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Volume 10 Issue 4
November/December 2004

Ganoderma: God's Herb
Reishi Mushroom Medicine

Raving About Raw Seeds!

Fair Trade
A Marketplace Where Everyone Wins

Humour and Hope
A Process for Healing ©2004

Healthy Vision Habits
Give Your Eyes A Break


Humour and Hope
A Process for Healing
by Cathy Fenwick
Catherine Fenwick

For most of my life I have dreamed about writing a book, “some day, when I’m retired from my job and my children are grown”. After the cancer diagnosis (in 1990) I thought, “Why wait, I may not live that long!” I began to write articles and speak publicly about my experience with cancer and about my incredible healing journey. These were the beginnings of the first edition of Healing With Humour. To date I have published two books and am working on a third. I continue to set long-term goals, with reasonable expectations of achieving them; while at the same time, accepting with serenity and peace whatever happens. I am amazed by the number of good things that have emerged in these last several years!

Meaninglessness destroys joy. Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps in Europe, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, emphasises the importance of meaning and purpose in life. He said that something to look forward to is necessary for survival. During his internment he thought often of his wife and family as motivation to carry on when he felt like giving up. He wrote that everything can be taken from us, except our right to “choose how we will respond in any given situation”. He found that people can have great material wealth and still be so unhappy they want to die. This was confusing to him, how could anyone who seems to have everything be so distressed? He discovered that people whose life was filled with purpose could accept any difficulty.

Norman Cousins says, in Anatomy of an Illness, that healing is more likely to occur under conditions of purpose, love, faith, will to live, determination, and joy. He suffered from a painful life-threatening disease and said that laughter saved his life. I have a ninety-year-old friend who started a joke-file when, as a young man, he was hospitalised for four years with tuberculosis. He says this helped him to stay sane. He still shares these jokes with his friends.

Humour and hope are inextricably linked in the healing process. Hope means much more than expectation and humour means much more than laughter and play. Humour and hope influence how we think, how we feel, and ultimately how we act. Healthy humour helps me to learn and grow. A good sense of humour is very freeing; it helps us to gain power in powerless situations. Healthy humour goes beyond joke-telling and laughing to involve the mind, heart, and soul. It takes us into the realms of harmony, serenity, hope, and happiness. Living your life with humour means living it with joy, beauty, gratitude, and meaningful work. It means surrounding yourself with caring, loving people and being a loving, caring person.

Just as humour is much more than laughter and play, so too is hope much more than expectation. Expectation sets me up for disappointment, frustration, worry, and anger. Healthy hope helps me to accept the things I cannot change and do something about the things I can change, while stopping despair from seeping in. Hopefulness convinces me that I can always do something to make any situation better. Hope lights a candle in the darkness; it keeps me going when the road gets rough. Do humour and hope cure cancer, solve all of our problems, and make us rich? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they did! Healthy humour and hope help us to deal with situations in positive ways.Healthy humour and hope help us to make positive life choices. My choices include doing what helps me to live the best life for as long as possible. In order to do that I need to make healthy choices. Since the cancer diagnosis, I am much more aware of making conscious decisions. Life presents us with constant choices; simple ones such as choosing to go for a walk after dinner or watching television; and difficult ones such as choosing a mate, a career, or choosing to overcome a great obstacle. We can choose to live a conscious purposeful life or we can choose to let “fate” and other people make our choices for us. Sometimes we choose the ones that seem easiest or most desirable at the time, without stopping to think about the long-term effects of our choices. Sometimes we know what the end result will be, but we do it anyway. If I want to have a physically fit body I would need to choose working out at the gym, jogging, walking, or participating in sports over a sedentary lifestyle. I can choose to eat healthy nutritious foods in moderate amounts or I can choose high fat, high sugar, low nutrition foods in large amounts. Either choice will lead to predictable results. I may choose to seek therapy, medical care, or a spiritual path to help me cope with difficult life events, or I may choose drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behaviour to escape responsibility or create a mask to cover up my feelings.

Humour and hope are inextricably
linked in the healing process.

When we know what the end result will be, but choose to do it anyway, we are creating a predictable future. When I take charge of my life I make choices that suit my purpose. When I give away responsibility for my life, or if I know better but do it anyway, I may end up feeling unhappy about my choices or my lack of choosing.
Life offers many crises and opportunities. If we focus our attention on the crises, we get more fear and pain. If we focus on the opportunities, we get more joy and laughter. Bad things happen, even to optimists. When they do, optimists look for help. We believe that things will get better and we explore ways to help ourselves and help each other. We look for someone else who has had similar experiences and has survived. We can learn from them about how to live purposefully.

Perhaps it is the wisdom of ageing. Perhaps it is the peace that comes from facing a life-threatening illness. Perhaps it is the trust that comes from following the call of my spirit. Perhaps all of these have led me to this place of hopeful, enthusiastic, rewarding, and meaningful pursuit of the fullness of life. I am so thankful to have come to appreciate the sheer joy and beauty of everyday living.

The above article is an excerpt from Cathy Fenwick’s new book, Love and Laughter: A Healing Journey.

Cathy Fenwick is an author, educator, and therapist. She develops and presents workshops on how to get more healthy humour into your life. Her books include: Love and Laughter: A Healing Journey (2004); Telling My Sister’s Story (1996); and Healing With Humour (1995). You can check out Cathy’s website at www.healingwithhumour.com


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