On the Bright Side


On the Bright Side - Inspiring Vignettes From The Consulting Room

From ESTD Newsletter Volume 3 Number 6, March 2014 > read the original article in our newsletter

Our experience tells us that even in therapeutic work as challenging as the work with complex trauma and dissociation many heartwarming, funny, touching, and humorous situations occur and – client's consent granted – we would like to invite you to share those with each other in this newsletter. We do not mean to make light of our work in a dismissing way – far from it! – but most of us have experienced humor as a very effective, attachment fostering, and burden lightning thing in therapy. Research on humor tells us that humor increases immunoglobulin A, thus making us more resilient, it increases attention, lowers pain perception and buffers burnout and PTSD especially „through humor's social bonding feature and its ability to combat the physiological impact of stressors“ (Sliter et al, 2013). We should obviously not do without it in the therapy room (and outside of it). Facing the difficult work that we do – on both sides of the "couch" – we can only benefit from sharing our humorous therapy experiences with one another.​

I’ve always been funny. I would joke to save my life. When I felt uncertain I would revert to being comical, witty and entertaining, it was the most reliable protective trait I had. I used to be with a therapist who made a point of not laughing at any of my jokes because he said I would hide behind my humorous exterior – while there was certainly truth in that it also made me feel very much out of my depth and downright scared which only served to drive me deeper into hiding. It took me a while to figure this out. When I finally found a therapist who would laugh at my jokes while still keeping me on board with the serious work a lot of sadness came seeping through the humor.

One day we were doing trauma processing work and I got pretty caught up, feeling dizzy and dissociative. She started reorienting me, saying my full name, telling me how old I was at the present time, asking me to focus on certain things in her office... then she said: „Nothing bad can happen to you here, it’s 2007 – you are safe now.“

I felt a quick stab of bewilderment and then I burst out laughing – it was 2011. She looked a little taken aback until I giggled: „It’s 2011!“ She grinned: „2007 huh?! So, humor is a life-saver after all.“ Nothing had ever brought me back from dissociative regression this effortlessly!