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Healing with Humour: Embracing the Challenge of Change

© Catherine Ripplinger Fenwick

The world is changing and it is effecting all of us, in all areas of our lives. How we view change and how we respond to things happening around us will effect our ability to survive and thrive in these exciting times.

Have you ever seen little children when they see something new. their eyes light up and they say "WOW!" When was the last time you were so excited about something that you shouted "WOW!"

This WOW experience is part of the humour attitude, it is this joy of living which is vital to our sense of well being, no matter what is happening. It is about embracing challenge, not just coping with, but embracing, actually even looking forward to new ways of doing things.

What do we need to get through these storms? We need flexibility, courage and trust. We need to know that what we do matters and that somebody cares. We need to get into the thrill of the challenge and know that we have it in us to do it! The WOW experience helps us to be flexible and confident. We can get through this and still be healthy if we approach challenges with a humour attitude and a WOW.

This humour attitude needs to be incorporated into all areas of our lives. This is not about goofing around or goofing off. It's about flexibility, courage, and discovering creative solutions in challenging times.

The world is in transition, not unlike previous transitions; for example, we went through the stone age to the agrarian age to the industrial age. These major world shifts created great turmoil for people at the time.

Globally we are again going through a process of transformation to a knowledge based information and technological age. We don't know for sure what it's going to look like, we don't even know what it's going to be called, yet! We do know what it feels like.

There have been major philosophical changes happening in the last 100 years or so with Einstein and his relativity theory and Heizenberg's quantum physics. We've had a revolution in communication technology. There is the internet, mass communications, globalization, aging population and changes in demographics. The marketplace is changing. Our relationships and attitudes are changing. Government is changing, we are looking for efficiency, the dollar is shrinking in more ways than one. We also want more self reliance, we want more choice, more autonomy.

We must come to terms with these new forces. Writers and researchers William Bridges, Angus Reid, Bruce O'Hara, Nuala Beck and Peter Drucker have written extensively about these issues. When it all settles down, I believe we will have a better world.

My area of concern is the impact these shifts have on people, on us as individuals and as workers. How do we get through the transition and still be healthy, happy, and confident? Do you know the words "stressed out?" Of course you do! Sometimes we let the stress of all this get to us. Our natural response to stress is to want to run away or to fight. Hans Selye wrote about the fight or flight methods used historically by our ancestors and by us. This doesn't work so well in todays world. There's nowhere to run and you can't punch the computer or your boss, or whoever is causing you distress.

It's better if we learn to flow. How do we do that? With flexibility, courage and trust. I always say, "don't sweat the small stuff, it's mostly small stuff, the big stuff is so big you have to have your sense of humour in tact in order to get through it."

It's not so much what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you. We will learn to live with ambiguity. To do this it is a good idea to set aside 10 minutes each day to do "nothing," to become less impatient, to be open to creative ideas. Expand that to 15 or 20 minutes and see what happens. We may even begin to enjoy the challenge. Millions of people around the globe practice meditation daily as a method of personal growth.

What's happening these days reminds me of riding in this big sailboat. We've been sailing along and things have been pretty good, we've weathered some storms, even some pretty bad ones. Just lately, for the last 5 to 10 years or so the storms have been getting worse. We've had wave after wave of change. Sailing the boat under normal circumstances is hard enough. NOW, the sailboat is pretty battered, the sails have been torn up and the crew is seasick! Too much change too fast can make us feel kind of seasick, nauseated, until we find our sea legs. For flexibility, bend your knees, there will be less impact from the waves.

Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It, is to try to get somewhere at the same time as you are trying to rebuild the boat, and the waves just keep coming.

The humour attitude can help us here. This attitude is about experience, acceptance, and joy. It's about riding the waves and remembering to have some fun. Maybe you will need a paddle or a surf board. You need to trust that you are going to get through this and be stronger for it! Laughing is so good for you, no matter how stressed you get always remember to include laughter and play in your schedule.

We need to get past the notion that endings are signs of failure. Looking at endings from the humour perspective, they are signs of life!

It used to take 1000's of years, then 100's, then 10, 5, 2, years; now every 6 months global changes are happening. We have instant communications anywhere in the world. Most of us need to learn to flow with these changes. Flexibility means we make change work for us, turn inaction into action, learn to flow and give it enough time. Be patient and kind to yourself in the process.

The key is to make rapid changes without undue distress and disruption. Oh, there's going to be distress and disruption, the humour attitude helps us to flow with it instead of fighting against it, or trying to run away from it.

To get through it without undue distress, we need courage, flexibility and fun. We need to know that what we do matters, that somebody cares, and we need to embrace the challenge - the WOW.

Each of us is different, each of us will learn about how we as individuals and as a group can best sail that boat, or paddle, or rebuild, or fix the sail; whatever it is we each do best.

Pay attention to the winds of change, watch the sky, see the opportunities on the horizon. Hang in there, hang on to your knowledge that what you do is important to your community; hang on to your sense of self and how you best handle the storms. Hopefully you will have many WOW experiences along the way.

Recommended reading

  • Beck, N. (1993). Shifting Gears. Toronto: HarperCollins.
  • Bridges, W. (1991). Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. New York: Addison-Wesley.
  • Drucker, P. (1993). Post-Capitalist Society. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Fenwick, C. (1995). Healing With Humour. Muenster, SK: St. Peter's Press.
  • Garland, R. (1991). Making Work Fun. San Diego: Shamrock.
  • O'Hara, B (1993). Working Harder Isn't Working. Vancouver: New Star Books.

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