Black Humour: its simply #PTSD therapy?

Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling

I’ve just returned from Japan… Didn’t realise they were such big Newcastle United fans? They were all running around shouting “Toon Army, Toon Army”!

Some people may laugh a little whilst others, throwing their arms in the air in deep indignation, would cringe with pain and voice their utter disgust. However, are their reactions genuine or simply contrived for the benefit of others? If there is a place for ‘Black Humour‘ in our society, when and where is it actually acceptable, if at all?

Note: There is no intention to discuss any ethnic groupings or make any disparaging comments about such groups within this post and, to appease the ever growing PC brigade, for ‘black’ read ‘dark’, ‘gallows’ or even ‘unusual’, if it makes you feel better.

If you haven’t already heard the one above, no doubt someone will probably have told you one relating to Colonel Gaddafi‘s recent antics in Libya or indeed, any other horrific event that happens to grace media headlines…

BBC News: Tasteless tweets about the Japanese tsunami have landed celebrities in trouble. So what makes people tell sick jokes about terrible disasters? Have you heard the one about the tsunami… (Read more)

The Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos worries that sick humour‘s popularity is symptomatic of an unhealthy culture which has been desensitized to the suffering of others…

“One of the reasons we laugh at tragedy is that it makes the enormity of the issue easier to deal with”

Conversely; the BBC report highlights how escapism mechanics play a significant part in our dark humour. The veteran comedian Barry Cryer (and he should know) insists that, although those cracking such jokes may be children in the playground or saloon-bar braggarts advertising their cynicism, “making light of terrible events can be an entirely understandable coping strategy.”

Although Dr Papadopoulos has a very valid point, when relating the issue to the population as a whole however, as Mr Cryer alluded to; there will always be those in our society who actually need the safety valve of humour, be it black or otherwise. Cryer has observed many professionals (like the police) and he believes; their gallows humour is also a necessity, as opposed to a worrying failure or something sick within their psyche. He believes black comedy helps us all make some sense of occurrences, ones that would otherwise be far too painful and upsetting to actually deal with.

Having spent thirty years of my life working in and around all the issues that others find distasteful or difficult to comprehend, I have to say I agree with Cryer. I would also expect that; most people within the Military (especially those who have experienced any ‘active service’), the Medical Profession or indeed any Emergency Service personnel would also concur with him. I would ask, what gives the rest of us, who expect them to clear up all the social ills of our world, any right to deny them a little relief from the crap our society creates?

In many ways you should look at dark humour as a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) therapy. One that was developed by humans as a self-repair mechanism, long before PTSD was even acknowledged or understood, never mind any of the therapeutic methods developed to treat it. In reality, don’t we actually need this type of person in our society?

As Rudyard Kipling once enthused… IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…

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2 thoughts on “Black Humour: its simply #PTSD therapy?

  1. This also goes back to those times that we prop up the bar and chew the proverbial fat. Those that have been there know whats going on and those that have not are clueless. The Rab C. Nesbitt school of therapy is just another avenue down the road of Black humour and to my mind is an essential tool in my own survival in this modern day society where people that have done nowt, lived nowt, seem to think that they are hard done to and proceed to bleat (like a sheep on the way to slaughter) when a minor inconvenience appears in their mediocre lives, yet are the very same that would run a mile and shout the house down to get someone else to clear up the debris of our every day existance.


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