Its okay to be happy or sad, to laugh or cry and there are times we just cannot laugh and we may be told to lighten up when actually people don’t want to validate how we feel or don’t really know what we may be going through. I love a quote which I think is from Kahil Gibran which says how he hopes for his life to always be filled with both tears and laughter. Don’t get me wrong I know a lot of people are deeply defended against sadness, you know the kind of thing, someone dies and they tell you the person would not want you to feel sad or are in a better place, most probably true but losing someone on some levels is deeply sad, a huge tear and loss. The connection goes on inwardly but the reality is the person is no longer there, and yes we need, in time to accept that reality but depending on the conditions of the loss it may take all kinds of different periods of time to work through that loss and we may actually need those around us who let us cry and will sit with us as we cry and not try to ‘jolly’ us out of it.
In my own family I saw so often how unshed tears went into other directions. I do think its a heroic task at times move on after certain heavy and compound losses and it is such a welcome moment when the time comes when we find ourselves able to laugh, feel joy and smile. I like it when I take my sister out and get her smiling because I know that a lot of her sorrow is over things going wrong that cannot be changed and over things that were deeply hurtful and sad. Those things need validation but laughter brings us some sunshine. Sadly her ex husband often used to use disparaging humour to put her down. Bad things happened to her outside of her power to control at the time and that is the true reality, to gloss over it wont help anyone which is why I worry about the kind of approach they take in the facility that she goes to twice a year where they just give her lectures on anxiety and depression assistance techniques but don’t seem to help her bring out what has gone on over many years and how it feels for her. Its almost as if all she has been through does not exist and no one really wants to address it. At times though when I see her critical side I see how it puts a damper on happiness and I often think that if she could be less formal and more open to be vulnerable and reach out to others she may not have to carry so many feelings of such heavy sadness, and yet her journey is hers, it is not mine to undergo.
I wonder at times in my own therapy sometimes how helpful it is to always be going over painful events too, but I also think that as far as trauma and the major symptoms of a fractured ‘narrative’ or sense of psychological continuity is concerned we do need to go over and over old ground both intellectually and feeling wise. We do this in order to process and come to terms with it. To make sense of just what did happen, how it REALLY affected us and in order to understand how much was and was not within our control, because one major symptom of trauma which comes out of emotional neglect or abuse is that we blame ourselves unnecessarily or fail to take responsibility for our own boundaries or self empowerment.
That said if we are just talking and not feeling, opening and releasing and understanding the deeper interconnection between thoughts and feelings I feel there is a degree to which we can get ‘stuck’ in old territory and this is where laughter and a sense of humour and irony comes in, especially with regards to abuse. While it’s not much fun for others to say mean things to you, dismiss, invalidate or put you down, in the end its only up to you the level of offence you take and how much your internalise and personalise it as an adult. Let’s face it, some people are just downright mean and not everyone has good intentions, some people raise themselves up by putting others down. As a good friend of my ex said to me many years after the relationship was over “Phil used you like a bar of soap to wash his dirty hands clean!’ My friend was great with metaphors in that way.
These days I see I didn’t deserve that level of abuse or unkind treatment while understanding why the things I did irritated him, I know what his wounds are and I accept that it would never have worked without him also taking some responsibility, instead of believing what he told me at the end… that the relationship failing was all my fault. I managed to laugh over some things that happened when dealing with it in a body work session a few months ago because I have made sense of things and worked through much of the pain.
Sadly, humour can also be used to put people down and that is a great point a valued follower made today, and it was something I was thinking about after a long conversation with my cousin’s son yesterday. In his family I see them putting each other down with humour in ways that aren’t really that funny, and at times seem downright mean (and somewhat abusive at times). They don’t seem to be able to show love in a vulnerable way. I remember reading in a dream book about the image of being ‘needled’ how it can be a way for certain family members to empower themselves on other members, or scapegoat them and it hurts more when two or more gang up on the ‘innocent’ person. This kind of humour abuse also ties the victim up in knots because they will then be put down for having a reaction, having no sense of humour or for ‘taking things too personally’. The meaning of the world sarcasm is actually to ‘tear flesh’ and its the psychic flesh of the person that is torn off and it may leave them feeling terribly vulnerable, raw and skinless.
I watch a lot of comedy these days but I don’t like all of it. I know there is heaps of dysfunction out there but at times I don’t see the fun in some of it, that is just me. I got in trouble in my last relationship when I didn’t see it as funny when his friends were laughing about how drunk people had hurt themselves, for example. Having hurt myself in the midst of blackouts so often it wasn’t a laughing matter for me and I don’t see getting drunk and allowing yourself to be hurt as all that funny. But then in a society where the recreational use of alcohol is seen as normal I am often on the outer when it comes down to this kind of thing.
These days I welcome my laughter and my tears equally and its why I love the Kahil Gibran quote. However I also don’t visualise a meaningful life that is only full of heavy gloom, self and/or heaps of outwardly directed criticism or filled up with nurturing feelings of toxic separation, guilt or isolation. When it comes down to it certain thoughts and negative attitudes do generate difficult feelings that may be transformed if we were able to view the situation from a more loving or less wounded and wounding perspective. That is why these days I try to nurture gratitude while not using it to promote denial, it’s why I try to concentrate on what is working or what I can do to improve things, than always concentrate on what is flawed or broken or that which my inner critic tries to tell me was a sign of failure when really it was more about evolution. But at one time I needed to take those things seriously and get all bent out of shape about them and struggle with the impact and all of the complex ins and outs of the situations in life.
I love the AA slogan, we strive for progress rather than perfection, that said I know that there are also times when it is valuable to regress, for growth and life and relationships both inner and outer are not linear but cyclic in nature and energy moves both forward and backward, in and out, and also in spirals in my experience. We get to go over and over old ground many times on this journey of recovery developing over time the capacity to see things from a new, different or more all encompassing perspective.