Trauma Grief & Humor As A Coping Mechanism

(Last Updated On: February 20, 2024)

Trauma Grief & Humor As A Coping Mechanism

Helping Scam Victims Understand How To Use Humor As A Coping Mechanism

Scam Victim Recovery Psychology – A SCARS Insight

Authors:
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
Originally Published: 2023 – Article Updated: 2024

Article Abstract

The use of humor as a coping mechanism for trauma and grief is a complex yet powerful phenomenon. Humor can provide temporary relief from the overwhelming emotions associated with traumatic experiences, offering a sense of control and connection in difficult times. However, the appropriateness of humor varies depending on individual circumstances, and it’s crucial to approach it with sensitivity and respect.

Gallows humor, in particular, can be an inappropriate coping strategy, especially for new or recent scam victims, as it involves or appears to involve making light of serious or tragic events. While it can help some individuals process their trauma, it may be perceived as insensitive or offensive by others.

Ultimately, humor should be used as a tool for healing and connection, supporting individuals as they navigate the challenging journey of trauma recovery.

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New Victim Advisory

Humor is generally not suggested for scam victims in their first 6 months after the discovery of the crime, and for some much longer.

Irony (ironic humor) is a nuanced perception/emotion, and for most new victims it has been adversely affected by their trauma and grief.

Gallows humor, characterized by making light of serious or grim situations, serves as a coping mechanism for individuals facing trauma or adversity. By finding humor in dark circumstances, people may temporarily alleviate their distress and regain a sense of control over their experiences. This form of humor can act as a deflection mechanism, allowing individuals to distance themselves emotionally from their trauma and shield themselves from overwhelming emotions. That distancing is NOT recovery, it is avoiding recovery, so it is important to understand that it can help in the moment to remain functional, but in the long run is not usually helpful.

However, while gallows humor can be a coping strategy for those who have undergone significant trauma, it is not typically appropriate or helpful for individuals who are still processing recent traumatic experiences. For those in the early stages of trauma recovery, gallows humor may inadvertently trivialize their pain or inhibit their ability to confront and heal from their wounds.

Therefore, while gallows humor can serve as a valuable coping mechanism for some, it’s essential to recognize its limitations and respect individuals’ varying needs and stages of healing.

We did not always understand this in years past, but as our knowledge of victim & recovery psychology increased we saw this more clearly. When we talk about process improvement, this is but one example of what we mean.

Trauma & Grief And The Benefits Of Humor

Introduction – Humor As A Coping Mechanism

Traumatic events are life-changing experiences that can leave individuals feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and emotionally drained. Trauma can result from many different experiences, including natural disasters, accidents, violence, and personal loss. The road to recovery can be long and difficult, but there are various coping mechanisms that can help individuals deal with their trauma. One such mechanism is the use of humor. Humor can help people better mitigate trauma and process grief after a traumatic event occurs.

Humor is a coping mechanism that can help individuals deal with stressful and difficult situations. It can help individuals create distance from their traumatic experiences and provide a sense of relief. Humor can help individuals regain a sense of control in a situation where they feel helpless. Humor can also provide a release of tension and stress, which can be beneficial for individuals dealing with trauma.

Humor can also help individuals connect with others who have experienced similar traumatic events. This sense of connection can be a powerful tool for recovery. Sharing humorous stories or jokes can help individuals bond and create a supportive environment where they feel comfortable sharing their experiences.

Humor can also help individuals reframe their experiences. It can help them see their trauma in a new light and find meaning in their experiences. This can be particularly helpful for individuals who feel stuck or overwhelmed by their trauma. Reframing their experiences through humor can help individuals find a new perspective and move forward in their healing process.

Trauma Can Take Away A Sense Of Humor

Does a traumatized person lose their sense of humor and when can it return?

Trauma can affect people in different ways, including their sense of humor. Some people may find that they lose their sense of humor following a traumatic event, while others may find that their sense of humor becomes darker or more cynical.

