Strategies to Face Adversity: Humour

Humour for most participants was an important coping mechanism used to deal with the many adversities they had to face on a daily basis.  It was also used to help deal with stressful and painful traumatic events suffered by some participants.

“So I guess humour was a mechanism to kill the pain at that time or what was happening at the present time. ‘Cause you know we were going to be taken away and you know you weren’t going to see mum and dad for a while.”

rsz_queensland-floods-2011-whitefella-blackfellaMany adversities faced by Aboriginal Australians have not been faced by non-Aboriginal Australians. The treatment of these two groups of Australians was vastly different and many Aboriginal people believe this is still the case today. Aboriginal people have been traumatised by the segregation and assimilation policies forced upon them over a number of generations.

All participants stated that humour was a way of coping with the many adversities they had to face. Most participants used humour prior to, during participants used humour prior to, during and after interviews.

However, the following male participant’s traumatic experience demonstrates the use of humour as a mechanism to kill the pain suffered over and over and over again, as he and his brother were constantly removed from their parents and relocated to different missions during their childhood:

“We laughed and laughed and we was in the back of the car and kept laughing because we was thinking, ‘Well, where we going now?’ ‘Where to now brother? Here we go again and again in the back of the car to somewhere.’ Well we used to just bust out laughing and you know really laughing like teary eyed laughing. Yeah, we would have a good laugh at ourselves.

I also think we were hurting at the same time as laughing because you know we had no control, no control of the situation – no control whatsoever. Welfare would come and we would have to go. We knew that ‘cause we really had it all our lives. You know, we couldn’t do nothing so we had to turn it around so that we could survive the pain that we were feeling at the time; that pain had to be dealt with. So we turned it around, me and Ryan.

So I guess humour was a mechanism to kill the pain at that time or what was happening at the present time. ‘Cause you know we were going to be taken away and you know you weren’t going to see mum and dad for a while.

So he used to just always say to me, ‘Where to now brother? Off we go again where to now?’ and of course I used to just look at him and burst out laughing, ‘cause it was also the way he used to say it. Sometimes, I just could have cracked him ’cause you know I’d be sitting there all teary eyed anyway cause you know being taken away again. He would just come out with that. I tell ya, he used to make me weak I couldn’t help but laugh.”

An older male participant spoke of the relationship between his boss and him. He explained they had grown up together. Hence, they were the best of friends and his boss treated him as an equal. This was not accepted in a town like Alice in the 1960s. Many times they had to cope with a number of racist comments:

“I think having the ability to laugh at yourself and laugh with others about yourself. Humour had helped me to get through a lot of the constant racist comments I have had to face in my life. No one taught me better than my old boss and best friend about humour. You know it was how, I think it was how he and I both coped in such situations.”

Another participant, who was physically abused by his father, explained how his grandparents used humour to help him cope with the abuse, but obviously humour helped them cope as they helplessly watched their grandson being beaten at times to unconsciousness:

“Humour is another thing. Nan and pop had the most amazing sense of humour and they were always taking the mickey out of my father who did not really have a sense of humour at all.

After I had a bad hiding, pop would bring the subject up and I would start laughing. Or pop would copy dad, showing us kids how he tried to dance or sing when he was drunk. Yeah, so humour I believe kept me going. I sorta coped with the physical pain, as my grandparents made fun of my abuser.”

Another participant spoke of the many adversities he had to face during his life, especially as a child. He believed he could put up with the adversity if he laughed at himself:

“But that’s another thing for me I believe when I think about it. Humour, you know if we could laugh at ourselves we could put up with anyone.”

Another participant spoke of being able to survive due to his sense of humour:

“Things were tough when I was young and I found it hard growing up, but yeah I survived because I had a sense of humour.”

Humour for most participants was an important coping mechanism used to deal with the many adversities they had to face on a daily basis. However, it must be noted that humour was also used to help deal with stressful and painful traumatic events suffered by some participants. These individuals suffered both physically and emotionally on numerous occasions.

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