How come we can never just rant or just rave? Why do we always have to do both?
I certainly did both when I found my boyfriend-du-jour cheating on me. I waved him out of my life with my thumbs in my ears, fingers wiggling, tongue wagging and eyes crossing. Good to see I kept my dignity.
After he’d gone, I hammered my fists onto the ground, gritted my teeth and released my pain through sound — a primal scream that was enough to wake the dead. In fact, it was such a volatile mix of emotions — the anger, the remorse, the denial — I almost wanted to join the said dead.
But most of all, I felt absolute weariness at the thought of spending yet another seven years hating men. It was not something I wanted to go through again, and definitely not for the sake of someone who’s not at least my husband.
Tears and snot rolling down my cheeks, epiphany struck. This time around I would go to counselling. I would sprawl on an exotic couch, spill my story and be magically healed by a woman who knew exactly the right things to say to cure me. It wouldn’t even cost that much if I could make short-cuts and spill my story in staccato sentences thereby cutting down on the number of hours and sessions I would need on the couch.
Three days later I was in the waiting room of Dr –—, flicking through last decade’s magazines. She called my name while I was in the middle of an article describing how Mad King George III went through a stage of ending each sentence with “peacock”. It was fascinating, giving me a warped sense of hope: There has existed someone worse off than me.
“You’re depressed”, she summarised while I was taking my seat.
“No, I’m angry”, I responded, still preoccupied with King George.
“Depression, in its most basic understanding, is really just anger without enthusiasm”, she persevered, “and you’re showing no signs of enthusiasm about your anger.”
I slammed an open palm onto my chair arm. “I’m an angry peacock!”
“Oh, that’s interesting”, the doctor nodded upon hearing my story. “It sounds like something that will either kill you or send you crazy. I should know. I’ve been through it myself.”
Lowering her notepad and picking up her prescription pad, she continued.
“What you need girl, is a dose of giggles. Get out of your cave and do something that makes you laugh so hard you want to pee your pants.”
I realised that what she was saying was absolutely right. Not the bit about peeing my pants, but the bit about if we can laugh at our situations we can survive the terrible things that happen to us.
“King George may have lost the American Colonies during the American Revolution but I’m sure that at some stage he would have had a damn good laugh about it”, she continued. I nodded.
Her analogy of the cave got me thinking about the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu. In what has to be the sulk of the centuries, she hid in a cave to get away from cruel realities in the world. She stayed there, depressed and grieving and refusing to come out. Without her there was no sun, the rice fields lay dying in the endless night and the people grew hungry.
Fortunately, the goddess of mirth, Uzume, knew that a sense of humour is one of our most powerful stress coping behaviours. It brings in oxygen, vibrates the internal organs thereby increasing oxygen absorption, causes muscles to contract and increases the secretion of peacocks. Uh, I mean, endorphins.
Uzume rolled a copper mirror to the front of the cave and danced wildly on an overturned tub. Hearing the commotion and overcome with curiosity, Amaterasu came out of her cave. She saw her radiance reflected in the copper mirror and began to laugh at Uzume’s antics. Her grief dissipated, her brilliance returned to the world and life was renewed.
What I learned from Amaterasu’s story is that laughter empowers us in hopeless situations and gives us a sense of control when things around us seem crazy.
Just like Amaterasu, people who look for the bright side gain physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits. Laughter empowers us in hopeless situations and gives us a sense of control when things around us seem crazy. If nothing else, the view outside the cave is certainly brighter.
I thought about my ex-friend and his pathetic attempts to justify his betrayal. Unbelievably, I began to snigger. As it grew into a giggle, I saw life from a different perspective, and realised that I could face this new phase in my life with renewed energy and hope.
“Peacock”, I giggled to my counsellor.
“Peacock”, she saluted back with a knowing twinkle in her eye.
Australian author Anita Revel has incorporated her journey into hundreds of articles, countless websites and numerous books.
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