Laughter Survival Kit: Jury Duty Edition

Four years ago I was selected to be on a jury for a capital murder trial. During the voir dire process (interviews by the attorneys to select the jury), my fight or flight response was screaming inside my head for me to run. This was likely residual triggery feelings from my own childhood trauma (I don’t think it would happen the same way since doing my most recent EMDR has me in a limbic balance).  But my sense of duty was too strong to do what the guy wearing the Metalica shirt next to me did – just say I didn’t trust anyone in the DA’s office.

In any jury room you’re not supposed to discuss the case at all until deliberations begin. But the traumatic evidence forced us to not only talk about other things, we found ourselves mostly telling jokes and other funny stories. It might have helped that our chosen foreman looked and sounded almost exactly like Seth Rogen (though the fun came from almost everyone).

We were later told our laughter could be heard all the way into the courtroom. But the judge, attorneys, and public who were in the courtroom all knew that we were doing what we needed to do (though possibly the judge and told them that if we’re laughing, we’re definitely not talking about the case). Note – we weren’t laughing about murder (though a fellow juror had been on another murder trial), we were laughing so we didn’t have to continue thinking about murder.

In a way, we bonded as a band of brothers at war. It was a very intense trauma to relive day after day and topped off with not being able to discuss the cause of the trauma with anyone.

The fortunate thing is none of us had to die – well, one person did previously die, and that’s why we were there. We took that person’s death as our duty to try and complete the mission of hearing the case out fairly. The traumatic testimony that included photos of the victim hit all of us hard. The laughter came slow on that particular day as it had to pass through some tears, but it was there and it sustained us.

While that specific trial ended in a mistrial due to prosecutorial misconduct, I am happy and relieved to say that the perpertrator remains behind bars as he was finally found guilty in a separate trial this year.

Since learning of therapeutic laughter this year during the Applied and Therapuetic Humor (AATH.org) conference, I think back to how we were naturally dealing with the pain we had to endure as jurors and wishing I could have piled on some more intential laughter.

For months after the trial, many jurors still met and laughed as we continued to try to recover from our role. Gradually our meetings grew further apart, but it is still a joy to see someone from the trial send a note to the group and know that we all still have each other’s backs.

While I don’t face quite the same trauma every day as that courtroom, when adversity or just the daily news sets my limbic system on edge, I am glad now that I can call on my new laughter skills and keep pressing forward.

Edit: I almost forgot that because this trial had some trauma and brain experts testifying, I had a huge epiphany about my spouse’s own trauma as well as my own based on the testimony about the triune-brain and how different types of trauma can impact people.

My Resilience Story Spine

A few months ago, in the Merlin-Works blog, Shana Merlin mentioned writing your own resilence story based on the story spine:

Once upon a time…
And every day…
Until one day…
And because of that…
And because of that…
And because of that…
Until finally…
And ever since that day…
The moral of the story is…

I encourage you to read her whole post. This is my first attempt, and there are many possible leaping off points in every life, but I decided to go to the beginning:

Once upon a time there was a little boy named Todd.
And every day he played and laughed happily.
Until one day his grandparents did something horrible to him and his sister.
And because of that, he wasn’t able to trust anyone deeply.
And because of that he wasn’t able to build friendships easily.
And because of that he came to rely too much on on only himself.
Until finally, he met Carol, who grew the embers of trust and laughter.
And ever since that day he laughs and let’s go of a little bit of the past.
The moral of the story is, don’t give up because it’s never to late to start living.

I had forgotten I wrote this until rediscovering it on a plane while Carol and I were on our way to The Dolphin Discovery Retreat to try and find what the next stories of our lives will be – personally and professionally. It briefly brought a tear to my eye because of how much truth and emotion is built into such a small format. And it reaffirmed how I was able to find ways to be resilient – even though I didn’t even have memories of that initial trauma until in my 40’s.

Laughter was a big part of healing that trauma – especially improv, with it’s subconscious scraping and poking). I did go to therapy (on and off, but more on in recent years) and did several rounds of EMDR. I think laughter yoga (aka therapeutic laughter) really amplified the effects of my EMDR.

So try writing your own stories and if you feel like sharing here or privately in the contact us, I welcome that.