Thursday, June 12, 2008

Humor at the Expense of Others

I was chatting with some good friends Lee and Dawn the other night as we gathered in my kitchen- we were having "kitchen talk" (love it!). Many topics flowed and ideas abounded. One topic was about the fact that some people really enjoy making fun of others, and of those who do, some will often criticize the person they are making fun of for not taking themselves lightly enough. A response of "lighten up buddy" can come with the territory- sometimes complete with a rolling of the eyes. After all, it's just a joke. But when it is a joke at the expense of you, it can feel isolating and unkind.

Lee and Dawn talked about a clown school they had attended and both of them said the experience changed their lives and was transformational. It was during this training that they learned that humor can come in forms that either give energy or take energy away.

They went to clown school in order to do service with folks within the hospital setting. It was shared during the training that there is really no reason to derive humor from putting someone down. You can imagine that would be true especially if you are performing for those who are terminally ill, or even those who are just plain sick. But when you think about it, if you had the choice, why wouldn't you give energy rather than take it away. Both are in your power to do.

An example that was provided in the training was that of a clown bringing a flower to someone to take a whiff. When the person smells it, the flower wilts from his bad breath. This is an example of the negative humor. Dawn explained that the alternative is to bring a wilted flower over to the person and the flower perks up because the person breathed life into it. Then the clown could urgently bring things over for the person to revive...... done right, this could be funny stuff and the person doing the "breathing" would or could be left feeling esteem rather than try to overcome the negative energy from the first example.

Think about the energy it takes to be a good sport about negative humor. You need to shield your self, get tougher skin so to speak and have to either discount what the person says or take it in as some kind of feedback. That takes energy.

Now, this does not mean that playful jabs are never welcome, and sometimes humor can say things that words cannot express. But, overall, I want to make a positive contribution with others and build them up rather than chink away at them over time.

My mom would say things like, "your pretty, if you like that sort of thing". I knew she was joking, but there was always a shade of doubt there. Negative humor is like that in a way, it has the ability to leave you with a doubt. You can override it, you can rise above it, you can ignore it, you can stuff it-- but it leaves you needing to do something with it where positive humor for the most part just flows.


Anonymous said...

It's all about self-deprication my friend.

Erin said...

Hi Anonymous,
Not sure what you mean by that. I have an aunt who self depricates and I feel a pang of anguish for her. It is apparent that she has a hard time loving herself.

We all are works in progress and many times, there is something funny about that. I think I was indicarting that making fun of others can bring about negative energy for the giver and the reciever.

I would love to understand what you are mentioning more.....

Frank said...

I'm always impressed by comedians who can deliver a joke without resorting to insults or swear words. That's a sign of real talent.

Humor is sometimes a good way to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. We can talk about things we might have trouble talking about in other ways. But sometimes it is used for power over others, and that's not good. I dunno, I guess it depends on the intention of the person...

Mars Girl said...

I have recently disconnected a relationship with a friend because I felt his jokes towards me were always too cutting, revealing in the ideas a sense that he has a very negative image of me. Now, I'm okay with a few cracks at my personality here and there from friends (hell, I do it all the time to my friends). But there's a thick line between those kind of fun kidding about "cute" eccentricities in a person's personality and really cutting deep.

This former friend I speak of would constantly do these photoshop pictures of me in sexy poses, or put my head on other women's bodies. It really made me feel like he only saw me as an object. Besides all that, he was always making comments that made it sound like I had no heart at all. It was really disturbing (I sure hope no one really views me like that!).

Anyway, I've figured out he's pretty angry at the world and he reflects it in the things he says to me... I just dont need that negative energy...

Erin said...

I think you are right on there. I try to understand the why behind in these situations and it just comes down to the person lashing out for some reason, or maybe a dysfunction. The point is that you don't deserve that treatment.

I have come to the place that I am going to be with folks that give me energy rather than take it away. Life is too short- gotta hold onto the good and let go of the negative.

Based on what bit I know of you, you seem to have a big heart. Sounds like that guy has an issue that has nothing to do with you.