When Joking Hurts

Friday 7 July, 2000

The men’s group yesterday was concerned with how we react to personal (verbal) assaults. I take them personally and it can be upsetting and damaging for me. We compared two contrasting situations: the comic banter where jokes are made at someone’s expense, and the personal attacks which can occur at work or, well, anywhere.

Karaj said these are intrinsically the same thing but at different ends of the scale, and Leon pointed out that even the jokes which may cause hilarity can be damaging if they are too personal.

This is something I have come to realise since my holiday in Germany with Francis. It is quite possible that any jovial comment can cause offence. Furthermore, it may be known only to the person affected because of a secret they carry. These secrets are likely to remain secrets if people continue to make fun just for a cheap laugh. It is something I am guilty of and, with me, it occurs with so little thought that it is almost automatic.

If I could be more aware of the comments I make, it would also help me to deal with the comments of others which I take so personally.

During the session, we compared my reaction to these attacks with Sunil’s. I react with feelings and Sunil reacts with thoughts. I deal with it emotionally and Sunil deals with it rationally. I allow my emotions to take over and control the situation whereas Sunil shuts down his emotions and allows his head to take over. What we both need is a balance of the two. Rather than allow one aspect of ourselves to dominate, we need both feelings and thoughts to work together.

As Karaj said, we can feel the emotions that an attack causes in us and we can use our minds to work out the best way to react. No two situations are the same and the more tools we have at our disposal the more effectively we can deal with each situation. If our minds and bodies are in harmony then there is nothing we cannot do.

Helpful hints on how to deal with personal attacks:

  • Notice my breathing
  • Take a step back
  • Don’t take it personally
  • Feel the feelings – but don’t let them dominate
  • Think – I have plenty of time to react
  • Use the body and the mind

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