Tuesday, September 25, 2007

“Healthy Humor” versus “Unhealthy Humor”

As many of my readers know, I use humor in the majority of my writing. For example, my novels (My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days, Fear of Feeling Loved, and If Ever Again… It’ll be for Love) are sprinkled with humorous lines and incidences.

Humor is the ability or quality of people, objects, or situations to evoke feelings of amusement in other people. The term encompasses a form of entertainment or human communication which evokes such feelings, or which makes people laugh or feel happy. The origin of the term derives from the humoral medicine of the ancient Greeks, which stated that a mix of fluids known as humours (Greek: χυμός, chymos, literally: juice or sap, metaphorically: flavour) controlled human health and emotion. An important question, nonetheless, is: when is humor “healthy” and when is it “unhealthy”?

In Chapter 16 (“Living Life, Serenely”) of my pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway, I discuss the difference between these two types of humor:

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This discourse on the importance of, and the aspects of, living life serenely, would not be complete without unfeigned recognition of the value of healthy humor. Sick or unhealthy humor involves “making fun of” and “making fun at” some thing or an individual. Whereas unhealthy humor is funny “at the expense of” some thing or an individual, healthy humor is funny “in the respect, honoring, and serenity of” some thing or an individual. It is interesting to note, that in my most serene moments I am able to laugh, and most importantly, to laugh at myself. It is with a sense of good, healthy humor that I conclude this chapter on living life, serenely with the following farcical perspective on serenity:

“A Serenity Prayer for the Stressed”

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I cannot accept,

And the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to kill today

because they pissed me off.

And also, help me to be careful of the toes I step on today

As they may be connected to the ass I have to kiss tomorrow.

Help me to always give 100% at work...

12% on Monday, 23% on Tuesday, 40% on Wednesday,

20% on Thursday, and 5% on Friday.

And help me remember...

When I’m having a really bad day,

And it seems that people are trying to piss me off,

That it takes 42 muscles to frown

But only 4 to extend my middle finger and tell them where to stick it. (pp. 119-120)

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Question: Have you ever been the victim of unhealthy humor?



Julia Phillips Smith said...

That is hilarious!

As for unhealthy humor, fortunately or unfortunately, where I live we all have a rather wry, even dark sense of humor. I've discovered that Nova Scotia (New Scotland) pretty much shares the Scottish insult-humor, wherein the more you like someone, the more you tease them. When my husband moved here with me from Ontario, he didn't get this at all and thought people were making fun of him. So I had to interpret the humor for him.

Now he realizes that the more polite and non-insult-y his co-workers are, the less they feel comfortable or close to him.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Julia,
Glad you enjoyed the story! (It is rather humorous.)
Regarding your husband's experience, it seems like we're back to perception again -- i.e., your humor can only hurt me if I perceive it to be hurtful. It was that way with me and many of my friends when I was growing up in New Jersey -- the more then chided and teased you, the more they liked you. But as you pointed out, one had to know that! Further yet, maybe it's more accurately "perceived intentions."
Thanks for making me think!