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Author Topic: Jokes as a coping mechanism  (Read 1913 times)

Sefiru

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Jokes as a coping mechanism
« on: February 21, 2020, 07:33:45 pm »
Bouncing off this comment in the virus thread:

I've had to deal with kids joking about the Coronavirus in various forms (you can get it from drinking a Corona)

What are people's thoughts on the use of jokes as a response to stress or fear? Besides the above example, I've also heard that in high-stress occupations such as medicine, the jokes within the group can get very dark indeed. Do you think this sort of behavior is ,

a) a healthy or effective coping mechanism?

b) morally acceptable?

c) a coping mechanism at all, or is something else going on here?

(Whether or not the jokes are funny may well be beside the point, too).

Sefiru

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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2020, 07:35:59 pm »
b) morally acceptable?

On this point, I'm inclined to say, no, of course not. These kinds of jokes are supposed to be inappropriate and transgressive; that's what gives them their power.

Anon100

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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2020, 07:53:56 pm »
Bouncing off this comment in the virus thread:

What are people's thoughts on the use of jokes as a response to stress or fear? Besides the above example, I've also heard that in high-stress occupations such as medicine, the jokes within the group can get very dark indeed. Do you think this sort of behavior is ,


I think it depends on wether the person understands the seriousness of the issue and how the humor is directed.
I have a relative who laughed when they found out their sibling had died. This wasn't humor, it was simply that they were in so much pain it was the only way they could let it out.
I've also known people who were ex soldiers and have told me of their gallows humor. A way of saying yes, we may die but we'll laugh and face it with a smile. And then there's the humor of seeing some quirk of a passed loved one in a happening on the funeral day.

All the above are valid coping mechanisms. It's whenyou laugh at the victims or laugh because you don't accept the truth of the situation that its wrong.
At least to my mind.

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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2020, 09:49:13 pm »
What are people's thoughts on the use of jokes as a response to stress or fear? Besides the above example, I've also heard that in high-stress occupations such as medicine, the jokes within the group can get very dark indeed. Do you think this sort of behavior is ,

a) a healthy or effective coping mechanism?

Yes.

b) morally acceptable?

whose morals?


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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2020, 09:55:55 pm »
a) a healthy or effective coping mechanism?

I think not, but I'm not a psychologist. From my own anecdotal experience, people who joke about these types of things tend to downplay their seriousness.

b) morally acceptable?

Gonna be blunt: Hell. No.

In fact the propensity to joke about tragic events that cost human lives, is in my opinion, one of the single most offensive and immoral habits of the current generation. Treating something that has killed thousands of people as a joke is appalling. Corona-virus jokes are about as tasteful as 9/11 jokes. 

c) a coping mechanism at all, or is something else going on here?

Depends on the person. Some people do it specifically to offend, in which case I don't think it's a coping mechanism at all. Many of the Coronavirus jokes I have seen are laced with racism, and often come from the same people who make other racist jokes.
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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2020, 05:14:32 am »
Bouncing off this comment in the virus thread:

What are people's thoughts on the use of jokes as a response to stress or fear? Besides the above example, I've also heard that in high-stress occupations such as medicine, the jokes within the group can get very dark indeed. Do you think this sort of behavior is ,

a) a healthy or effective coping mechanism?

b) morally acceptable?

c) a coping mechanism at all, or is something else going on here?

(Whether or not the jokes are funny may well be beside the point, too).
Very much so, it was pretty standard in the military. Black humour isn't always "normally" appropriate, but then again those using it in normal situations, and have to push through high stress situations.

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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2020, 05:59:07 am »


a) a healthy or effective coping mechanism?


Yes absolutely


b) morally acceptable?


Don't really care. Provided it kept between people who understand the point of it then I see no problem with it.


c) a coping mechanism at all, or is something else going on here?


I work in a high stress field and the stress will never entirely go even when I retire.   It's an effective way of diffusing a level of stress and worry that would otherwise have me hiding under a duvet and refusing to come out. My GP has on a number of occasions offered me medication to help manage my stress but I prefer other methods. Inappropriate humour is on of the most effective when shared with others who know exactly where I'm coming from.

PerditaPickle

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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2020, 09:08:54 am »
Provided it kept between people who understand the point of it

Others have touched on this lightly, but hanging my response on the back of Dynes Hysbys' most usefully.

I think there's a distinction to be made between two types of this humour.

There's the sort of out-and-out jokes as told by the kids in TGW's school (and no doubt almost all schools, except those in affected areas I imagine) or as might be told by the really off-colour, offensive sort of stand-up comedian.

And then there's the sort of comments made between, say, colleagues actively as a coping mechanism.

