Is It (Still) Okay to Laugh? The 3-Step Humour Maneuver
By Haven Core Faculty, Carole Ames
You may question my timing on an article about humour. You might be thinking “life is clearly too serious, what with a global pandemic, social distancing (something we never heard of before, let alone practiced), mysterious shortages of certain paper products”. Lifestyles are being impacted, employment and income threatened, health and welfare questionable.
On the contrary, I think my timing could not be better. There is an old Buddhist saying: “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional”. In our current times, we might translate this to say “the chaos and turmoil resulting from the pandemic is inevitable; emotional suffering including anxiety, depression and stress can be moderated or even alleviated, at least for a time”. Unless you are one of the elite crew who prefer to suffer as much and as long as possible, you’re probably open to a different experience, one involving less emotional suffering.
We have known for years that belief and intention can actually impact and shape our attitudes, feelings and behaviour. The Haven Communication Model explores this in depth as a key to self-awareness and transformation. What better time than now to explore how to shift how we are feeling, emotionally and physically, from restriction and fear to fluidity and joy? Humour won’t change what is happening in the world, however it can help us change how we respond to it. As Raymond A. Moody Jr. says in Laugh after Laugh (1978),“Laughter and humour integrate the physiological, the psychological, and the social events and processes that shape each person as do few other phenomena.”
In my humour workshops we spend three days exploring the nuts and bolts of the Humour Maneuver to gain some proficiency with it. It’s a deep dive into shark- and clown-infested waters, so anything can happen! The Humour Maneuver can help you see yourself more clearly, have some compassion for yourself, and pivot from pessimism to optimism (or at least rational thought!). The world and your relationship to it begins to appear differently.
3 steps to the Humour Maneuver:
- Awareness of Belief – beliefs or assumptions about an issue or situation.
- Recognition of Impact – emotional and behavioral impact for myself and others.
- Decision to Engage Humour – decision to see this pattern from a different angle, find the humour in it, and share/explore this with others.
Here is an example that may resonate with some of you now, several weeks into the Canadian edition of the global pandemic:
- Awareness of Belief – There is a quotation that makes the rounds periodically, and it always speaks to me: “RELAX. Nothing is under control” (Adi Da Samraj). Even though we may understand intellectually that we are not in control of the world, other people, or a coronavirus, many of us still put a lot of effort into trying. So at some level we believe we can, and should, control…something.
- Recognition of Impact – This belief in control can lead to a number of less than fruitful behaviours and attitudes, for example buying a life-time supply of everything in sight; glaring at people who appear to be disregarding guidelines; eating everything, or not eating anything. All of these are ways to try to control at least something.
- Decision to Engage Humour – This is where empathy and perspective enter the room. In order to have a sense of humour with ourselves, others and the situation, we need to reconnect with our humanity, and smile at the billions of people on the blue planet who are hoarding, glaring and eating in order to strike down the viral menace. Not exactly a Nobel-prize winning strategy! ;)
Robert R. Provine says in Laughter – A Scientific Investigation, “Laughter is the quintessential human social signal. Laughter is about relationships.” We’re in this together, and that experience is far more enjoyable when we can relax into our humanness. And the bonus – clearer thinking and stronger coping skills tend to emerge.
The Humour Maneuver is a simple three-step practice to shift your perspective, find some compassion, and move from isolation to connection through laughter. It can be done in just a few minutes, as in the example shared here. You can do this with a buddy, in a journal, as you’re solo walking, or while you’re doing Haven-style breathing. Try it out, and let us know how it goes in the comments below!
About the Author:
Carole Ames MTC, Dip.C, BES is a member of The Haven Core Faculty, and consults and facilitates though Creative Pursuits in Victoria. Carole leads a number programs at The Haven and elsewhere including “Getting Unstuck: The Alchemy of Humour”, ably assisted by her husband and co-conspirator Bill Leuze Dip.C.