Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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Humour is a two-edged sword. It can be such an important part of a relationship; it can lighten the atmosphere, diffuse anger, help us feel better about ourselves and our circumstances. When we laugh, in that moment, we lose ourselves, we are transported away from our day to day worries into a mood where nothing matters, where we experience a happiness that is pure, in that nothing else exists for those few seconds.
We can’t sustain this feeling, of course, and although humour can distract, and can change the atmosphere in a meeting, and entertainment or a social event, it doesn’t actually change anything.
The ability to make people laugh is a very powerful one, and people with that talent tend to enjoy the feeling they get when something they say or do gets others laughing. But sometimes humour can be used to distract, to avoid a difficult conversation, and if used to excess, it can be counterproductive. If you’re trying to have a serious conversation with your partner and they keep larking about it can be annoying. If this happens often, it can move from being annoying to infuriating. And then the jokes stop being funny – and there’s nothing worse for a clown than “corpsing”.
Often these patterns are not difficult to change. If the clown recognises that they sometimes use humour to avoid a difficult conversation, that can be a big step towards change. And the clown’s partner can help by saying something like “I love your humour, you make me laugh so much, but sometimes it’s not appropriate. Right now, I want to have a serious conversation, so please can we ban humour for the next hour while we sort this out.”
Humour can serve another purpose in a relationship: here’s a story about that.
I remember counselling a couple who reported an incident when their relationship was starting to heal. They were out shopping and found themselves holding hands for the first time in months. She said “This is nice” and he responded “Oh! Sorry! I thought you were somebody else!!” Unsurprisingly she was very hurt and upset by this, especially as he had had an affair. In counselling we explored his intentions in making this remark, and we realised that when the relationship had been healthy they had made this sort of teasing remark as a matter of routine – it was part of the banter between them. In making the remark now, he was unconsciously testing the relationship – if she had laughed, it would have been a sign that things were OK again. If she liked him playing the clown, she liked him as a person – the clown who gets laughs feels accepted, liked, successful.
The sort of analysis we carried out in this case was not untypical of counselling. Remarks can often be misinterpreted and exploring the underlying meaning can be an important part of the work we do. Humour in the counselling room can also be important. Gaining the ability to laugh in the room can lead to regaining the ability to laugh in the relationship as well.