A sense of humor : on irony and the dark night of the soul.

Sometimes a sense of humor may be used to wound.  Sometimes when we are in a deathly serious place where wounds are smarting its difficult to see the funny or ironical side.  My own experience is that I had to suffer deeply and understand so much about my upbringing before I could reclaim the natural sense of humor I seemed to have lost growing up.  I also know that a central adult child issue of those raised in homes with legacy of addiction, out of control behavior, chaos or other dysfunction is that we learn to become super serious.  We try to maintain control or fix things that are out of control, we develop wounds and defences that we carry into later life.   If we were taught to believe we were never ‘good enough’ as we were as ordinary humans we try to cover over certain attributes and adopt a disguise to get more love or attention or whatever was lacking in our family of origin.  And its harder to see the funny side in our flaws or common humanity.

In writing this the concept of narcissistic injury and narcissistic rage come to mind.  Many of us may be aware of the tightly sprung hair trigger of exquisitely painful over sensitivity within that could be tripped into gear by others.  We end up reacting and then possibly feeling ashamed or even worse than before.  It all comes from the inability to see ourselves are we REALLY are, ordinary flawed human beings who were raised in situations and homes where so much was outside of our control, or how as ordinary human motrals we suffered from the impact of events and influences  we are still struggling to understand.  That is why I think the return of the ability to laugh at it all, (not in a sarcasitic or unkind way) is such a great sign of recovery and of the lightening that happens when we find ourselves as the point in our healing where we have begun to develop empathy and self compassion.

I have been thinking about this issue this week as there have been several incidences on radio where people have had their noses put out of joint by certain comments that obviously come from ignorant people or people just trying to make a point but being a bit wrong footed in their choice of words or expressions.    This then sparks a massive reaction and multiple news bulletins about the offence and how offended everyone was. I hope I am not being callous or unfeeling here but I found myself just thinking this week it was all a bit ridiculous.  Do we always have to be so ‘policitally correct?’  That said it all depends upon the person involved and their depth of wounding.   When we are in a vulnerable place without a lot of skin or scar tissue grown over our wounds they do bleed in response to triggers.  However I do think there is something to be said for learning to take comments a little less seriously and seeing the lighter side.  Maybe its just where I am today but I thought I would write a post about it.

In his book Dark Nights of The Soul, psychotherapist Thomas Moore addresses the issue of irony in depth, seeing it as both an profound outcome and powerful antidote to the dark night of depression.  The development of a comedic or ironical view means we escape the splitting of the ‘divided self’ so prevalent in our selves and culture.

How can you develop a constructive sense of irony in your life?  A first step might be to reconsider basic ideas you have about human life.   Many people live by sentimental notions that haven’t matured into appropriately complex ideas.  Life is complicated, usually more so than your understanding and philosophy of life.  A sense of irony develops from deeper thought and a more educated imagination.

Irony can only come from an awareness of the good and the bad, the successes and the failures, the areas of intelligence and the zones of folly and ignorance.

Know that you are both intelligent and stupid, often in the same moment.  Admit to what you desire and what you fear.  If you did little more than these two things, you would be filled with irony and your actions would be infinitely more trustworthy for their honesty.  Its alright to be afraid. Its alright to have grand and eccentric longing.  Only by embracing these two emotional pillars will you glimpse the nature of your soul, which is the ground of your existence.

A dark night of the soul take you to Hell, where you do not only feel withdrawn from life, you also discover yor own perversity and dark inclinations.   You find that you are a complex person and that life itself can’t be easily divided into good and evil.  Maybe you stop identifying with the good and own up to your own tendencies towards the bad.  Like Persephone, you give up your innocence and take some authority from your underworld.  ..

we are left with a great battle, not between good and evil, but between really living and just pretending…..Anyone passionate about life is neither all good nor all evil. ….Wallace Stevens once wrote….”The really real is made up of both fact and human imagination.  If you can’t think, reflect, and actively imagine your life into existence, you are condemned to a half life of unconsiousness. You are mired in facts, information and slogans.”…. Maybe your dark night is one big ironical challenge, just the opposite of what it appears to be – not a dying, but a birthing.

Thomas Moore, Life’s Ironies, Chapter Five, Dark Nights of the Soul, Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals.  

28 thoughts on “A sense of humor : on irony and the dark night of the soul.

  1. I’m well known by those in my life for my sense of humour. I can make fun of myself, and while a lot of times it’s genuine, other times it’s me just trying to cover over my real feelings or thoughts. It’s a fine balance. But it truly feels great to see the irony and “funny” in life situations. It takes a load off our shoulders.

