The capacity for humour is one of life's blessings. So why is it so lacking in the theory and even the practice of analysis and therapy? Why Don’t Psychotherapists Laugh? is the first book of its kind about a neglected and even taboo topic: the place of enjoyment and good humour in psychotherapy.
Why Don’t Psychotherapists Laugh? traces the development of professional psychotherapy and its almost exclusive focus on life's tragedies. This may naturally suit some practitioners; others may learn that a proper therapeutic persona is serious, even solemn. But what are they and their clients missing? Ann Shearer draws on ideas about humour and its functions from antiquity to contemporary stand-up comedy and beyond, to explore how it works in both mind and body. Shearer demonstrates how even the blackest humour may yield psychological information, and how humour can help build therapeutic relationships and be a catalyst for healing. Through real-life stories from consulting rooms, told by both therapists and clients, the author shows how a sense of enjoyment and good humour can restore life to people in distress- and how destructive a lack of these may become.
This book offers food for thought about the theory and practice of psychotherapy. It encourages analysts and therapists from different schools to look again at some of the assumptions on which they base their practice and teaching, and provides a resource for further reflection on the therapeutic task. Taking a psychological look at where humour comes from, what it's about and why we need it, this book will also intrigue anyone who wants to know more about the kinds of people psychotherapists are, what they do and why.
Written in a highly accessible style, Why Don't Psychotherapists Laugh? will appeal to psychotherapists with a range of trainings and allegiances, their teachers in vocational and academic institutions and their clients, as well as to readers with an interest in psychotherapy, humour and psychology.
Table of Contents
1. Starting Points 2. A Goddess Laughs: Humour and the Healers 3. In Theory 4. Looking Outwards. 5. Looking Inwards: What’s So Funny? 6. Senses of Humour 7. Shadow Stories 8. Bodies and Brains: In the Consulting Room 9. Thresholds 10. Power and Promise 11. Bridges and Boundaries 12. No laughing matter? 13. Stories of Life and Death 14. Looking Back
Ann Shearer is a Jungian analyst based in London. She lectures internationally and for two years was a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Imperial College London. Previously a journalist and consultant in social welfare, her many articles and ten books include (with Pamela Donleavy) From Ancient Myth to Modern Healing: Themis: goddess of heart-soul, justice and reconciliation (Routledge, 2008).
"Ann Shearer writes in a highly entertaining fashion about a topic that has received far too little attention – the therapeutic value of humour in and out of psychotherapy. She brings sharp intelligence to bear on a controversial topic. A most readable and thought-provoking book!"-Murray Stein, author of Minding the Self.
"Your guide in this book to the philosophy of humor and the history of that philosophy is a likeable, circumspect, engaging writer. Her musings meander in a way that is true to her Dionysian agenda... Your guide is also a Jungian. She's brilliant when expounding ideas about the persona and the shadow, and she is insightful about the transition of Freud and Jung from improvisational explorers to emulated icons... Shearer provides a lovely overview of the compelling case for the therapist's undeniable humanity... She wants smiling and laughter to communicate humanity."-Dr. Michael Karson, University of Denver, author of Deadly Therapy: Lessons in Liveliness from Theater and Performance Theory, reviewing for PsycCritiques
"There is much of interest throughout the book about humour and laughter... Above all, Shearer calls us to bring our common humanity into our work with clients. She also shows that there is much to be enjoyed in this work, not least the clients themselves."- Jamie Rance, reviewing for Private Practice
'Ann Shearer, the well-known English Jungian analyst and former journalist has written a delightful and pioneering work….It is that most unusual combination: a book that is both serious and funny.…Shearer's book inspired me to think more deeply about the use of humour in analysis….There are many topics waiting to be explored.' Henry Abramovitch, founding president of the Israel Institute of Jungian Psychology, professor at Tel Aviv University medical school, reviewing for Jung Journal: Psyche and Culture.
'Ann Shearer legitimately questions whether as practitioners and theoreticians, our orientation is perhaps overly concentrated on accentuating the negative: "the persistent psychotherapeutic preference for unhappiness"…. Her lucid treatment of the topic combines both depth and lightness and is a consistently enjoyable read…I would thoroughly recommend it for psychotherapists and those interested more broadly in depth psychology.' Edward Bloomfield, training with the Society for Analytical Psychology, reviewing for International Journal of Jungian Studies.