We laugh a lot in counselling sessions. Despite the intensity of the discussions, there is nearly always something to laugh at. We laugh at the trivial things that trigger such strong reactions. We laugh at how unrealistic expectations can be. And from a distance, we sometimes laugh at situations that caused incredible angst. I don’t laugh to belittle the person or to minimise the problem. And I don’t laugh at people’s emotional or physical pain. But I encourage laughter to provide a much needed circuit breaker. When we are weighed down with heartache, we can feel trapped – with no way out. A good belly laugh or even a little chuckle can lift the weight slightly so that other perspectives can be explored.
Laughter is particularly important in relationships. Couples and families really notice its absence. While I would never encourage teasing or bullying, lightening up conversations in the home can often fast track resolutions. I am forever suggesting to people that they approach a problem light-heartedly. Children and adolescents are more likely to respond to a request that is tinged with humour than they are to one that is laced with anger. Couples can often avoid an argument by focusing on the funny side of repeated offences such as forgetting what was said five minutes earlier or forever blaming bad traffic for running late.
Embarrassment can be reduced by seeing the lighter side of some situations. Resentment can drop away when people smile at the fact that whatever is driving them crazy about their partner is often the very thing that attracted them in the first place. And even the pain of rejection can be decreased over time by laughing at some of the ways in which we try so hard to be liked.
If you’re not getting anywhere when it comes to resolving an issue with a partner, friend or child, see if you can lighten things up and see what magic follows.