Humour can be a wonderful thing. When all around us (and maybe inside us) is falling apart, humour and the resulting smiles and laughter, can make our world more bearable.
There is plenty of evidence that humour can serve a valuable purpose in a crisis. It has been documented as a way to treat depression (alongside other therapies). We use humour to cope, for example, when we are grieving.
Humour based on laughing at oneself is one prevailing method of employing humour. In the world of social media, Tweets and Facebook statuses are loaded with such self-deprecating wit. I’ve read people on a daily basis updating their life stories in a “Diary of Adrian Mole” kind of way – short, pithy entries that offer a light-hearted view of their lostness in life, their uncertainties about their health, losing jobs and loved ones, loneliness and fear.
The reward in the realm of social media are the many thumbs-up “likes” that can make us feel we are not alone in our suffering.
All good? Well, good yes. But not necessarily all good.
The problem of diluting what we might say to ourselves when we are going through Life’s challenges is that we “sentence” ourselves to a diluted view of our own reality by uttering watered down versions of what is going on for us. Wrapped up wittily and in ways that get laughs can shower us with affirmation, but blur what we perhaps need to confront in all its (sometimes grim) reality.
Sometimes it is better to call things by their real name; to confront them and to acknowledge them in all of their reality. Sometimes Rock Bottom is the place we are at, and we need to name it accurately as such in order to begin the honest climb back upwards. Then we might find ourselves very alone; or we might just find that our titillated audience is replaced by one or two genuinely helpful souls, prepared to get their hands dirty and help us through, or even upwards.
“Wrapped up wittily and in ways that get laughs can shower us with affirmation, but blur what we perhaps need to confront in all its (sometimes grim) reality.”
We can get into a habit of avoiding the darkness by regularly shining a torch of humour and lightness into our shadows of fear and pain. These may make those dark corners look less scary and brighter, but that is no replacement for stepping into those darker places and generating our own deeper, inner light. Light-heartedness can make the dark seem less frightening, but when it becomes compulsive, when we can’t NOT do it, it becomes a strategy of avoidance. Often something we fear that is in its warning stages of development is then able to get worse, under the radar of our honest gaze. When things are as dark as they can get, even then, the benefits compulsive light-heartedness can start to diminish and the emerging reality can start to feel even worse and darker as our lightness simply can’t penetrate the darkness. Here we may realise that, in such dark situations, honesty and the comfort of truly caring friends and self-knowledge can be better allies.
“Often something we fear that is in its warning stages of development is then able to get worse, under the radar of our honest gaze.”
So, never stop being light, never take yourself too seriously for too long. Let your wit and your humour dance in and around you. But don’t rely on them as your only approach to life’s challenges. Be prepared to face the world without those crutches. Sometimes that will be a necessary walk alone, sometimes help will come from the most unexpected places. Sometimes the frown is as much a gift and an opportunity for development as a smile.