(Please read part 1 below first if you have not already done so.)
I left off in my last blog post with the promise that I would give readers some tips (I'll call them rules now) when you feel used, hurt or unappreciated. In this post I will discuss two rules.
Rule # 1. Don't internalize. Refuse to internalize the insensitive and hurtful attitudes and acts of others towards you.
We've all been there right? "Is that all you under those clothes?" "Sure I'd be happy to help you out; which way did you come in?" "Yes, we had to let you go; but cheer up, economists call this 'creative destruction' capitalism." "Sorry, but our plan doesn't allow for pre-existing conditions." Such words and experiences hurt, and there are many ways to respond, from silence to suing. But one response should never be to internalize hurtful displays so that they become part of our waking concerns and troubled dreams, our self-image and future destiny.
see lawyers walking down the street
with their hands in their own pockets.
That neighbor's kid from H-E-double hockey sticks, the heartless "free" market, Mr. flesh-eating lawyer over there, private health insurance death panels (the real ones), these are things over which you and I may have no control. But we can refuse to care so much about other people's carelessness. Being unappreciated, denied and hurt may be useful if it prompts us to an appropriate action such as fighting for our rights, or learning another job skill, or working toward reconciliation. But through it all we must guard against wounds to the self, who we are, how we see ourselves and our hopes, and how we end up treating others.
Deal with externals as you must. But tell yourself, "I will not internalize this hurt or indignity. I will not carry this in me while you get to forget and move on. You are not in control of me. I am." If you say this but don't feel the conviction, then, as they say, fake it till you make it.
Rule # 2. Be more funny. Cultivate humor for well-being and war.
We have all heard how laughter is good medicine. People who cultivate humor and laugh live longer than those who don't. But humor has also long been one of the most powerful tools or weapons in dealing with conflict, disappointment, tragedy, even full-scale war.
Why is it that some of the funniest comedians, comedies and jokes are Jewish? Because, suffering as a people at the hands of so many, in so many places, for so long, they were forced to get good at it. John Morreall, Professor of Religious Studies and internationally recognized authority on humor has written on the role of Jewish humor during the Holocaust. Humor allowed the Jews to criticize their Nazi oppressors, maintain cohesiveness or solidarity among themselves, and to cope with the monstrous injustice and tragedy being inflicted upon them.
One of the most successful comedy teams ever, The Three Stooges: Moe Howard, Curly Howard, and Larry Fine (really four with the other Howard brother, Shemp), were all Jewish who had changed their names for film: Moe, Curly and Shemp were born Moses, Jerome, and Samuel Horwitz. Larry Fine was born Andrew Fienberg. Moe played the first film parody of Hitler.
Comedy, said M. Conrad Hyers, is the "stubborn refusal to give tragedy…the final say." I'm always amazed by people who use humor to completely turn the tables on a negative person or situation. Instead of being embarrassed, shrinking into acquiescence or even tears (in short, instead of being the joke), they use humor to expose and critique their "oppressor." And they do this without skipping a beat, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Booya! (drum roll) Take that! (cymbals).
When we internalize indignities or being treated as unimportant, we are essentially allowing ourselves to be brainwashed. But the good news is you have a weapon. "Research on brainwashing…has shown that humor may be the single most effective way to block indoctrination." During the Holocaust Jews used humor to criticize the Nazis and their brainwashing propaganda. Hitler's theory of the Master Race, says Morreall, was the butt of dozens of jokes. For example: "There are two kinds of Aryans…non-Aryans and barb-Aryans." A more cryptic joke against Hitler went like this. A Jewish father was teaching his son how to say grace before meals: "Today in Germany the proper form of grace is 'Thank God and Hitler.'" "But suppose the Führer dies?" asked the boy. "Then you just thank God."
The Three Stooges, "You Nazty Spy" used satire to expose TV audiences to the threat of Hitler and the Third Reich before the U.S. had entered WWII.----------
Among the jokes that both criticized the Nazis and built solidarity among Jews was a little gem about Hitler going to his astrologer worried that the Allies were winning. When the astrologer affirmed that he would indeed lose the war, Hitler asked, "Then, am I going to die?" "Yes." "When am I going to die?" "On a Jewish holiday." "But on what holiday?" "Any day you die will be a Jewish holiday."
History shows, and I can personally attest, that humor is a powerful coping mechanism during times of hardship, hurt and loss. Philosopher and Auschwitz survivor Emil Fackenheim said, "We kept our morale through humor." Some Jews even prayed to and questioned God through humor: "Dear God," one prayer went, "for five thousand years we have been your chosen people. Please, choose someone else already."
In Rule # 1 I had said that refusal to internalize external negatives was a declaration that you (and not all the people and things in the hurt locker) are the one in control. Here in Rule #2 you learned about one powerful means of control for needs and situations ranging from well-being to war: humor.
(To be continued)