It’s important to note that everyone copes with trauma (and grief) differently, and there is no right or wrong way to feel or react to a traumatic experience (though there are reactions that are more common than others.)

Losing one’s sense of humor can be a natural and normal response to trauma, as it can be difficult to find things to laugh about when dealing with intense emotional pain or distress.

However, it’s also possible for a person’s sense of humor to return as they begin to process and heal from their trauma. This may happen gradually over time, as they work through their feelings and begin to find joy in everyday life again.

It’s important to seek support from a mental health professional if you or someone you know has experienced trauma and is struggling with their sense of humor or other emotional difficulties. A therapist or counselor can provide guidance and tools to help manage the impact of trauma on one’s life and emotions.

Different Ways That Humor Can Help Someone Copy With Trauma And Grief

Humor can be a powerful tool for coping with trauma and grief, as it can provide a temporary escape from the pain and allow individuals to feel a sense of control and hope in difficult situations. Here are some ways in which humor can help:

  1. Relief from tension and stress: Laughter and humor can provide a release from the tension and stress associated with trauma and grief. It can help individuals feel more relaxed and less overwhelmed by their emotions.
  2. Coping mechanism: Humor can serve as a coping mechanism for individuals dealing with trauma and grief. It allows them to find a way to deal with their pain in a way that feels less overwhelming.
  3. Connection and support: Humor can also help individuals feel more connected to others and provide a sense of support during difficult times. Sharing a funny story or a joke with others can create a sense of community and help individuals feel less alone.
  4. As A Shift in perspective: Humor can help individuals shift their perspective on a situation, which can be particularly helpful when dealing with trauma and grief. It can help them see the situation in a new light and find a way to move forward.
  5. Coping with the absurd: Sometimes, humor is a way to cope with the absurdity of a situation. It can help individuals deal with situations that are so difficult or unusual that they seem almost surreal.

Humor As A Coping Mechanism Can Also Become A Way To Avoid Feeling

Yes, it is possible for humor to become an avoidance mechanism for crime victims who are suffering from trauma and grief. While humor can be a helpful coping mechanism, it can also be used to avoid or suppress emotions and thoughts that are difficult to deal with.

In some cases, crime victims may use humor to avoid facing the full extent of their trauma or to avoid feeling overwhelmed by their emotions. They may use humor as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from further pain or to distance themselves from the traumatic experience.

While using humor as a coping mechanism is not necessarily harmful, it can become problematic if it prevents individuals from fully processing and dealing with their trauma. If humor is used as a way to avoid or suppress emotions, it can prevent individuals from working through their feelings and may prolong the healing process.

It’s important for individuals who have experienced trauma to seek out professional support and therapy in addition to using humor as a coping mechanism. A therapist can help individuals find healthy ways to cope with their trauma and work through their emotions in a safe and supportive environment.

Types Of Humor

Humor can be a powerful coping mechanism for people suffering from trauma or grief. However, not all types of humor may be helpful or appropriate in such situations. Here are a few types of humor that may serve as effective coping mechanisms for people dealing with trauma or grief:

  • Self-Deprecating Humor: Making light of oneself or one’s situation can help reduce the intensity of emotions associated with trauma or grief. Self-deprecating humor can help people feel a sense of control and empowerment over their situation.
  • Dark Humor: Making light of dark or taboo subjects can also be an effective coping mechanism for some people. Humor that acknowledges the reality of a traumatic or painful situation can help individuals process their emotions and feel a sense of connection with others who have experienced similar situations. Dark or Gallows Humor can have a negative effect too, as it can promote a negative view of the world that can actually increase a scam victim’s trauma and make it more difficult to process grief. Always be careful with this type of humor and do not let it dominate.
  • Positive Humor: Focusing on positive, uplifting humor can help balance out the negative emotions associated with trauma or grief. Laughing at funny jokes or sharing happy memories can help people feel more optimistic and hopeful.
  • Absurd Humor: Humor that is completely unexpected or surreal can be a powerful tool for reducing stress and anxiety associated with trauma or grief. Absurd humor can help individuals step outside of their current reality and gain a new perspective on their situation.

