Consider this an “unrestraining order” from the court of Terry Braverman: Today we are all afflicted to some degree with S.D.S. (Spontaneity Deficiency Syndrome). It is appalling in our society how much we miss enlivening opportunities by censoring our own spontaneity. “Well, I’m trying to find time to be spontaneous,” a harried business acquaintance once muttered. Indigenous tribal people tend to release their pent-up emotions through singing, dancing, chanting, and wearing wild costumes. How many of us would feel comfortable doing that in front of our families?
We have largely suppressed or forgotten spontaneity in the maze of our busyness, our plans, our rational thinking, and our control mechanisms. S.D.S. is a major cause of stress in our world. When we are in a lot of physical pain it takes some strong medicine to get relief. If the pain is emotional, we often need a strong jolt to regain our perspective. A dose of silly nonsense may just do the trick.
One time I was on the phone with a rep from a customer service department to lodge a complaint. My frustration was growing and I decided to vent by singing my complaint in an operatic voice. The rep was laughing hysterically and said, “Wait, I’m putting my supervisor on the line!” I continued to sing and the supervisor resolved my issue immediately in the spirit of fun established, as opposed to tension and conflict.
I cringe when I see people being scolded for acting too silly. Of course there are situations that demand an overall serious tone, but more often than not it’s the “grow up and get serious” parental mentality at work, stifling the natural stress relief of playful expression. It will amaze you to know that the word silly comes from the Old English word saelig, which was a blessing. It meant “to be happy, prosperous and wise.” On the other hand, adult comes from the word adulterate, meaning “to corrupt, debase, or make impure.”
Some claim variety to be the spice of life…I say it’s spontaneity.
In my seminars and workshops, it thrills me to witness accumulated stress draining from the faces and bodies of participants. I’ve received a number of positive letters from various companies and organizations, but none were more gratifying than the following:
Your seminar on humor was great. I particularly related to your discussion on stress, and others sharing their experiences of how stress had manifested itself. I identified totally. Since your seminar, I’ve had no more headaches, no more clenched jaws, no more Valium, Xanax, Halcion or sleepless nights. I’ve shared my experience with co-workers. Thanks for a real eye-opening exchange.
I spoke again with Mr. Simons, three years after the fact. He is still free of the afflictions and takes no medication. I think of the workshop as a collective creation between myself and the participants, where credit is due to no one in particular other than group synergy and intent. Making such a dramatic impact on Mr. Simons’ health says a lot for the value of humor and play. Clearly, there was a shift in his thinking that took place in an atmosphere of mirth, causing a positive physiological response. Dr. Deepak Chopra once said, “Our thoughts, without reservation, tend to make us healthy or sick.” I might add that our reservations (doubts), without changing our thoughts, tend to make us sick.
In times of despair, we instinctively turn to humor, comedy, and play for its uplifting effects. For the individual suffering mental and physical anguish associated with their circumstance, humor can lift the spirit and reduce suffering for the moment, if not permanently.
Excerpt from an Amazon best-seller, When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!
c Mental Floss Publications
All Rights Reserved
Summer is here, and the time is right to commune with family and friends over lavish meals, aided and abetted by healthy gales of laughter.
The positive impact that laughter has on our well-being is nothing new. Throughout history, clowns, fools and court jesters plied their trade not only to entertain, but to heal people, impart wisdom, and exercise diplomacy, acting as ambassadors to other kingdoms for building goodwill and defusing conflict. The court jesters pranced around the imperial courts with a patented blend of whim and wit. It was their privilege to say whatever they wished. Usually a great ruler was surrounded by flatterers, and only from the jester did he ever hear the truth.
The jester’s business was to tickle the royal funny bone, divert the king from the tedium of his daily affairs, and serve a slightly skewed yet enlightening perspective on those affairs of the court. Jesters also assisted his Majesty’s digestion, rubbing the regal tummy the right way with their lively presence at the dining table. “Laughter is one of the most important aids to digestion with which we are acquainted,” said the Prussian professor Hufeland. “The custom in vogue among our ancestors, of inciting laughter by jesters and buffoons, was founded on true medical principles. Cheerful and joyous companions are invaluable at meals; obtain such, if possible, for the nourishment received amid mirth is productive of light and healthy blood.”
Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!”
c 2013 All Rights Reserved
Mental Floss Publications
The other day I read a story about a man who became enraged after having to wait in a doctor’s office for over an hour. He stormed over to the receptionist’s window and screamed at a staff member, then suddenly froze, turned a pale color, and collapsed onto the floor, never to regain consciousness. The autopsy revealed nothing physically wrong with this person. His death was attributed to angry thoughts, which sparked a massive coronary.