It's an effective way of diffusing a level of stress and worry that would otherwise have me hiding under a duvet and refusing to come out.

I've acquaintances who are ex-police and report that it happens quite a bit in their offices - again, a high stress occupation.

Inappropriate humour is on of the most effective when shared with others who know exactly where I'm coming from.

We do it in my office (also a high stress occupation!) - we'd never dream of doing it in front of a client or a relative, but we do it among ourselves.  A sort of eye-rolling exasperation about additional work being piled on because someone's had to be admitted to a nursing home unexpectedly, say - "oh, how inconvenient, couldn't they have kept healthy for a few more weeks until my busy period has slackened <sigh>" (as if the poor person had any real choice in it).  Queue colleagues tittering and sympathising - it does help (it's that or letting tension mount to the point of actively thumping the desk -potentially with one's head!- or something).

So for this sort of (often) work-related gallows humour I'm in the same camp as Dynes Hysbys of healthy coping mechanism.

For the former sort it's a little more of a grey area, for me.  I think there must be an element of human nature in there - I figure there has to be some 'anthropological' reason why this behaviour establishes itself from school age, onwards.  And there's a reason why there are stand-up comics who do include this stuff in their material and continue to get audiences.  'We' as a collective group respond to it in some way (though individuals, as we've already seen in this thread, don't necessarily).  I've likely laughed at such jokes myself in the past in a sort of sharp-intake-of-breath--ooo-that's-not-PC sort of way (I wouldn't laugh at but would instead actively challenge racist or trans/homophobic jokes, however).

This actually even reminds me of the recent court case here where the judge upheld freedom of speech though some guy's trans-denying Twitter posts had been recorded as a hate incident by the local police (https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/miller-v-college-of-police-judgment.pdf / tl;dr try this article: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/20/police-transgender-rules-breach-right-to-free-speech-court-told).  I can totally see it from the side of Humberside Police (particularly given the Public Sector Equality Duty imposed on them by the Equality Act 2010*), but I can also see if from the judge's point of view too (not Miller, though, he can go stick a dirty sock in it).  It's a tricky, tricky area, I think.


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Noctua

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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2020, 10:16:59 am »

And then there's the sort of comments made between, say, colleagues actively as a coping mechanism.


So naturally being in healthcare we do this. A LOT. Our work is crazy stressful. Not only are we on the front lines working to try to keep people alive, but we also have to deal with the fact that we work in one of the most dangerous fields. Some studies have shown that up to 75% of workplace violence incidents occur in the healthcare field. So yeah, we definitely joke about it or else we'd all either go numb or quit. It's a lot easier to say "I had to give my patient a ride on the Ativan" than it is to say "this patient became so dangerous and violent that I had to chemically restrain them out of fear for my safety and the safety of others".

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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2020, 01:01:36 pm »
Bouncing off this comment in the virus thread:

What are people's thoughts on the use of jokes as a response to stress or fear? Besides the above example, I've also heard that in high-stress occupations such as medicine, the jokes within the group can get very dark indeed. Do you think this sort of behavior is ,

a) a healthy or effective coping mechanism?

b) morally acceptable?

c) a coping mechanism at all, or is something else going on here?

(Whether or not the jokes are funny may well be beside the point, too).

I think a lot of it depends on the circumstances, the people involved...and intent.

I'm a dark humor person, so is hubby.  We joke about a lot of things in ways that I'm sure lots of people would find somewhat (or outright) offensive.  We also take the topics we joke about very seriously if they were to come up in real life.

A lot of humor rests on topics that are sensitive, and the joke hinges on taking something that is completely unacceptable and poking fun at it.  The fact that it is unexceptionable is why it's funny.   

It crosses a line, when you make jokes about things at the wrong time or place.  If you are telling a family that one of them may never walk again, you don't make wheelchair jokes. 

I think that joking about horrible things, finding ways to laugh and completely unacceptable things, is a defensive mechanism.  It's a way to keep yourself from breaking due to the experiences or thoughts you are having.  It's like your brain needs some way to soften it, until you are able to handle it, and it turns to humor.
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Jenett

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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2020, 06:42:13 pm »
What are people's thoughts on the use of jokes as a response to stress or fear? Besides the above example, I've also heard that in high-stress occupations such as medicine, the jokes within the group can get very dark indeed.

So, I think there's several different pieces here worth teasing apart.

First, 6th graders (and frankly, well up into high school age students) are still learning an awful lot about the world. They are not skilled at information literacy (hopefully they will be in a few years). They get a ton of content from media sources of varying quality, and stuff from family and friends and family friends who may also not be scientifically literate, or who have good information literacy.

