Humor From the Perspective of IFS Therapy


A few years ago as a public speaking trainer I realized how powerful the role of humor can be. I studied the structure of funny talks, jokes creation, puns. But is humor always that funny? Especially internally? Well, let’s unpack this a little bit.

A few days ago I was serving as a Program Assistant at the IFS Level 1 Training for professionals. When the Lead Trainer was describing different types and examples of protectors, suddenly we were faced with an example of… using humor as a protective strategy.

So is humor a manager? A firefighter? Can it be a quality of Self? The answer to all of them is… yes. How come?

Humor as a manager

Sometimes a part of our system learns very quickly that funny talking brings momentary security. So with time, it can become like a constant companion holding the secure zone around us. Maybe holding a belief that ‘funny people don’t suffer or ‘as long as I am perceived as funny I am untouchable’. It adopts the role of proactive joking, habitual exaggerations, just in case comedy. Sometimes a language of frequent sarcasm. Unfortunately, it is not authentic. It’s more like a necessity, a full-time job, a tiring shield.

Humor as a firefighter

When the system senses an overwhelming feeling it can use humor as a reactive, intense, short-term intervention. Then it’s a “funny” action to quickly push overwhelming feelings back to the hiding spot. A dynamic way to immediately release increasing tension. No matter what.

Read more about IFS Therapy Firefighters.

Humor as an exile (after unburdening)

Playfulness is one of our inborn qualities. Our inner child or rather inner children are equipped with joy, fun, and laughter. Along the way, they might lose access to these qualities because of trauma or attachment injuries. That’s why IFS Therapy focuses on unburdening these exiles so that they can come back to their inborn freedom of expression.

Humor as the quality of Self

A sense of humor can indeed be a part of our Core Self. It can be a natural, spontaneous response to the present moment. It can be uncovering life’s surprises with a healthy distance without the need of dissociation, treating unexpected circumstances as… adorable. Because they are.

It emanates from the ‘C’ qualities like calm, curiosity, creativity, etc.
It is an expression of Playfulness (quality of a Self-led therapist).
It doesn’t hurt or offend anyone.

I have personally experienced all of these types above. Now I am just aware why sometimes “funny wasn’t fun”. Now I understand it’s not about the words I use but rather where they come from.

And If they don’t come from the creativity of the SELF… I welcome them. As they are the ones to show me the way to heal some aspects of my inner system.

As you can see IFS can inspire endless reflections. And these reflections are the doorways to more Self-energy. A little bit more, one step at a time.

Do you want to learn more about IFS therapy?
Get access to our free 3-day IFS Online Intro Course.

Founder of Life Architect
Michael Pasterski is founder of Life Architect, Planets and Foundation for Conscious Education He is also the author of the “Insight. Road to Mental Maturity” book and blog about psychology and personal development which are read by more than a million people a year. You will find English version of blog on Every day he works as a coach and personal development trainer.

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