Think of your funniest friend. Yeah, that one. You love hanging out with her, because…well, for one thing, she’s funny. She cracks you up. And when you’re with her, you realize it’s been a really long time since you laughed that hard. Probably since the last time you were with her. And you love that about her.
I met up with that friend of mine just last night. Told her she should seriously consider doing stand-up. She wasn’t surprised by the suggestion. She’s heard it before. In fact, she actually did some clowning when she was younger, she tells me…which makes perfect sense. So here we are…enjoying a glass of wine and catching up a little. We’re both pretty open books, so it’s completely natural for the conversation to go where some friends never tread. But, we feel safe with each other, so we end up going deeper than we have before. She shares a story that breaks my heart, and at the same time, her rendition of it makes me laugh out loud. It’s what she does. A routine she figured out a long time ago. Clowning her way around unbearable truths to keep from feeling equally unbearable emotions. She had to. How else could she have survived what she just shared with me?
Freud viewed humor as the highest of the defense mechanisms. Masha Mishkinsky referred to it as a “courage mechanism,” suggesting that it serves as more than a tool for ignoring or displacing unpleasant aspects of reality. It actually contends with them…a more refined and effective means of coping. Even altruistic, some say. And I whole-heartedly agree. Because there’s no way around the fact that life is hard. And thankfully, laughter is really good medicine. That’s all there is to it.
So, keep that in mind next time you’re bantering with that brilliantly witty friend of yours, or you happen to overhear the office jokester breaking out with their latest showstopper. Remember that even the funniest person has something about them, about what they’ve been through, that is far from funny, and take a moment to appreciate their courage. Consider the fact that it may be the only routine they know. After all, aren’t we all tap dancing as fast as we can in one way or another? And what a relief it is when we find that we can share our unbearable truths with friends who will help us carry the weight of all the emotions we thought we’d never be able to bear.
For those already on a path toward healing and recovery, you know what I’m talking about. That it’s both an honor and a hoot to call these courageous comedians our friends. And for any guys out there who might be dating a “funny girl,” I’ll leave you with these final words of very wise advice: Give her time. And when she decides to stop laughing, be there to remind her it’s okay. Remind her you love her, through the laughter AND the tears.