Life is hard, but I learnt I can always find a reason to laugh.
I’ve never been good at talking about my feelings. When faced with an emotion I’m uncomfortable with, be it anger or grief, my first instinct is always to avoid it at all costs.
This usually involves throwing myself into my work to distract myself and never addressing the root cause of the problem.
But I soon noticed I was trapped in a cycle where I would bottle up my emotions and eventually explode.
Determined to break this cycle, I started to look for different ways to cope with these difficult emotions.
Here is how I found humour to help me through tough times.
When my grandmother with dementia first moved in with my family, it broke my heart every time she told my brother and I to “go study”, after we had repeatedly told her that we were currently working already.
I thought I would get used to her forgetfulness, but I still felt upset at my grandmother’s plight every time she forgot things, like where her new bedroom was.
One day, I started telling my family some stories of my grandmother forgetting things. They knew exactly what I was going through, and had their own funny stories to share.
We ended up having a good chuckle over those stories, and I realised that I didn’t feel as bad anymore as I was not alone in my experiences with her.
Another time, my father had a slipped disc and had to use an office chair to guide him around the house.
I felt bad that I was not able to help alleviate his pain, but tried to use humour to help, jokingly comparing him to the children using skating aids at the ice skating rink.
He took the joke well, and would mention it every time he had to get up to walk again, which made the entire family laugh.
My laughter helped me to cope with these dreadful experiences. I got to see a lighter side to the situation, and suddenly they weren’t quite as dreadful anymore.
Since the fact that my grandmother was losing her memory could not be changed, I could either continue feeling sorry for her (and myself), or I could seek solace in seeing the humour in the situation.
In the past, I would purposefully avoid my emotions during tough times like this, making myself suffer over and over as the negative feelings never went away.
Now, I acknowledge that life isn’t supposed to be easy, but I can find the humour in problems I am facing to make my life a little easier.
With that, I am able to cope better with unsolvable situations, such as my grandmother’s dementia.
Whenever my grandmother repeated the same things to me, I got sad, but I comforted myself by saying: “This is a part of life, and there is nothing I can do to change it, but that’s normal and okay.”
That simple self-talk made me remember I didn’t have to face a wave of negative emotions every time my grandmother forgot something, and often helped me see the humorous silver linings in the situations I was in.
If 2020 had taught me any lesson, it was that I wasn’t alone in finding humour effective in dealing with dark situations.
This is especially true when it comes to dark humour: morbid jokes, usually about a taboo subject such as death or violence. While dark humour is often offensive, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
According to behavioural economist Peter McGraw, poking fun at an uncontrollable problem is “a way to kind of give yourself a sense of control in a world that seems uncontrollable”.
It was also a great temporary respite from the chaos surrounding us, especially during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although dark humour may be great at distracting you for a while, be sure not to share the jokes with others if you find that they are too tactless or distasteful.
Of course, learning to use humour in tough times doesn’t mean that my life is completely free of worries. I still have a tendency to get lost in my problems, and I often have to remind myself to laugh instead of suffer.
But, for someone who used to subconsciously block out my own emotions, using humour has been amazing at helping me through tough times.
My sense of humour will always be there for me, and I’ll use it to keep my head above water.
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