Are You Too Serious? When I used to direct a drop-in therapy group, 1 night we had a very enjoyable evening. Everyone had significant triumphs to report, energy was high, we were laughing and joking. One petite woman who had been there for the first time sat quietly, taking in all our comedy and flip remarks. There’s a happy ending. She worked that night, and decided to return again, and started feeling better about herself, too.
Often I find people come into counselling feeling gloomy and anxious. Lovers are concerned about their relationships, parents about kids, kids about parents, everything looks bleak. Couples often come in terribly concerned about relationships which are essentially fine, with regular difficulties to work out.
Last night a customer called. After five minutes, my customer realized that his spouse’s anger was only temporary, and while it had to be addressed, it was not tragic. His spouse just needed to be listened to, and not taken too grimly. Most of it was play, to receive his attention when calmness had neglected. Taking it too seriously had blown it out of proportion, until it threatened to overwhelm the two of these.
Putting it back in perspective restored clear thinking, and the problem was easily solved. After they solved it, they might laugh about it. Human beings are learning apparatus. We’re an adaptable species. Put us in a situation we do not know, and sooner or laterwe figure out it and master it. We’re also a species having a feeling of humor. I believe both are connected. It requires a sense of humor to have the ability to stumble around in an unknown situation till you figure it out.
Current research has suggested that comedy, especially laughter, counteracts the devastations of stress on the body and immune system. Are you seeing a pattern here? We were awarded (or developed through natural selection, depending how you see it) a sense of humor, the ability to laugh, for a goal. It helps us adapt, learn, grow and endure. Taking yourself and your situation too seriously deprives you of this tool of comedy. Yes, of course, it’s likely to take things too lightly.
All of us know the frustration of getting an issue that a loved one will not take seriously enough. We also know people who manage life like a joke, rather than get it together. Actually, this type of lightness masks fear that whatever one does not wish to handle is too heavy to deal with. What I see in my practice more frequently, however, is the other way round. We strive, we’re earnest, we care deeply, and we would like to do right.
We forget about having fun, relaxing and loving, waiting for things to calm down, lightening up about how terrible it all is. One of my customers who works in hospice said recently about how amazed he was at how much laughter and comedy there was one of the severely ill patients there. Humor makes even death and illness more endurable, and generates warm memories. This fall, I ask you to think about making your own life as fun and simple as possible. Whatever ambition that you have, take it gently.
Take Mary Poppins’ advice and recall “a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Find as many opportunities for bliss as possible. Always read the funnies when you browse the grimmer news. Focus as much energy on what’s funny or positive in your life as you do on the issues. You might be surprised to discover that you get even more work done when you take it a little less seriously, when you laugh a bit more.
Studies of great human beings, who have helped improve the condition of our lives, reveals most of these have fine senses of humor. Ethnic groups, like the Jewish people, who have survived great hardships, are famous for their humor. I believe our human capacities have significance in our lives. The capacity to laugh might be simply to bring us closer together, to help us be social components, but I doubt it. I believe its presence says something stronger. My experience in counselling tells me laughter is one of our great healers. Try laughing more. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.