Inappropriate Humor

When is humor not appropriate as a coping mechanism for people that suffer from trauma or grief?

While humor can be a helpful coping mechanism for many people who are dealing with trauma or grief, there are situations where it may not be appropriate. Here are some examples:

  1. When it is used to minimize or dismiss the trauma: Using humor to dismiss or minimize someone’s traumatic experience can be hurtful and invalidating. It can make the person feel like their feelings and experiences are not being taken seriously.
  2. When it is used to avoid processing emotions: Using humor to avoid processing difficult emotions can be counterproductive in the long term. It can prevent the person from fully processing their trauma and may prolong the healing process.
  3. When it is used to mask unhealthy coping behaviors: Sometimes, humor can be used as a way to mask unhealthy coping behaviors, such as substance abuse or self-harm. In these cases, using humor to cope may be a sign that the person needs more support and professional help to address their underlying issues.
  4. When it is used inappropriately: Humor can also be inappropriate if it is offensive or hurtful to others. Using humor that is racist, sexist, or homophobic, for example, can be hurtful to others and may create more trauma and grief.
  5. When it is not wanted: Finally, it’s important to recognize that not everyone wants to use humor as a coping mechanism. Some people may prefer to process their emotions in other ways, and it’s important to respect their preferences and support them in their own healing journey.

Gallows Humor

Gallows humor is a type of humor that makes light of serious, tragic, or taboo subjects, including death, violence, and other traumatic events. It is often used as a coping mechanism by individuals who have experienced trauma, grief, or other difficult experiences. Gallows humor is often characterized by a dark or morbid tone and can be controversial or offensive to some people.

When it comes to supporting someone who has experienced trauma or grief, gallows humor can have both positive and negative effects. On the one hand, humor can be a powerful tool for coping with difficult emotions and can help people feel more connected to others who have experienced similar situations. Gallows humor can also help individuals regain a sense of control over their situation and find a way to cope with the overwhelming emotions that come with trauma or grief.

On the other hand, gallows humor can also be difficult for some people to understand or accept, especially if they are not familiar with the cultural or personal context in which it is used. It can be perceived as insensitive, inappropriate, or offensive to those who have not experienced trauma or grief in the same way. This can lead to misunderstandings, conflicts, or further isolation for the person who is using gallows humor as a coping mechanism.

It’s important to approach gallows humor with sensitivity and respect and to be aware of the potential impact it may have on others. If you are supporting someone who has experienced trauma or grief and they use gallows humor as a coping mechanism, it’s important to listen and respond with empathy and understanding, rather than judgment or criticism. Ultimately, humor can be a powerful tool for healing and coping, but it’s important to approach it with sensitivity and respect, especially in the context of trauma or grief.

Humor Can Help Others To Understand The Depth Of A Victim’s Suffering

The humor that a person finds funny can offer valuable insights into their experiences and the depth of their suffering. Humor is often a reflection of one’s beliefs, values, and experiences, and the types of humor that someone enjoys can provide clues about their personality, coping mechanisms, and the way they view the world.

For example, if someone who has experienced trauma or grief finds humor in dark or morbid jokes, it may be a sign that they are struggling to come to terms with their emotions and are using humor as a coping mechanism to deal with difficult feelings. Similarly, if someone who has experienced trauma or grief finds humor in absurd or surreal jokes, it may be a sign that they are trying to find a way to detach from their experiences and gain a different perspective.

By paying attention to the types of humor that someone finds funny, others can gain a better understanding of their experiences and the depth of their suffering. This can help friends, family members, or mental health professionals to provide more effective support and connect with the person on a deeper level.

However, it’s important to approach humor with sensitivity and respect, especially when it comes to traumatic or sensitive topics. Humor should never be used to dismiss or minimize someone’s experiences or emotions, and it’s important to be aware of potential triggers and to approach humor as a potential tool for healing and coping, rather than as a means of belittling or invalidating someone’s feelings.