    1. Yes it doesnt mean we have to negate the truth or serious stuff as humour can be used as a defence, but what I think I was trying to get out here is a sense of flexibilty which often goes out the window when we are badly traumatised as we have to defend so much and carry so much locked inside. I hope that makes sense. 🙂

  2. Agreed, girl! It’s a fine line. My sense of humor runs dry (on the dry side), which also means it’s often politically incorrect 😉. I seem to have a tougher skin than many. It seems that society itself, or segments thereof, has/have lost their sense of humor. Social consciousness does have its slightly darker side 💜💜

    1. Ha, ha… it more like a protective skin and then the softness has a good place to be inside it. To me its about detachment from the negative in poison barbs, hard to articulate. 🙂

  3. Thank you for this post. It brought understanding to “why” my sisters act as they do. I’ve been able to heal, to move on, and yes I do laugh a lot and can as well laugh at me. Both sisters are so deep in control over their emotions and sadly have lost the ability to laugh. When “truth” is spoken, their reaction is outrage and retaliation of a violent nature through words. I’m just so relieved that all the work I’ve done on myself has brought fruit to my efforts and I know the JOY of laughter. I’ve also just begun to put my toes back in the waters regarding the church I was born into, and last night began reading a book but this church has published … the philosophy about we being “worthless” jumped out at me and my soul screamed NO! I will NOT go down that road ever again and if I am not able to push this aside and still enjoy the beauty I find in the church itself, I will again have to leave. I will NOT be made to feel small, worthless, a victim. I was told and taught as a child that “sin” is mankind’s concept to keep control over the masses. Not going there either. I’ve worked too hard to free my Heart and Soul. May you have a really great day! ☺️

    1. Beautiful, beautiful comment Amy. I want to put it up as a blog in its own right. The basis of our conditioning at my Catholic School was the same, guilt wrongness inherent badness that could only be cured by buckling under. I dont even believe the Serpent in the garden was evil. Read psychologist Alice Miller on that one. I wrote a poem about that I havent ‘dared’ to post yet.

      Trust your own heart. Trust your own wisdom. Trust love. It really is the only answer and I know you know that as you are such a beautiful soul.

      Huge hug
      Deborah xoxo

      1. Deborah, the church I am speaking of is the Catholic Church. Even as a little girl I had different thoughts regarding what was taught. I used to get into a lot of trouble for asking questions the clergy did not like. I love the Mass itself but the attitudes and some of the teachings no. Going to Mass is giving me a lot of comfort right now yet I’m getting some nerves being hit with things that are being said. IF I can tolerate going to Mass and bypass what I know is not true, then great. If not, I’ll leave again. I’ve yet to find any church that I feel 100% comfortable in. I just don’t fit. I refuse to allow anyone to tell me I am inferior or a sinner (I don’t even believe in that word!) and most of all I refuse to allow anyone to make a sheep out of me! I’ve worked so hard at peeling away the dysfunction to finally find and see me and by golly, no one will take that away from me. I like my independent mind! No worries, dear friend. I will allow nothing or no one to sway me to be someone I am not. Nope. Not going there. LOVE is the only answer, which I have been teaching for years over at my blog. That is what Jesus showed me personally … that is a story all by itself. And that is exactly what my Heart tells me as well. Love is the answer. (smile) Much LOVE XOXOXO Amy 💞

      2. This may sound like blasphemy but I dont recall Jesus telling anyone to set up a formal church. He gave a lot of his talks in nature and was such a free spirit I personally dont see him liking a lot of what the Catholic church has done. That said if a Church is a collective where love is taught and expressed not fear or shame then I am for it. I am sure they must exist somewhere but you do need to keep your wits about you as so much of the Catholic religion is shame bound. In my humble opinion. x

      3. I agree with you. Jesus did not establish a Church. Yet for now I need this for me. It’s comforting. And it is helping to bring Peace to my ravaged Soul. I do promise myself if the shame slant is too much I’m out of there. I NEVER thought I would return to this church. Ever! I’m astonished that I’m doing this but my Heart does not lead me wrong. When I’ve had enough I’ll know. I really thank you for your concern and I truly understand why. This is the last place I ever thought I would go. Huh. Ya just never know …

      4. Well you love it there (on one level) obviously and so you are doing what you want and need and then you can see where its not coming from a loving place but keep love in your heart for what you DO love or want or need. I think thats great. Plus we need to be a part of a community. That is a very real need and church must give you that on some level. A place just to be and feel your heart with others around you. ❤ ❤

      5. That’s it! You got it. I so need to feel connected to people right now. My entire family except one brother have walked away from me. OH! I didn’t even realize this until you said something. WOW!

      6. I wish I lived closer to you and we could meet for a cup of tea. Its such a terrible pain when we undergo that kind of separation emotionally in families. I feel and know that pain Amy. I am sending you a big hug.

      7. Bless you, dear friend. Yes oh yes that pain goes deep. I’m finally pulling away from that pain. You and only a select few know about my family. I’ve been accused by some of them I am using my blog to bash family so yeah, I’m being spied on. I wish no more pain on them so I’ve laid low. For now. (smile) Ya can’t shut me up! 😉

      8. There was a little church for sale near a coastal area where I used to live. I had a dream to buy it and make it a place of refuge like the Magdalene Chapel I used to visit in Glastonbury. Imagine that, a church of like minded souls who could come together to grieve and celebrate. Its a dream I have. xo

      9. Oh, Deborah! I have the goosebumps! How badly a Church like this is needed. I’d go! No doubts! Please don’t ever give up on your Dream. I have a post coming either tomorrow or Thursday about what I am experiencing now and how not to let go of a Dream. I would LOVE to see this happen! 👏🏼💝👏🏼

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