They do definitely like plays on words.

And depending on the situation of the particular 6th graders in question, the idea of epidemic illness, thousands of deaths, etc, can be a really hard thing to get your head around. (I was working in a high school library in Minnesota, when 9/11 happened, and watching how kids just a few years apart processed some of it was .. informative. The brain and psychological development in those 4-6 years is huge, and of course individual kids come to it in different ways at different paces and from different personal experiences/situations.)

So they're going to make jokes. Not very appropriate jokes. Like a lot of kids that age make frankly inappropriate jokes about a lot of other things. Also a lot of just plain lousy jokes.

I'm also here thinking about some of the recent long-form journalism I've been seeing about how shaming teenagers for poor information can be a rapid road to radicalisation, and how responding honestly and openly to them not knowing something (in part by pointing out that they're teenagers, they're not supposed to know everything) seems to work out better. (There isn't a ton of research out on this yet, because it takes time to do research studies and case studies, and the social media landscape keeps changing rapidly in terms of what's out there and what's accessible.)

So doing what The Green Wizard is thinking, getting more information resources together, both helps the immediate question (kids are less likely to make inappropriate jokes about something they've had a chance to learn about and understand) and helps redirect some of the uncertainty turned inappropriate humour into other, more socially acceptable directions.

But that doesn't really get at the question of black humour.

I am firmly in the camp that in certain situations, it is a far better coping mechanism than the alternatives. I was on the LiveJournal Terms of Service team (volunteer, but with a quota of coverage) in 2003-2004, and we saw a lot of horrible stuff, and people finding creative ways to be extra horrible to each other, and people just wanting to disrupt spaces because they could.

I have never met a group of people - and I count myself in this - who were so universally wanting to help the person in front of them right now, as much as they could, and who were simultaneously also more than a little misanthropic about humanity as a whole. One of the other volunteers was a dispatcher, and we had a bunch of conversations about what kinds of coping mechanism were good, what weren't, and when black humour swapped from being useful to being damaging.

Doing unpredictable potentially emotionally traumatising work for an extended period of time needs coping mechanisms. That work includes a lot of things - the more obvious (police, fire, military), but also a lot of professional service roles (there's been a fair bit of discussion recently about the trauma of librarianship, especially for public librarians for example, but also teachers, doctors, medical professionals, social workers, some kinds of law work, etc. etc. etc.)   It also includes things like moderation or community building, both online and offline, in any situation that involves more than a few people who know each other pretty well.

Black humour, if used and managed carefully, is a lot safer (both to the person themselves, and to the people around them) than drinking to excess, other drug or chemical use to deal with emotions that aren't being addressed, the long-term effects of depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc. And there are plenty of studies supporting the idea that humour helps with resilience, with being able to put a situation in perspective (this particular person is being awful, people in general are okay.)

The trick, of course, is 'carefully'. Indulging it so much that it poisons everything else around you isn't good. Letting the trauma overwhelm you so it flows out into all your other relationships (including only spending close time with other people with the same traumas because it's easier) isn't good for you. Crossing the line from "need to get my frustration at this thing out of my system" to "I hate everyone in X group" is definitely a problem.

But that's true with a lot of coping mechanisms - and as long as awful things keep happening, we're going to need some coping mechanisms.

So, in answer to the questions posed:

Is it a healthy or effective coping mechanism? It certainly can be, though it isn't always.

Is it morally acceptable? That depends on your moral schema. I am someone who is actually pretty finicky about what books/movies/TV I let into my brain, and I don't consider black humour to be morally a problem, so long as it is helping me treat other people *better* in the long run, and not worse. By which I mean if it's helping me articulate situations that need to be handled differently/better, or helping me understand my frustrations or discomfort, and if I'm directing the black humour to people who understand it (not the people it is at least partially 'about'), then those are good signs that it's productive.

It starts to be morally a problem if it starts poisoning my interactions - either with people who are okay with listening to it, or with the theoretical 'target'
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arete

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Re: Jokes as a coping mechanism
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2020, 11:27:47 am »
Bouncing off this comment in the virus thread:

What are people's thoughts on the use of jokes as a response to stress or fear? Besides the above example, I've also heard that in high-stress occupations such as medicine, the jokes within the group can get very dark indeed. Do you think this sort of behavior is ,

a) a healthy or effective coping mechanism?

b) morally acceptable?

c) a coping mechanism at all, or is something else going on here?

(Whether or not the jokes are funny may well be beside the point, too).
If jokes can reduce fear, they are fine, I guess. :)
I mean, who wants to live in fear?
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