Using Humor To Uplift People Suffering From Trauma Or Grief

Using humor to uplift people suffering from trauma or grief can be a powerful tool for providing support and comfort. Humor can help people feel more optimistic, hopeful, and connected to others, which can be especially important during times of emotional distress.

Here are some tips for using humor to uplift people suffering from trauma or grief:

  • Be sensitive to their needs: Humor can be a powerful tool, but it’s important to be sensitive to the person’s individual needs and preferences. What may be funny to one person may not be funny to another, especially when it comes to traumatic or sensitive topics. It’s important to be aware of their triggers and to approach humor in a respectful and supportive way.
  • Use positive humor: Focusing on positive, uplifting humor can help balance out the negative emotions associated with trauma or grief. Laughing at funny jokes or sharing happy memories can help people feel more optimistic and hopeful.
  • Use appropriate humor: It’s important to use appropriate humor that is respectful and mindful of the person’s experiences and emotions. Humor that dismisses or minimizes their feelings can be harmful and may further isolate them.
  • Encourage laughter: Laughter can be a powerful tool for reducing stress and anxiety associated with trauma or grief. Encourage the person to engage in activities that make them laugh, such as watching a funny movie, reading a humorous book, or spending time with friends who have a positive sense of humor.
  • Be present and supportive: Using humor to uplift someone who is suffering from trauma or grief is just one part of providing support. It’s important to be present, listen with empathy, and offer ongoing support as they navigate their emotions and experiences.

Ultimately, using humor to uplift people suffering from trauma or grief requires sensitivity, respect, and empathy. By approaching humor as a potential tool for healing and coping, rather than as a one-size-fits-all solution, you can provide meaningful support and comfort to those who are struggling.

For Victims – How To Say It Is Not Funny!

If someone has been traumatized and a joke is not funny and hurts them, it can be difficult to express this to the person telling the joke. Here are some tips for how to communicate this effectively:

  1. Take a deep breath: It’s important to take a moment to calm down and gather your thoughts before responding. This can help you approach the situation in a calm and assertive manner.
  2. Use “I” statements: When expressing your feelings, it’s important to use “I” statements that focus on your own feelings and experiences, rather than blaming the other person. For example, “I feel uncomfortable when you make jokes about [topic]” rather than “You are being offensive.”
  3. Be specific: Be specific about what the joke is and why it is hurtful or offensive to you. Explain how it relates to your personal experiences and why it is triggering or upsetting.
  4. Set boundaries: It’s important to set clear boundaries around what is and is not acceptable when it comes to humor. Let the person know what topics are off-limits and what kind of humor you find inappropriate.
  5. Listen: It’s important to listen to the other person’s response and try to understand their perspective. This can help you find common ground and work towards a solution that works for both of you.

Remember that it can be difficult to express your feelings when you have been traumatized, but it’s important to advocate for your own needs and communicate them clearly. If the other person continues to make jokes that are hurtful or offensive, it may be necessary to distance yourself from that person or seek support from others who understand and respect your boundaries.

Important To Remember

It’s important to remember that humor is a personal and subjective experience, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to be sensitive to each person’s individual needs and preferences and to approach humor as a potential tool for healing and coping, rather than as a one-size-fits-all solution.

Also note that while humor can be a helpful coping mechanism, it is not a substitute for professional support or therapy. If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma or grief, it’s important to seek out professional help in addition to using humor as a coping mechanism.

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2 Comments

  1. Carmen Rivera February 20, 2024 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    While reading this article, I remembered laughing yoga sessions I got to enjoy at work. We were under lots of pressure at work at that time. Laughing therapy was brought to us as a remedy. It made the difference and we all were able to let go the stress. I remember releasing lots of tension.

    • SCARS Editorial Team February 20, 2024 at 4:04 pm - Reply

      Laughing therapy is about stress removal/relief, humor is different. It relates more to helping mid-stage survivors (9 months to 18 months) look at the crime from a different perspective to aid in recovery.

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