Humor – It’s not Just for Fun. Humor is for Survival!

There is an old saying, “You can’t be a prophet in your own town.” What is equally true is that even though your family loves and supports you, they don’t always give you due recognition and that hurts. Filtering their responses through your sense of humor can provide the emotional distancing you need to protect yourself from feeling annoyed or hurt.

Last month Missoula Businesswomen’s Network presented me with an award, 2007-2008 Woman of the Year. I felt honored to be the one chosen from a pool of equally deserving candidates to be recognized for outstanding accomplishment and contribution.

When I told my husband, Larry immediately remarked, “I am a lucky man! Tonight I get to sleep with the Woman of the Year!”

When my son, Andy called and I told him the news, he giggled and said, “Yeah, whatever, Mom.” After my long pause on the other end of the phone, he realized his over-sight, “OH! I thought you were joking. Congratulations!”

The conversation I had with my mother stunned me. She asked, “Who else was nominated?”

I told her their names and started listing their professions, “Advertising/sales representative for a T.V. station; insurance company owner; investment broker.”

I wasn’t even finished when Mom interrupted and finished my sentence, “And Lois, the housewife.” Then she laughed.

I said, “Mom, I am a professional speaker.”

She said, “I guess you are.”

Then I reminded her how much I don’t like cleaning and cooking, and if the award was based on my housekeeping performance, I would not have even been nominated. She added insult to injury by immediately agreeing with me, “You have a point! Well, good for you! How nice.”

I tried to talk my daughter into doing the dishes by reminding her that the Woman of the Year should not have to wash dishes for at least a week. Cassy giggled and replied, “Hey, Woman of the Year. Your shorts are on backwards!”

You know what I discovered? When you’ve got your shorts on backwards, there is no way to correct it, without removing them.

I discovered a few things about humor and laughter, too. Even though I was a little disappointed that my family didn’t shower me with praise, I found myself laughing about their reactions. Not because I thought they were funny, but because one by one they surprised me by saying things that were not what I had expected.

The Incongruent Theory of Humor states that a mismatch between what we expect will happen and what actually happens triggers a spontaneous laugh. It’s because our logical brain tries to make sense of what just happened, and when it can’t, it throws a little tizzy which ripples into automatic laughter.

My family didn’t recognize that they had hurt my feelings with their comments, because I laughed … on the outside. On the inside their responses stung, but not for long. The magic of laughter breaks down hurt, and enables us to process situations with a new perspective. The irony of my situation revealed itself, and tickled my funny bone.

Just because my family didn’t congratulate me how I’d wished, doesn’t mean that they weren’t happy for me. Family members aren’t always good about complimenting one another with sincerity. They can be quick to tease, but let anyone outside your family make a negative comment about you, and your family immediately comes to your defense. Family members can be slow to praise you or brush off your accomplishments to your face, and in their next breath they brag about you to their friends when you aren’t there to hear. Don’t you agree?

Humor … it’s not just for fun. Humor is a survivor tool. Humor equips us with the ability to appreciate the ironies and enjoy the amusement that everyday ordinary life provides. Families? They’re the reason we need a sense of humor.

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