by Danielle Long
In chapter 8 Kathryn Bouskill approaches how using humor is a way of coping with something (and in the case the painful and emotional disease of breast cancer). On page 213-214 Bouskill argues that humor is a cognitive, that it is internal reworking of a greater sociocultural reality, with neuroanthropology being the center element. The reason scientifically humor is a meaningful coping device because of it functioning in two directions of sociocultural and the interaction of cognition.
The humor element usually takes place with the survivors because it helps them be more open with others who are facing the same things they did and it also helps them start accepting the disease. The survivors of breast cancer in our country are labeled as both socially and medically for the rest of the lives- meaning that the disease affects the key signifiers of the female identity.
On page 215 Bouskill defines coping as “the behavioral and cognitive means of managing a stressor that is perceived as exceeding one’s resources or blocking one’s path toward a desired goal.” Coping can be a great resource in dealing with something like breast cancer but the ability and effectiveness of coping with a disease are never unbounded from the sociocultural contexts. This means that personal relationships (having conservations with familiar and unfamiliar people), spiritual ideas (like religion), where do you fit in the social ethnicity, having access to institutional support, and when the illness/disease or condition is denounced- making all of these reasons difficult. The coping process is cognitive and it belongs to sociocultural environment. And with the brain in the perception of humor, then sociocultural contexts are the necessary spark.
Abel describes humor on page 216 “as a coping strategy within which there is a cognitive-affective shift and a restructuring of a stressful situation to make it less threatening.” With his description makes sense why we turn towards humor while dealing with stressful events in our lives and his statement is very interesting as well. While we respond to humor it is complexed and we have to rely on focus, attention, memory, emotional evolution, and understanding abstract communication.
Goldstein shows how powerful humor is as a cohesive force with defining relationships. Humor also demonstrates a consciousness of solidarity and a shared social identity. The boundaries that humor produces from the people who understand humor and the ones who do not can be from linguistic differences, social, classes, and different social identities.
Bouskill tells us about “cancer world” and how drastic the physical transformations incurred by the loss of signifiers of femininity. They also worry about relationship changes with a partner, the future of one’s family, the frustration of memory loss due to chemotherapy and the fatigue-ness by chemotherapy.
There are quotes from survivors that show the positive effects of humor, for example: “laughter lets me get out of this fear. It brings me peace, it’s a stress-reliever, and I just go off to another place.” Because of laughter this cognitive element of humor activates reward centers in the brain. Another positive effect of humor is the women who use it to cope with stressful events have lower blood pressure than women who don’t. Humor among women have more personal social connections and sensitivity- meaning this leads to women having more to empathy.
Humor can relieve any tension caused by stressful situations. Bouskill’s information that she provides in this chapter on how affected humor actually is by an neuroanthropology outlook is very interesting. Humor can produce laughter which activates rewards in the brain and it can also reduced blood pressure. Humor is a way of coping with something like breast cancer and can help you in accepting the disease. And humor as a coping device relies on sociocultural and the interaction of cognition.
Bouskill, L. (2012). Holistic Humor: Coping with Breast Cancer. In Lende, D. H & Downey, G. Eds. The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology. (pp. 213-235). Cambridge, Massachusets: MIT Press.