Unexpressed Mirth—A Ticking Time Bomb? Or Forgotten?

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2014-08-05 – Back in the Sixties, it was common knowledge that unexpressed anger would fester and come out in unexpected ways. Like an overheated boiler, you would blow off steam. This was seen as unhealthy and we were all advised to be open and honest with our feelings. “Tell it like it is!” was the slogan of the day.

Back in the early Eighties, when I was learning to be a mediator, I read a book on anger—I forgot the name—that gave the opposite advice. It criticized the tell-it-like-it-is view. It said that expressing anger was sometimes good (when it accomplished something) and sometimes bad (when it either provoked a bad reaction or simply left you stewing). The author said that there was no evidence that unexpressed anger would build up inside you and further, that every expression of anger was a rehearsal. The more you expressed your anger, the “better” you got at feeling angry.

I’m no psychologist, but these two views seem to reflect a shift from Freudian ideas to more behavioral or cognitive psychology. But I’m not here to debate that at all. I’m here to raise the question:

What happens to unexpressed mirth?

My dad liked to tell awful jokes. I say awful because I was the one hearing them and he was the one telling them. I would groan and say, “Dad! We’ve heard that before!”

Now it appears that I’ve inherited my father’s trait.

I don’t know how my dad felt when we told him to suppress his mirth. He didn’t express it. To be perfectly honest (and please check out my Diogenes Day page on the subject of honesty), I’m not exactly sure how I feel when people groan at my jokes like we groaned at my dad’s jokes. I kinda wanna take the groaning as a sign of approval!

And the question is: what will happen if I suppress them? Will they go away for lack of practice? Or will they fester inside and come out in some peculiar letting-off-of-(mirthful) steam?

I certainly don’t want to lose the knack. I’m a funny guy. But this peculiar letting-off-of-(mirthful) steam is intriguing. Does the concept even apply to mirth, or just to anger? A brain is a brain, right? If the steam functionality applies to anger, why wouldn’t it apply to mirth? Or love?

Or playing a musical instrument?

Wouldn’t it be fantastic to learn that all the years of not playing the violin have built up and up and up until one day—if you let it out—you are Itzhak Pearlman?

You think I’m joking. I can tell.

* * *

A word or a song brings forth mirth.
A talent—or curse—from my birth.
Why try to suppress it?
A sneeze, not to bless it?
I think that’s my place on this Earth.

Check out my Limericks page for more and better limericks.

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