As Lightning Process practitioners, we talk a lot with our clients about ‘resilience’ – what this profoundly important word means, how we stimulate it, preserve it, spot early enough when it is waning, that sort of thing. And very frequently, I find myself indebted to my clients for sharing their nuggets of wisdom as we collaborate on their LP journeys.
Earlier this year I wrote about a number of clients coming to the Lightning Process training, especially with a history of struggling with anxiety, stress, and burnout, explaining that their medical practitioners had advised them to find a way to ‘self-soothe’, to find calm or relief. This week I was struck by the ‘self’ part of that phrase. Why?
I suddenly noticed a pattern in myself. For context, (and I know I am far from being alone in this) I can be quite dismissive about myself and time – how I am using it, how I am wasting it – you know the sort of thing. It boils down to being very judgy about myself: I judge how much time I spend “surfing” the internet every day, how much time I spend reading certain threads, commentators on world events, and op-ed writers, and how eagerly I await their next articles or posts.
And then I spotted the pattern. Each one of them is a master in ‘gallows humour’. The details don’t matter but as I explain below, it turns out their purpose or effect really does matter.
Definitions of ‘gallows humour’ include “jokes or humorous remarks that are made about unpleasant or worrying subjects such as death and illness” (Cambridge Dictionary) and humour “that makes fun of a life-threatening, disastrous, or terrifying situation” (Merriam Webster). The sociologist Antonin J. Obrdlik, who in 1942 spent time in what was then called Czechoslovakia after the Nazis invaded, and who studied gallows humour, wrote about it as a manifestation of resistance and collective grief and as a collective tool for raising morale.
For context, I should explain that when I was deep in the pit of PTSD, kindly family members used to call me and say things like: “Don’t watch the news today…” meaning to protect me from awful goings on. Tiptoeing around me and shielding me at the same time. I had also definitely lost any sense of humour, gallows or otherwise!
So, given that history, to find myself eagerly connecting with gallows humour now still takes me by surprise sometimes and is an important measure to me of how far I have come over the years.
For many of us, we have internalised our sufferings as the result of personal flaws rather than a dimension of our collective experience. This made me think too of gallows humour as ‘collective soothing’, a way to find calm and relief, even with people we don’t know when the going gets rough.
So now, when I feel like a tent flapping in a storm and powerless to many of the world’s events, I am going to remember that sometimes what we need to sustain resilience is shared collective soothing. Instead of judging myself for “wasting time”, I will feel warmer about the moments I spend enjoying the brilliance of these wonderful writers, cartoonists, and the likes, as the guy ropes and tent pegs my soul sometimes needs.
If you’re struggling to maintain your resilience in these uncertain times, contact us for a chat and find out how we can help you.