The Dark Side of Laughter

The more the light shines through me/ I pretend to close my eyes/ The more the dark consumes me/ I pretend I’m burning, burning bright… Lyrics from the song  ‘Burning Bright’, by Shinedown

It’s been said that ‘laughter is the best medicine’…

Perhaps that’s true. According to a study done by the University of Michigan, laughter increases blood flow, delivers more oxygen to cells, improves lung health, and strengthens the immune system in ways that help ward off viruses and even cancer.

Laughter defines our world, throughout every available medium and throughout every conceivable interaction. From internet memes to television comedy specials to office/job-site pranks, laughter is a precious commodity to the human race. We constantly seek the humor of things, and we cherish the company of people who make us laugh. Countless comedians have gone from obscurity to stardom based upon their ability to crack a well-timed joke.

But is that all there is to it? Laughter is good for you? Funny people are God’s gift to our world?

No.

A thousand times over, no.

There is a psychological concept known as ‘congruence’, and this idea powerfully impacts the psychology of humor. I’m no therapist, but my entire life’s experience has led me to believe in its truth. The idea behind ‘congruence’ could be defined thus: The closer the façade you display to others matches the person you really are, the more mental health you will enjoy. The further away your façade is from your nature, the more miserable you will be.

It’s no accident (as multiple, extended studies have shown) that people who listen to hard rock/heavy metal are more relaxed, and enjoy better mental health than many other demographics. Metal-heads are perfectly at peace with their own anger, and exorcise their inner demons by enjoying them as an art form.

Your average metal-head would never shoot up a school, or kill himself…

But a comedian – a ‘class clown’ – just might.

A sense of humor can be a wonderful thing, but it all too often serves as a mask. Very often, behind the brightest of smiles lurks the darkest of thoughts. Very often the loudest laugh covers the deepest pain. Humor, despite its benefits, often leads to mental ‘in-congruence’; it often creates a yawning rift between what a person portrays and what they really are.

Chris Farley, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Sam Kinison, Robin Williams… All of them made us laugh while they wallowed in their own privates rooms in Hell. Their deaths shocked us all because we only saw the mask, not the person.

Yes, sometimes humor is a wonderful thing.

But sometimes, just sometimes…

We need to quit laughing and face ourselves, and each other. The consequences for not doing so can be brutal…

Even more so than the demons that we were trying flee by laughing.

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