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Is Your Humor Hurting People?

There's someone in every family and group of friends who always has a joke ready for any situation. Being able to see the funny moments in any situation can be a great quality, but sometimes the laughter is really meant to cover deep negative emotions.
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There's someone in every family and group of friends who always has a joke ready for any situation. Being able to see the funny moments in any situation can be a great quality, but sometimes the laughter is really meant to cover deep negative emotions. When that happens, the "Clown" is at work.

The "Clown" is one of the eight "Impostors" I've identified that hijack people's behaviors. Because I live in Hollywood and work as a life coach to celebrities, I've seen more than my share of "Clown Impostors." I've even laughed with them! But I've also helped them work through the humor so they could get to their real, hidden issues. Underneath a veneer of cheer and light-heartedness, the "Clown" fears deep connections and craves attention.

The "Clown" in Action

Here's what a typical "Clown Impostor" looks like:

  • Often, the "Clown Impostor" stems from someone who didn't feel seen or heard as a child.

  • The "Clown" will try to make light of things to get attention.
  • "Clowns" are often scared of disappointment, avoid deep intimacy, and crave approval.
  • Because of their light-hearted approach to life, they usually don't give proper maturity to discussions that demand maturity.
  • Their primary focus is being liked rather than being real.
  • For the "Clown," humor is the perfect defense mechanism. It's a means of coping, usually due to a traumatic or difficult childhood. Therefore, the "Clown" often acts out by resorting to sarcasm in moments of personal duress and insecurity. This "Impostor" ends up keeping everyone at arm's length, eschewing any possible bonds that could help.

    It's not uncommon to hear of a comedian's difficult childhood. Much has been written about comedians like George Lopez, Robin Williams, and Jim Carrey, who use humor as a way to deal with hurtful or lonely childhoods. It seems that the more they poke fun of themselves, the more others laugh, which makes the "Clown" feel accepted on some level. But no matter how much success or acceptance the "Clown" ultimately achieves, it usually fails to help the "Impostor" reconcile with its personal struggles and inner demons. When humor becomes the "Clown's" primary function and go-to reaction, thinly-veiled insecurity and pain manifest as sarcasm and further estranges the "Clown's" friends and family as they become unwitting targets of the "Impostor's" discontent.

    The "Clown's" reliance on humor can quickly become natural, and become uncontrollable. Subsequently, situations that call for sensitivity and maturity will often feel out of a "Clown's" depth. Those who wish to depend on the "Clown" will find themselves avoiding the "Clown" when they encounter difficulty. This precludes the "Clown" from establishing lasting relationships, effectively relegating the "Impostor" into the category of the funny friend, or at its worst, the asshole friend.

    How To Deal With Someone Else's "Clown Impostor"

    Since funny people tend to attract attention and followers, chances are you interact with a few "Clown Impostors" on a regular basis. While they may be fun to hang with at first, it can quickly fade. When that happens, keep these suggestions in mind:

    • If someone with the "Clown Impostor" has made an inappropriate comment, don't react or validate them by giving them the attention they crave. Don't feign interest or comment at all on what they said.
  • Remember not to take it personally or allow their comments to offend you. Think of a stand-up comedian who pokes fun of someone in the audience -- that's who the Clown is trying to be, forgetting that poking fun of friends and acquaintances is very different. Don't argue back. They're only seeking attention.
  • Clear Away the Tears of a Clown

    The longer the "Clown" reigns free, the harder it will be for you to come to terms with the problems you're facing. Of course, humor can also be used appropriately. But when humor is a quick-fix bandage for a deep wound, it only works for so long. Understanding the "Clown's" behavior is the best way to control this "Impostor" so it no longer controls you.

    Get Serious - Go On a Comedy Diet!

    One popular exercise that I use with my clients with the "Clown" Impostor is a "Comedy Diet." For 10 days, refrain from telling any jokes. Even in the most tempting situations, where you know the perfect punch line, don't allow yourself to crack! Allow yourself to stick with serious conversations, even if they make you uncomfortable. By stepping back, you'll also allow others to share in the limelight and share their own unique talents and sense of humor.

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    About the "Impostors": The "Impostors" are the cast of characters that star in Lisa Haisha's Soul Blazing method. They could be a metaphor for the "masks" that you wear, especially when confronted with something that you fear. Sometimes they're the voice in your head telling you that you're not good enough, or re-iterating negative conversations or experiences from your past that keep you stuck, like quicksand that keeps you from picking yourself up. These pesky devils are the saboteurs and squatters that live in the temple of your Authentic Soul, and keep you from shining bright!

    There are eight Impostors in this cast, and they are:
    • The Wounded Inner Child
    • The Over Thinker
    • The Counselor
    • The Sex God(dess)
    • The Narcissist
    • The Philosopher
    • The Clown
    • The Fixer
    Find out which "Impostor" is residing within you by taking this