WHAT IS THIS THING CALLED HUMOUR?
DOES IT BELONG IN YOUR WORK?
Just because something makes you laugh, does that make it humour? Perhaps not; the Ministry for Appropriate Laughter is yet to emerge, at least in my postcode. Researching this, it was hard to shake the sense that studying why something is funny can only detract from it.
Hundreds of humour theories exist today; there are schools (of thought) that would pinpoint surprise and incongruity as the triggers. There are theories centred around relief and relaxation that seek to explain why it is that we laugh; biological and psychological theories aiming to understand the deeper function of laughter, as a mechanism to belong, to cope, and in some way – to survive.
Theories centred around reasoning and cognition consider our reactions; why do we find things funny? Practical jokes, metaphors, irony, denial, simile, pun, hypocrisy, nonsense, mimicry, impossible, juxtaposition, black humour etc… ad infinitum. The genres and categories of laughter engineering are simply endless.
MEDICINE ALSO INDICATES THAT THERE ARE NUMBER OF BENEFITS;
Sandra McLanahan, MD
- Increases serotonin – decreasing both anxiety and depression.
- Pain relief – Laughter can provide pain relief without drugs.
- Increases T-cell production and boost the immune system.
- Increases circulation
- Elevates blood pressure for 30 seconds, then lowers it.
- Increases lung capacity / encourages deep breathing which decreases both acidosis and hypoxia in the body.
- Decreases stress hormones.
- Uses the same muscles as exercise to strengthen the core and lower back.
- Lowers the risk for heart attacks and arrhythmias.
- Decreases elevated blood sugar.
SO, IS THERE A PLACE FOR THIS IN THERAPY?
Goethe would say that humour can be studied as diagnostic tool. He said that people manifest traits and characteristics in what they find laughable. So, does the kind of humour you use show people who you are? Is it that, many a true word is said in jest or as Chaucer would put it “Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd saye!”.
Out of Uni, one of my earliest clinical supervisors would maintain that a couple of well meaning japes prior to a session could make a client feel better about themselves, and that the resulting rapport building was a vitally important trust-ingredient. Icebreaker or ice-maker…however, he wasn’t actually funny.
IF THE EFFORT AND INTENTION TO AMUSE IS WELL-MEANING, DOES THAT COUNT? IS A CRAP JOKE, BETTER THAN NO JOKE?
A healthy sense of humour is often related to being able to laugh at oneself, but self deprecation can also be an unhealthy practise. When I reflect on counselling clients with presenting issues centred around recovery and addiction, I have found laughter is often a palpable sense of relief that things aren’t like that anymore. A client may reflect on and laugh about chaotic and unmanageable behaviour with a sense of cautious elation.
It’s certainly true that laughter can elevate mood, increase energy, and reduce stress. When we laugh with someone we tend to talk more, increase eye contact, and perhaps feel more attached.
Researchers say children laugh about 300 times a day, and adults just 15. So, perhaps the kids have the answers to this one.