Anyone Ready To Laugh Out Loud Yet? By Charles E. Meusburger, MD, FASAM
Perhaps an incongruent inquiry at the present time, but it is certainly what “the Doctor ordered” right now. Humor is the number 1 human defense mechanism that we possess. There are ten such mechanisms and they all exist for similar reasons—to unconsciously reduce anxiety arising from unacceptable or potentially harmful stimuli, especially if done in repetitive patterns. Or, as Dr. Sigmund Freud explains psychoanalytically, “defense mechanisms are used to manipulate, deny or distort reality in order to reduce anxiety and control impulses or to maintain dignity. “ In short, all defense mechanisms are unconscious responses to manage the stresses of many different human social interactions. This includes humor that is by far the healthiest and the most productive one of the menu list. Humor, as a mechanism to create something positive and light in the face of something potentially ‘dark,’ divisive and perhaps, frightening can assist in several ways. First, it is a distraction, even a bit of a decoy to overt unwanted or uncomfortable attention away from the discomforts of that moment. Second, it provides levity as a ‘gift’ from the provider to his/her audience that must be funny in order to succeed. This requires the gift of the comedic one to impart a sense of relativity on the subject in jest to
the audience to engage them to where you prefer them to be. Third, it can ‘buy you time’ in order to seek momentary asylum away from the reality at hand until you can regroup and possibly conjure up alternative responses so as not to give in to negative reactions. There is almost a cognitive process at play in order ‘to play’ even though humor is overtly an emotional state contributing often to a sense of ‘Happy.’ Happiness is like a fingerprint in that it’s different for every individual as far as it’s definition and as the timeless wisdom of Jefferson so aptly penned---“the pursuit of happiness” was the finale of a very powerfully influential sentence that inspired a neonate nation to take hold and grow. He clearly realized all too well that one of his three famous “inalienable rights” could not be the Happiness itself, as this is idiosyncratic to each of us, but rather that the pursuit thereof would not be interfered with by the state so long as you did it by the rules of the land. Humor is a stepping-stone and omnipresent contribution to a sense of wellbeing and provides a healthy
contribution to one’s happiness quotient. Conversely, self-deprecating and anti-self humor can lead to unconscious aggression or hostility against the self or self-perceived short fall(s) that needs to be brought forward by the individual using humorous jabs at oneself before everyone else discovers these perceived inadequacies and uses them against the individual in a manner that he/she feels would be even worse. This use of ‘dark humor’ as a defense is still understandable, but cumulatively, harmful. The best psychological and alternative antidepressants and anti-anxiety treatments are: physical exercise, stimulation of one’s mind with what it knows little to nothing about a topic, creativity in any form and yes, humor—the healthy variety. So, find an old VHS recording of your favorite film or YOU-TUBE some performance of your favorite stand-up comedians and laugh out loud—share it with others and feel the environment, internal and external, sustain a palpable improvement. So, from Buster Keaton to Chris Rock, allow their gifts to stimulate your own and find fun and relief-release. Remember how long the oppressions of COVID-19 have been lingering and attempt to use these tools for twice that duration and they will become your “new automatics” to reach for instead of other more common, but less helpful defenses going forward. Enjoy and live your life— don’t endure it. No one is born to forfeit his or her lives; that’s learned. Resist, regroup, have resilience and rejoice---you can!
Don’t suffer alone ...
Charles E. Meusburger, MD • Call 609.484.0770 or visit www.SouthJerseyPsychiatry.com. 3069 English Creek Ave., Ste. 225 • EHT, NJ 08234
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