Yoga pants and the inappropriate

Barbara Ellen wrote in The Observer of 3.1.21:

“…These people are sashaying in yoga pants, banging on about “inner peace” and the “true self”, smiling with sad, wise eyes at your earthbound concerns, and, the biggest “tell” of all, chiding you for making jokes…Thus, humour, one of the most spiritually enriching qualities, one of the greatest human assets, is demoted to a mere “defence mechanism“…”

From psychologistworld.com:

“…Humor

George Vaillant described the use of humor as a “mature” defense mechanism – a primarily adaptive technique to help us to cope with tense or stressful situations. Looking for a funny aspect in an environment in which we lack control can help us to endure it, and can even be an altruistic act in helping others to better cope as well...”

John Morreall writes in “Philosophy of Humor” (2016) at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“…The nervous energy relieved through laughter, according to (Herbert) Spencer, is the energy of emotions that have been found to be inappropriate. Consider this poem entitled “Waste” by Harry Graham (1874-1936):

I had written to Aunt Maud

Who was on a trip abroad

When I heard she’d died of cramp,

Just too late to save the stamp…

…In his Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious (1905 [1974]), Freud analyzes three laughter situations: der Witz (often translated “jokes” or “joking”), “the comic,” and “humor.” In all three, laughter releases nervous energy that was summoned for a psychological task, but then became superfluous as that task was abandoned. In der Witz, that superfluous energy is energy used to repress feelings; in the comic it is energy used to think, and in humor it is the energy of feeling emotions…

Der Witz includes telling prepared fictional jokes, making spontaneous witty comments, and repartee. In der Witz, Freud says, the psychic energy released is the energy that would have repressed the emotions that are being expressed as the person laughs. (Most summaries of Freud’s theory mistakenly describe laughter as a release of repressed emotions themselves.)

Freud’s second laughter situation, “the comic,” involves a similar release of energy that is summoned but is then found unnecessary. Here it is the energy normally devoted to thinking. An example is laughter at the clumsy actions of a clown. As we watch the clown stumble through actions that we would perform smoothly and efficiently, there is a saving of the energy that we would normally expend to understand the clown’s movements. Here Freud appeals to a theory of “mimetic representation” in which we expend a large packet of energy to understand something large and a small packet of energy to understand something small. Our mental representation of the clown’s clumsy movements, Freud says, calls for more energy than the energy we would expend to mentally represent our own smooth, efficient movements in performing the same task. Our laughter at the clown is our venting of that surplus energy.

These two possibilities in my imagination amount to a comparison between the observed movement and my own. If the other person’s movement is exaggerated and inexpedient, my increased expenditure in order to understand it is inhibited in statu nascendi, as it were in the act of being mobilized; it is declared superfluous and is free for use elsewhere or perhaps for discharge by laughter (Freud 1905 [1974], 254).

Freud analyzes the third laughter situation, which he calls “humor,” much as Spencer analyzed laughter in general. Humor occurs “if there is a situation in which, according to our usual habits, we should be tempted to release a distressing affect and if motives then operate upon us which suppress that affect in statu nascendi [in the process of being born]… . The pleasure of humor … comes about … at the cost of a release of affect that does not occur: it arise from an economy in the expenditure of affect” (293). His example is a story told by Mark Twain in which his brother was building a road when a charge of dynamite went off prematurely, blowing him high into the sky. When the poor man came down far from the work site, he was docked half a day’s pay for being “absent from his place of employment.” Freud’s explanation of our laughter at this story is like the explanation above at Graham’s poem about the cheapskate nephew. In laughing at this story, he says, we are releasing the psychic energy that we had summoned to feel pity for Twain’s brother, but that became superfluous when we heard the fantastic last part. “As a result of this understanding, the expenditure on the pity, which was already prepared, becomes unutilizable and we laugh it off” (295).

Having sketched several versions of the Relief Theory, we can note that today almost no scholar in philosophy or psychology explains laughter or humor as a process of releasing pent-up nervous energy…”

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