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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: January 23, 2006
Latest Update: January 23, 2006
There are more than enough things in today's world to set each of us off. If nothing else, half of the U.S disagrees, at least as measured by our voting patterns, with the other half, and the half that's currently in office is trying to make the half that doesn't agree with conform to it's own beliefs. Right there, we've got a cause for shouting rhetoric at one another. (Hirschman's Rhetoric of Reaction)
Laughter is one means of diverting that anger and frustration to aleviate the stress of anger. This is the story that was shared with me on the listserv of postmodern therapists to which I belong: One of the listserv members found herself in an awkward situation. She had gone to her bank, and pulled out of the parking lot onto a one way section of an alley that about half a block down opened onto a two way street. There were parking spaces along either side of the one way section, into which one could pull if need be. The therapist was confronted by a car coming down the one way section the wrong way. It was driven by a big man. She stopped her car of necessity, and called to the man driving the other car that this was one way. He answered: "I can go any way I please."
The therapist posted the story and asked what we would do. My immediate response, based on the contingencies of our geographical space, where a man was intentionally run down by a BMW last week when he called out to that car that it should slow down, was "Pull over and let him go. He's not a client." And I might have added, he and this situation aren't worth dying over.
As the listserv continued to gather responses, other therapists agreed. Do Not Confront. But then many of them added their imaginings. One fantasized that the therapists rammed the man's car, saying something like "I'm older and I've got more insurance than you." Another answered: "Another thought I had, was getting out of my car, walking over to him, smiling, and saying ever so sweetly, "The women in your life don't like you very much, do they?"
I responded out of fear, fear that casual confrontation can end in life-threatening violence in the world I live in. They responded with fantasy and laughter. I need to work on that. That's what fear does to us. Makes us lose our sense of perspective. Locks us in fear and increases the stress in our lives. Fantasy is a good response. Literature, music, art, culture, comedy offer us reminders that fantasy is an escape valve, and laughter with it.
I can walk into a gallery, see a Picasso, and burst out laughing. I have a self-portrait to which another artist responded that way. That has to be one of the most wonderful reminders that art offers us therapy along with aesthetics.
Release from the stress of profound disagreements is an important part of maintaining our own mental health in the pursuit of happiness. We need to remind ourselves more often of this therapeutic nature of laughter, especially when rhetoric pervades our discourse and illocutionary discourse is hard to come by.
Take good care of yourself. Search out and remember laughter.