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Can Humor Soothe Anxiety?
June 02, 2011

Simple Ways to Tame Anxiety

June 2, 2011
Volume 11, Issue 6

This month's issue of Anxiety Coach® takes a look at the connection between humor and anxiety.

The Anxiety Coach® newsletter brings tips for overcoming fears and phobias to your inbox the first week of each month. If you like it, please pass it on anyone who might be interested. If you received this issue from a friend and want your own subscription, please subscribe.

Can Humor Help with Anxiety?

Most of my experience suggests that it can.

Anxiety disorders, when they're severe, can be just as troublesome as depression. When I use humor in therapy, and encourage people to find the humor in their anxiety, it's not because their pain is laughable. It's certainly not.

But still...

There's Something Funny About Anxiety

For the last six years, I've traveled around the U.S., giving workshops for professional therapists about treating anxiety disorders. The workshops are held in hotels, and there are always other workshops in adjacent rooms, for all kinds of purposes - new tax regulations for accountants, training for car rental agents, and so on.

Just about every time, people attending other workshops stop by our registration table to say something like "I need this!" or "I should be attending this one!". They often giggle.

I never see anybody from one of my workshops go to one of the other tables and say that. I have colleagues who give talks about treating depression and schizophrenia. They say nobody approaches their table and says that.

There's something funny about anxiety, something that's pretty central to our humanity, and these people recognize it.

What Freud Said about Humor

Freud wrote about humor. He suggested that humor is the energy released when we realize we've been fooled about something we thought was a threat.

That's pretty much what I mean by the Anxiety Trick. We think something is dangerous, and find out it's only discomfort. Sometimes a good belly laugh is the result.

A Very Old Example

Many years ago,taking driver's education in high school, I was out in the car with three other students and the instructor when it started to rain. The student at the wheel got a little freaked out. "Mr. Smith!" he shouted, "it's raining! What should I do?" And Mr. Smith replied "How about turning on the windshield wipers?". We all had a good laugh about that, especially the rain phobic driver, who laughed more heartily than anyone.

There's something funny about anxiety, and it can be real helpful to find it, and use it.

Check out my Panic Songs

I've started a Humor & Anxiety section on the website, and I hope you'll stop by and give a listen. For starters, I've posted reproductions of some of my songs about panic.

Got any humorous examples to share?

What's been your experience with humor and anxiety? Have you ever had a panicky or anxious moment transformed by humor? Do you use it in an effort to calm yourself? If you have stories to share, please send them to me by replying to this e-mail.

See you next month!


Dave Carbonell, Ph.D.

At Home CEU Workshops for Therapists

Two of my workshops for professional therapists are now available on CD for at-home study, with continuing education credit for most professions.

There's a day-long workshop, and a 90 minute seminar, available here.

Panic Attacks Group starts in Fall

This fall I'll offer a ten week group program for people with panic attacks, in my suburban Chicago office. For information, click here.

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