Page 1 of 1

The Humor Debate

PostPosted: March 6th, 2008, 2:08 pm
by Nancy
Some of you might have noticed that I have taken a public beating on the “autoimmunity” thread for making the apparently unpopular assertion that humor is an adaptive means of coping with illness or traumatic loss or injury. None of you have to accept anything that I have said as “fact” in this regard. What is sad though is the process that unfolded in that thread and that has repeated itself on this forum over and over when someone makes a comment or states an opinion that others do not understand or agree with. It can get ugly very quickly and soon we have a far less supportive environment and one that is clearly unsafe. I have observed this more than once in just the few months I’ve participated in this forum. On the upside, the discussion on humor as a coping mechanism somehow managed to spur some very deep and personal sharing, which to me was a real gift and should be something folks strive for here. Not as a means of trying to “win” a debate or make someone feel bad for having a certain opinion but because there is real suffering with BFS/BCFS and we need to be able to explore it with those who understand…those who are also suffering.

Since there has been a reasonable insistence that folks here try to disseminate “facts” versus simple opinion, I’m going to post some links here that support the idea of using humor as a legitimate and powerful means of coping with illness and tragic loss. You don’t need to believe me. I’ll let some others who have no investment in this particular site tell you what they have learned about humor and coping. Some of you will find humor to be a powerful tool in your tool chest for coping with BFS. Others will find other tools that serve you better. The good news is that coping well with illness, loss and debility is indeed possible and that we have many resources available to us if we remain open to all options.

So, one of the comments was something like there is nothing funny about losing one’s job so we should not joke about it or anything related to this. I agree, overtly this is true. But when it comes to coping with such an event, humor can be helpful. Check out what Viktor Frankl had to say about how humor helped him cope with his imprisonment in nazi concentration camps and how it worked for him:

Or consider what this nun has learned from the women she has worked with who have breast cancer (there’s a gal who jokes about her mastectomy in this one…go figure!):

For those of you who prefer to see the data presented in research format this article does a nice little review of some of the research into humor and coping:

(And as an aside, I appreciate research and was involved in research from the late 1970’s until 1992. I have authored and co-authored published articles and presentations on health psychology concerns. I took no offense to the “brat study” and found it all the more hilarious because of my own research background.)

And the venerable Mayo Clinic supports the use of humor too:

We could literally be reading the research for weeks on humor and coping. These are just a few samples of articles that nicely state the utility of humor and laughter.

I realize that what is hilariously funny to one person may not be to another. It can’t be helped. And no doubt there is a proper time for a joke and a time when to keep quiet. And in this regard, it seems as though my remembrance of the brat study was unwelcome. I apologize for that to those who felt upset about it. I did not recall it drawing so much fire the first time it was posted or I would not have thought of reposting it at all. Anyway back to the topic of humor in general…it does not work for everyone, as it seems to require an ability to maintain the dissonance that comes from holding one’s pain and yet detaching from it simultaneously. Not all will be comfortable or able to do this and I understand this. But those who can should not be judged as somehow insensitive and made to take a beating for it. The truth is that people are forever offering up ways to cope or manage symptoms on this forum. We pick and choose from what we hear based on what attracts us or makes sense to us. It is part of the purpose of this site. There is no reason there can not be friendly banter, gentle ribbing and respectful debate as we go about this process on the forum. I’ve had my share and doled some out as well, in this regard. However, I don’t believe I have ever used the shame tactics employed toward me this week on that thread and I don’t think they were deserved.

So…if you made it to the end of this lengthy post, you deserve a “Thank you” for your diligence and kind attention. I hope that you find this info helpful as you continue to work out a method for living with BFS/BCFS. Best of luck to you all!