Patience is often interpreted as stoical endurance of pain and hardship, but it goes well beyond that definition. It is more about embracing the situation exactly the way it is in that moment, and responding in a resourceful or transcendent state of mind. Patience has a deeper aspect of intelligence and wisdom. This is not to be confused with the example of a braying mule overloaded with saddlebags, trudging along a bumpy path until it drops dead. That type of patience is without clarity. Forbearing difficult circumstances can be about struggling to get through something, but developing true patience is a discipline that allows us to be in a flexible flow as situations unfold.
A sense of humor can be a powerful ally to overcome impatience, helping us (and others) re-frame perspective and transcend the difficulties of the moment. A customer service rep I know handled an irate client’s complaint over the phone by saying, “I can certainly appreciate why the situation would anger you. We’ve been in business here for over 60 years; perhaps, we’ve become a bit senile.” The client laughed heartily and the rep was able to resolve the grievance immediately.
If patience was a commodity, it seems to be in shorter supply these days. As a result, we pay a higher price for it in terms of our collective well-being and societal civility (road rage, domestic violence, et al). Next time that impetuous flash of impatience rears its head, take a deep breath, perceive the moment from a broader context, and ask yourself if there is another way of looking at it. Or, put yourself in the shoes of your favorite comedian—how would he/she respond in that situation?
As if mergers, acquisitions, and constantly changing markets aren’t enough to deal with in the world, businesses are having to master new technologies that could be obsolete within months, or even weeks. Learning how to use new equipment can put staff on overload, but can also lead to funny interactions.
A registered nurse from Omaha shared this rib-tickling incident: “A lady came to the hospital to visit a friend. She had not been in a hospital for several years and felt very ignorant of the new technologies. A technician followed her into the elevator, wheeling a large machine with tubes and wires and dials and lights. ‘Boy, I would hate to be hooked up to that thing,’ she said. `So would I,’ replied the technician. `It’s a floor cleaning machine.’”
Excerpt from the book, “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Lighten Up!” by Terry Braverman ©2013 Mental Floss Publications All Rights Reserved
How adept and prolific are you at applying humor? Is your humor tool kit sufficient enough to weather the storms in your life? In recognition of the value of humor for our overall well-being, this simply serves as an indicator for you. After each statement, circle the number that most accurately depicts your level of mirth-ability. Be honest with yourself – nobody is watching!
5 almost always
1 almost never
1. My family, friends and co-workers would say my sense of humor is one of my greatest assets.
5 4 3 2 1
2. I find time to take a “humor break” every day (e.g. read cartoons, watch comedy, play with kids/pets).
5 4 3 2 1
3. I laugh at myself easily.
5 4 3 2 1
4. I am comfortable laughing out loud with others.
5 4 3 2 1
5. I share humorous stories and insights with others.
5 4 3 2 1
6. I apply humor in my work environment.
5 4 3 2 1
7. I can enjoy an occasional ribbing from others.
5 4 3 2 1
8. I consciously look for humor during the course of each day.
5 4 3 2 1
9. People have difficulty staying angry at me because of my
5 4 3 2 1
10. I spontaneously laugh even when I am by myself.
5 4 3 2 1
11. I use humor to help others gain perspective on their problems.
5 4 3 2 1
12. I can find humor even in times of adversity.
5 4 3 2 1
60 POINTS: You’re kidding, or you flunked arithmetic
50 to 60: Life of the party
40 to 50: Good dinner companion
30 to 40: Minor attitude adjustment needed; do lunch with a comedian
20 to 30: Major attitude adjustment needed; wear a clown nose to your next board meeting
0 to 20: Severe case of CS (Chronic Seriousness); rent a gorilla suit and crash a wedding
Today we are all afflicted to some degree with SDS (spontaneity deficiency syndrome). It is appalling in our society how much we miss merry-making opportunities by censoring our own spontaneity. “Well, I’m trying to find time to be spontaneous,” a harried business acquaintance once muttered.
Indigenous people tend to release their emotions and heal what ails them in the moment, through singing, dancing, chanting, and wearing wild costumes. How many of us would feel comfortable doing that in front of our families? We have largely suppressed or forgotten spontaneity in the maze of our busyness, our plans, our rational thinking, and our control mechanisms.
SDS is a major cause of stress in our world. When we are in a lot of physical pain it takes some strong medicine to get relief. Fun-induced laughter releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, to quell the pain. A pattern interruption for mental anguish can help us refocus. If the pain is emotional, we often need a strong jolt to regain our perspective. A dose of silly nonsense may just do the trick to heal the hurts of the body, the mind, or the heart.