Humor and resilience
When we notice the humor in a situation, we are in an observant
role. It takes a little bit of psychological distance in order to see
the humor in ourselves and our circumstances. We are standing beside
our painful situation when we can laugh at it. This can give us a
chance to stick a pin in negative emotions and choose actions that are
coping and positive. It is hard to wallow or ruminate in negative
emotions when you’re seeing the absurdity in your situation.
the same time, humor isn’t exactly escapist; it doesn’t deny the
awfulness of adversity. For example, people who have shared a difficult
experience often share a “gallows humor”: jokes and wit about their
suffering that are only appropriate to be told by and among those who
have shared the adversity. This in-group humor can help acknowledge and
dispel negative emotions and strengthen social support among people who
have come through trauma and challenges. It can also be a way for
people who have survived a difficult experience to mentor and encourage
those who are still going through it.
Humor has helped people
through some of the darkest times imaginable. As psychiatrist Victor
Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning about surviving Nazi
concentration camps: “Humor was another of the soul's weapons in the
fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor, more than
anything else in the human makeup, can afford an aloofness and an
ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds.”
The Resilient Self, Steven J. Wolin and Sybil Wolin
Humor and life stress: Antidote to adversity. Lefcourt, H. M., et al.
"Coping humour, stress, and cognitive appraisals." Kuiper, N. A., et al. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 25(1).
"Humor, coping with stress, self-concept, and psychological well-being." Martin, R. A., et al. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 6(1).
"Exposure to humor before and after an unpleasant stimulus." Cann, A., et al. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, 13(2).
"Does humor moderate the effects of experimentally-induced stress?" Newman, M. G., et al. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 18(2).