Re: Why We Need to Monitor Humor-Humor Can Corrupt
Date: June 19, 2020 04:50PM
> The real test of a relationship is whether you are
> respected *after* you have become trustful and
> emotionally involved.
This is so true.
In my experience there are several different versions of destructive humour. There's the kind where someone thinks their perspective on life is so hilarious that they don't care whether you're hurt or not. They don't listen when you tell them that you're very badly wounded by their words, because they think they are so witty that they can't imagine a world where their stupid BS is harmful. I endured years of this at the hands of my ex-husband who couldn't see that his relentless "jokes" about my body were very distressing, even when he'd make 30 or 40 offensive and abusive comments a day. I would tell him over and over to stop, and he'd just keep laughing at me. He was so self-absorbed that he never saw me as a real person with bodily autonomy who was in relentless emotional pain, trying to silence my own pain minute by minute, hour by hour for years at a time just so he wouldn't throw a tantrum and threaten to end his life. That was the choice: "laugh at my jokes, play the role I demand of you, or I'll kill myself and it'll be your fault." In these situations, your life and identity is just not considered as real.
A different kind of abusive humour is one where someone -- a charismatic leader, an unskilled boss -- tries to pre-emptively guess what their detractors will say, and uses weaponised humour to take control first before objections can even be raised. By mocking anyone who might object to your message, you dehumanise them and de-legitimise their complaints. This allows you to sail smugly on whilst the people who had good reason to stop you are trapped behind a wall of laughter.
The third kind I've seen is very cold. It's targeted, always by an individual or a small group, and targeted at another individual. These comments are deeply personal, and very specifically chosen to cause the most shock and surprise. My group had a confession culture and the worst forms of this were where someone said something in confidence -- admitted to having been assaulted, perhaps, or were struggling with a mental health issue -- and were initially met with sympathy and the compassion that made them feel secure (lovebombing). But then, at a vulnerable moment, those experiences would be thrown out in public and twisted to become a targeted assault. No-one believed they were being funny, these moments were always cold and calculated. The target was always watched carefully in those moments so their extreme shock and confusion could be registered. As others have pointed out, this is just a test to see how far that person can be pushed. The perpetrator almost always finds a way of demanding immediate loyalty to stop the person from protesting, or twisting the situation even further to cause even more confusion and shame.
All of these forms are about control. It's different ways of creating distance between people, putting people down and making sure you feel like they are beneath you. In every single abusive situation, an emotional equal is a threat. An abuser needs to feel superior to others so uses humour to trample down others and elevate themselves.
I've seen a fourth version of weaponised humour too. This is where a group of people are sharing an innocent joke that doesn't hurt anyone, and doesn't target a single person. Someone external to that group comes in and starts screaming at them for all the ways in which the joke is offensive to them. It usually requires hours and hours of explanation.
I think this fourth version is very subtle because it's superficially close to the first. E.g., if you try to be a good person you'd want to listen when someone says you're being hurtful. So, in the fourth case, no good person would turn around and say, "no, this wasn't an offensive joke." Their response will be, "oh, I'm so sorry, I won't do it again!" In reality of course, the problem wasn't the specific joke, it was that a small group of people felt safe and comfortable enough to share a joke together. It was this which was perceived as a threat and which caused the perpetrator to lash out.
I think the fourth can be very prevalent in abusive groups and society at large. If humour is weaponised then so is its absence. The demand for seriousness and gravity at all times is just another form of control. A healthy sense of humour can be belittled and dismissed as all sorts of things. Again, I think it's the "controlling the threat" angle: if you let people laugh at anything, they might eventually laugh at you. Being able to learn to laugh healthily at the most absurd parts of my upbringing was something that took years, Even now it's pretty difficult.