"In teaching, in therapy, you are careful to bring in humor, because patients bring in enough grief," said Milton Erickson in the context of adult therapy (Zeig, 1980, p. 71). I consider the same applies equally for child and adolescent therapy. Some children go through some pretty rotten experiences that they do not deserve. Humor can help lighten the load and reframe the experience. It is engaging in that it readily captures a listener's attention. It is intriguing in that it has the ability to hold attention. It is impactful in that it can deliver a potent message enjoyably. Add to this the fact that humor aids the retention of learning and you have a powerful therapeutic medium. To check this out, ask yourself: Of the 100 stories you have read so far, which are the ones that have stayed in the fore of your mind? Where do the humorous ones rate on that list?
The previously quoted statement by Berg and Steiner is worth repeating here. They say, "When you have fun with children, they will learn that they are fun to be around, which will contribute to their sense ofwell-being as unique individuals" (2003, pp. 13—14).
Having discussed humor as metaphor in Chapter 3 and looked at its impact on making metaphors memorable in the previous chapter, here I will focus on some of the types of humor that can be used in metaphor. First, a humorous tale can be a comedy of errors: If something can go wrong, it will. Story 16, "The Importance of Accepting Compliments," is an example in which the snake, failing to accept a compliment, sets off a series of disasters that ends up in court. It delivers a powerful and perhaps unexpected message that usually evokes a laugh from the listener. The comedy of errors that makes up Story 66, "Taking Responsibility," offers humor throughout the story rather than in just the punch line.
Second are tales I think of as "yucky" stories, based on the schoolyard subjects at which kids screw up their noses—and laugh about anyway. They are often anally oriented subjects like Ms. Greenfingers' bucket of zoo poo stew that ends up over Mr. Grumblebum's head in Story 66, or a yucky topic like Jack's decision to cultivate his smelly socks in Story 25, "Build on What You Are Good At."
Naughty or mischievous stories are the third. These are the things children do that they think they should not do, or perceive would not be approved of by adults. Story 17, "What You Give Is What You Get," is that tale of two brothers who have been naughty by sampling Mom's brandy; but things go from bad to worse when they decide to cover up their guilt by urinating in the bottle—an even naughtier action. To heighten the impact, one brother plays the responsible role while the other takes the naughty role. In the end their actions turn back on them, unexpectedly. Story 70, "The Secrets of Success," has the young-boy, parents-are-not-meant-to-know theme of seeing who can pee the farthest from the top of a rock.
Fourth, the introduction of unexpected characters, events, themes, or outcomes can add humor and impact. Who would expect that if you were lucky enough to find a magic lantern your genie would be a grouch (Story 80)? That an object of immense terror might be just a stone falling in a pond (Story 23)? Or that the moral taught by a greedy fly might be about controlling anger (Story 47)?
Fifth, I would encourage that you listen to the jokes and humor used by children, the ones they bring home at the end of the day, or the ones you overhear them sharing with friends. Story 54, "Things May Not Be What They Seem," expands on a joke about a girl who became engaged in a conversation in the school toilets only to find she had misinterpreted the events, unaware the other girl was talking on a cell phone. In 101 Healing Stories I devoted a whole story chapter to illustrating the use ofjokes and humorous stories as metaphors (Burns, 2001, pp. 200—213).
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