I often hear laughter coming from individuals while they are mentioning traumatic past experiences. Whether they are talking about how they were abused as a child or how they used to shoot up drugs into inconspicuous places. A short giggle here, or a wry laugh that ends their sentence. A sentence that is not at all funny or laughable and often times my experience of the conversation is a visceral response that is raw and painful.
I do understand the laughter and where it comes from. I used to do it as well. I now believe that laughing at traumatic things in our past is harmful to us and it is also a dishonest response. I should clarify one point before going on. I am not against humor or comedic responses to life. I am actually quite the joker when it comes to laughing about life’s many situations.
There is the saying by Carol Burnett about “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” I agree with this to a degree but there is a fundamental piece missing from this particular meme. If the tragedy has not been dealt with- through self-knowledge, therapy or other means of self work, the tragedy is comedic only because the issue is still raw and too painful to deal with. Because the individual has not worked through the trauma of the past, they must giggle or laugh as a defense mechanism to cover over the true emotion under the laughter.
The laughter is also an invitation to the listener to join along in the conversation as a tale of laughable past times. Of course if the listener joins in with returning laughter, the trauma will continue to destroy and manipulate the host. I didn’t realize how selfish it is to laugh about my own unprocessed trauma. Telling others about your past traumas with laughter causes the listener to feel the emotions for you. The feelings you are covering over are being felt by the person you are talking to. If they are not feeling your hidden emotions, they are non-empathetic and you are wasting time talking to that person anyway. Maybe that is what you want. If you just want someone to join along with your misplaced laughter, that’s fine too but I can not join along with that kind of empty relationship blather.
I’m not saying that laughing at your own trauma is contemptible or horrible or anything like that. Like I mentioned above, I understand it and I used to do it myself. All I am saying is I think it is a very important topic that we should evaluate honestly and objectively. Nothing in recovery is more important than being honest with yourself. If you notice someone giggle or laugh at something traumatic or horrific, pay attention to how you both deal with that situation. Challenge yourself to talk about the laughter in the discussion and you may be amazed at how advantageous and open your conversations can become.
Laughter is not always the best medicine.
Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts on this topic. 🙂