I have some questions for you about humor. Just think about them. How much do you notice yourself laughing throughout the day? How easily does laughter come to you? How often do you think you’re able to see the humor in situations?
I’m talking about genuine humor- not sarcasm, sardonicism, or cynicism. Sure, these approaches might make you feel witty and powerful during times when you’d rather avoid feeling vulnerable, but they require you to be pretty critical which often comes from a place of contempt. It can be difficult to benefit from the positive effects of humor when you’re using it contemptuously. There are plenty of ways to use humor in a nondefensive way.
One of the curative properties in humor is its aptitude for finding the humanity in conflict, whether it’s between you and another person, a group of people, or between you and an event. Have you ever noticed that? A joke or some other kind of levity can diffuse tension, bridge a divide, and restore compassion. When you’re using it with regard, humor is an incredibly reparative tool.
Now think about this; how often are you able to laugh at yourself? It’s great to be able to find the humor in what someone else says or does, but what about in what you say or do? What about your mistakes, perceived shortcomings, or faults? Some people find the ability to laugh at themselves elusive. They’d rather their faults go undetected and, when noticed, defend them with some amount of hostility. Usually, this promotes an increased sense of discomfort as it widens the divide in conflict.
When you allow yourself to laugh at your missteps, you immediately begin to draw your brain out of aggression, defensive anger and depending on the situation, sadness. You tap into your resilience and resource. This encourages you to be more patient, clear-headed, and less frustrated. When you are resourced, you feel more curious about your own and others’ experiences, and you are better able to connect to empathy. You are driven to strengthen the connection to another person or yourself.
Finding the humor in your mistakes takes some pressure off and gives you a little bit of breathing room. In that space you create, you’re more aware of yourself, of your choices. You can see yourself and your situation more objectively. You have less need to defend yourself because you start to see that your vulnerabilities don’t make you worthless or terrible; they make you human. You don’t need to defend yourself for being human.
So, the next time you find yourself approaching an argument (or in one), feeling defensive about something, or in conflict give yourself a chance to practice this exercise. See what kind of levity can be found in your situation. Maybe you’ll be in conflict with your partner about sharing household responsibilities. Maybe it will be during a time when you are trying to prove a point about something, and you get your facts wrong. Maybe you’ll find yourself engaged in a heated conversation with a family member about who is doing more for whom. Whatever it is, take a minute to find the humor and get some perspective. You’ll feel more appreciation for yourself and your loved ones.
Love and Be Loved,