if instead of focusing on the negative impact of an adverse event or experience we focus on simply laughing about it, actively and consciously pursuing a perspective that makes it funny, we just may be able to activate the most under recognized but powerful weapon we have against suffering.
MrHOF asked for this to be the Friday Sober Jukebox and the video made me laugh 😉
PS Don’t forget that this Sunday London hosts its first Mindful Drinking Festival!