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Wolfe, H. (1996). Dynamische Psychiatrie/Dynamic Psychiatry. XXVII, 1994: The Significance of Humor in Psychotherapy. Egon E. Fabian and Gabriele von Bülow. Pp. 245-251.. Psychoanal Q., 65:453-454.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Dynamische Psychiatrie/Dynamic Psychiatry. XXVII, 1994: The Significance of Humor in Psychotherapy. Egon E. Fabian and Gabriele von Bülow. Pp. 245-251.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:453-454

Dynamische Psychiatrie/Dynamic Psychiatry. XXVII, 1994: The Significance of Humor in Psychotherapy. Egon E. Fabian and Gabriele von Bülow. Pp. 245-251.

Harriet Wolfe

The authors stress the interpersonal as opposed to the intrapsychic meanings of humor. Insofar as humor establishes contact, it is of special usefulness with severely disturbed patients. However, the authors' comments about the social nature of humor and the ways in which it is clinically helpful with schizophrenic patients also apply to work with less disturbed patients. Humor helps establish a constructive identification with the therapist by establishing affective contact on a preverbal or nonverbal level that is free of anxiety and paranoia. It creates a new perspective on what has seemed an insoluble problem by rendering the problem absurd for a moment. This “moment,” whatever duration it may enjoy, demonstrates a constructive experience of separation from one's pathology and from one's symbiotic tendencies

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in the transference. It frees the patient (or therapist) from an overly concrete understanding of experience.

The authors describe the tradition of Eastern European Jewish humor and its success in using self-derision to render hilarious a situation of helplessness, humiliation, anxiety, or suffering. In recommending this tradition as a model, they are careful to emphasize that the spirit of therapeutically effective humor is always “human, empathic, so-to-say earnest.” They use Ammon's categorical distinctions of “constructive,” “destructive,” and “deficient” to demonstrate specific different types of humor, their characteristics, and how they have impact on a person.

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Article Citation

Wolfe, H. (1996). Dynamische Psychiatrie/Dynamic Psychiatry. XXVII, 1994. Psychoanal. Q., 65:453-454

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