Staying Strong Series


Exercise Number:  Eight Laugh

So many tangles in life are ultimately hopeless that we have no appropriate sword other than laughter. I venture to say that no person, is in good health unless he can laugh at himself.

Gordon Allport

You don’t grow up until you have your first good laugh at yourself.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Presidents wife but so much more.

Laughing at yourself often means the ability to laugh at the fact that despite all your plans and efforts the universe does its thing.  I remember one client recounting how she  life was out to get her.  Every right thing she tried to do only ended badly.  Soon we here both laughing and when we came up for air,  she said “If you don’t laugh, you might get stuck in crying.”  A wise woman.

Learning to laugh at yourself or at the universe’s hold on you is not easy.  It comes with realizing you are not the center of the universe when you assumed you were.   Small children think they are the cause of all that happens. Small children think their mistakes and bad behavior mean the end of the world.  Anytime something bad happens in a child’s life, the child believes he or she caused it.  Overly serious grownups often feel the same.  The religious feel they didn’t pray hard enough or control their behavior rigidly enough.

The fact is none of us controls the world, our small corner of the world, or even all of our behavior all the time.  We need to keep doing our best, but we also need to stay aware of how helpless we are to combat some of life’s tangles.  Keeping at it matters and maintaining a sense of humor helps.

When you can live at peace with the idea that you are human and that means not being perfect you are on your way to comedic genius.  A stutterer who has learned to say “Is there an echo around here?” fares better than the one who speaks less and less for fear of being scorned.   Laughing at yourself is a learned skill.  Laughing at yourself is also healthy and better for all than laughing at others unless it is their intent to make you laugh.  Here are some steps toward developing a healthy ability to laugh at yourself:

  1. Watch the comedians that use self-deprecation as a comedic tool.   Rodney Dangerfield is one.  Here’s a quote from his autobiography, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me.  ”  According to statistics about men in their eighties, only one out of a hundred makes it to ninety. With odds like that, I’m writing very fast. I want to get it all done. I mean, I’m not a kid anymore, I’m getting old. The other night, I was driving, I had an accident. I was arrested for hit-and-walk.”
  2. Susan J. Vamos a plus size comedian uses the following in her show:  “Now, get ready for fat lady to sing (and you aren’t going to enjoy it because I’m tone-deaf.)”
  1. Use body language to show you are making a joke.  Roll your eyes, exaggerate movements, let your eyes twinkle a bit or be Charlie Chaplin deadpan.
  2. Develop some throwaway lines and use them.  Comedians use them all the time when jokes work or do not work.
    • If people are  laughing at you try:  “Guess my writers deserve a raise.”  or “Guess I’m really am ready for the Comedy Show.”
    • If people aren’t laughing try:    “Guess I’m not ready for the Comedy Show.” or “I told the writers, that one wouldn’t get a laugh.

David and I have developed a number of running jokes we put into play in public.  If checking out and I am in line first, I’ll say, “The man behind is paying for mine.”

He comes back with, “I followed her in, but I don’t know.”

I’ll say, “Forty years married and he  gets amnesia when I want to use his credit card.”

He might then say, “All she wants is my money.”

I might roll my eyes, “Your money and your body.”

Mostly we get some laughs, not only from the cashier, but the people waiting in line.   When we don’t, we use a throw away line; at least we end up laughing if only at ourselves.   Good for our bodies, souls, and relationship.

Whether you develop a comic routine, laughter of one sort or another remains an important Staying Strong exercise.

“People become healthier from laughter,” observes Judy Goldblum-Carlton, a humor therapist at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children’s Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. “It improves circulation. When you laugh heartily, every organ is being massaged including your heart, lungs and digestive system.  Headaches can just go away. When you laugh the endorphins released make you feel this elation. It makes those big decisions seem so much less important.”

So work at finding some funny throw away lines, but more importantly laugh lots in general.  Here are some other ways to add laughter to your life.  Have a laughing contest with a friend.  Rotate laughing.  First you, then your friend.  Soon you will both be laughing.   Watch your favorite sit-com.  Watch any TV comedian that makes you laugh.  Read the Daily and Sunday funnies.  Post funny one liners at work. Surf You-Tube.  Watch the internet for good jokes and share them.

Warning: It is best to not use humor to hurt others, no nasty jokes.  Let others do the political cartooning and protect their right to do so.  It is a useful way for to some to express an opinion and and pole fun sometimes at people who are taking themselves too seriously.  We do poke fun and laugh at others, that is probably just part of being human.   But one should always be aware that when  humor  damns  groups of people and that is not the way to peace.

The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter

Mark Twain, American writer and humorist

What soap is to the body, laugher is to the soul

Yiddish Proverb

Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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