Many people use humour to cope with negative emotions. However, this is not always productive because self-defeating humour can be a sign of mental illness.
What exactly is "self-defeating humour"? You may feel some ambivalence about it or enjoy other people’s misfortune. Some may also use it as a defence mechanism to mask feelings of sadness, anger, or jealousy. But does that mean you're mentally ill? Not necessarily! It could just mean that you're experiencing some negativity in your own life and have difficulty processing and expressing these feelings; after all, humour normally requires the ability to think critically and construct jokes.
However, the results of a study showed that humour can also be a coping mechanism to mask feelings of sadness and depression. Almost 80 percent of people who were interviewed in a survey admitted to using it as a way to avoid dealing with problems. The most common reason was that humour was used as "protection" against being overwhelmed by sadness or depression. But there's a catch: the researchers stated that self-defeating humour is best used as an occasional escape rather than as a regular habit.
While there's no hard evidence that self-defeating humour is always a sign of mental illness, it can still get in the way of living your life the way you want to live it. The good news is that it's possible to be in charge of your moods and control how you respond to sadness, rather than allowing it to take over your thoughts and feelings.
Let's learn the 7 steps by which you can get a firm control over your feelings and emotions:
Step 1: Identify the feelings that are bothering you. Put them into words. For example, you may feel sad, angry, or helpless.
Step 2: Write down the behaviours that have been associated with the negative emotions you're feeling (such as your negative comments about yourself). If you find that all of your behaviours are self-defeating ones, then it's likely that you're acting in ways that lead to more negative feelings.
Step 3: Analyse why and how these self-defeating behaviours come naturally to you and what they allow or deny you from doing in life. Does the behaviour enable you to feel better about yourself in certain situations? Maybe. Or does it make things worse for you? Definitely. It may be almost impossible to do something that feels good, just as it's almost impossible to do something that feels bad.
Step 4: Decide whether your self-defeating behaviours are important and whether they have a place in your life. They're important when necessary, but try not to let them become a crutch or a habit that dictates how you think and feel about yourself.
Step 5: Adopt new ways of coping with your negative feelings or moods, if they're needed. This can be as simple as exercising, laughing, or simply deciding to think more positively.
Step 6: Become aware of the negative self-talk that you engage in. For example, are you your own worst critic? Are you always saying "I'll never..." or "I'll always..."? Become aware of these thoughts and put a stop to them. Realize that these thoughts are automatic and don't necessarily represent how things really are.
Step 7: Finally, commit to identifying new ways of coping automatically when you feel negative feelings creeping into your mind. Try thinking about the situation differently ("Maybe I can...," "I'd probably...," or "What would happen if I..."). If this works, commit to sticking with it.
We, humans, are experts at self-defeating behaviours. These include being perfectionists, procrastinators, and exaggerating details. But no matter how much these methods help us to feel positive about ourselves, we should try to put them aside and develop new ones. After all, life is uncertain, and we need to realize that no matter how right our present situation may seem to be, there's still plenty of room for change.
It's important to learn to cope with negative feelings in new ways and take control of your life. You'll find that it helps you maintain a more positive outlook on life and that you're better able to handle both good times and bad. So why not give it a try? You'll feel better about yourself in the long run!