There are some of us who take life very seriously. And there are others among us who have the ability to laugh off let-downs and move on with life. The serious one’s have their strength. They tend to be people who think deeply about things. They have the ability to help people in a meticulous manner. They are thorough in their work, disciplined and methodological. Their lives are based on predictability and they tend to be very dependable people. On the flip side, they can be perfectionists and expect this from everybody around them. They also might have a tendency to be disagreeable – finding flaws in things, people and situations around them. The lighter ones on the other hand, have the ability to be casual – easily connecting with people, they can ignore comments and criticisms, quickly shift gears. They are adaptable and not usually stuck in behavioral patterns and thoughts. On the flip side, they lack any sort of depth. They do not dwell on things too deeply and their solutions are “Oh don’t worry, everything will be alright”. Such people also tend not to be dependable and disciplined.
These archetypes are of course gross generalizations and there are several people with a balance of these two opposing types. But the question we are here to ask ourselves is this “How can I take life less seriously and yet be effective and disciplined”. That is to say how can I be full-on and yet not be frivolous?
Let’s look at the root of why some people are serious. Mostly, the serious among us, are highly attuned to our inner states of being, that is, our thoughts and emotions. These are ‘real’ because we feel it very deeply within us. Reality, is essentially subjective. What might resonate with me, might not resonate with you. And while that thing has an objective reality, subjectively it is perceived differently, based on our internal states. The serious ones are highly sensitive, imaginative and creative. They perceive this very acutely. Therefore, these emotions and thoughts and therefore the external situation, people, things become so real that it becomes inescapable. And these feelings and thoughts demand immediate attention. And this prompts such people to take immediate action to ‘solve’ the external problem.
Let’s now look at why some people are ‘lighter’ and even frivolous. Generally, such people have been taught since early to ignore their emotions and ‘get on’ with life. Such people are very functional. They have the ability to move on and bounce back from situations. They can smile, laugh and from an external person’s standpoint, such people are worry free. But is this true? The best way to ascertain this is when such people are put through difficulties. Do we react? Do we break? This appears to point to the fact, that the emotions and thoughts are buried deep within us, waiting for the opportune moment to burst out. Many such people have two sides to their character. A lovable, friendly , affable and social side and a darker side which is known only to their closest of people. And because such among us, have become habituated to repressing our emotions and thoughts, we want to avoid showing this dark side to anybody. Of course, people who have lived with us for long, know that we have this dark side. Therefore we then would tend to avoid intimate relationships. Tend to spend time with acquaintances and friends – laughing, joking, avoiding deep conversations and that sort. When such feelings and thoughts come up, most of us who are lighter people would either flee (flight) by using distractions or explode (fight).
These two categories of people can also roughly be seen as ‘introverted’ and ‘extroverted’. Although, I do not think an exact link between the labels and the behaviors can be established. These must only be taken as models to better understand ourselves and not as absolute truth.
As we can see, both these are extreme standpoints and not healthy in our long-term development. The introverted / serious among us need to be able to laugh more and move on. The extroverted / lighter among us need to have the ability to connect deeply with ourselves to express our thoughts and emotions effectively.
For both, self-awareness plays a vital role. By taking our awareness or attention to our thoughts and emotions we begin to recognize that they are there. This is all the more important for the lighter ones, because often they are even unaware of these emotions. The introverted serious ones on the other hand are acutely aware of these feelings in themselves, so they should not have that much of a problem. The second step is to maintain and sustain the awareness without judgement / criticism or wanting to run away from this intense feeling. Just accept and watch it in a non-judgmental manner. Often this feeling intensifies and it can appear unbearable. Still, go on. Rest assured, you will not die. As we gain the ability to watch these emotions, we begin to disidentify with them. We cannot get rid of these emotions – they make us human. But the reactive impact on us is greatly reduced. Then, we can smile and even laugh at these emotions and fears.
J.K.Rowling has captured this so brilliantly in the Harry Potter series. She uses the metaphor of the Boggart – a magical creature that takes the form of our innermost fears. Nobody knows what a boggart really looks like because it has no form of its own. It takes the form of our innermost fears and appears in front of us. Look at the word that J.K. uses for this creature – Boggart – that which bogs you down. Our fears bog us down by repeatedly coming up – again and again. And she points to a deeper truth by saying that our fears have no independent existence. They are illusions that take the form of our innermost apprehensions. The external point of pain or fear is purely an internal reflection. Brilliant! And how do we get rid of the Boggart? Look at the spell J.K. uses – Ridiculous. And she goes on to say that laughter is the best antidote to the Boggart. This is pregnant with deep meaning. The best way to overcome our fears is to use our imagination to make that fear into something funny and then through humour and laughter, laugh it off. Note, we are not laughing it away and fleeing from our fears. But we face them. We use the spell Ridiculous, which means look at it as something amusing. And then laugh internally at it. Tell it, “Oh here comes that joker once again bothering me. Oh well!”.
We can begin to smile at our fears and emotions when we identify it, face it and accept it as something that is part of human existence. It is not just yours. It is the human condition. This makes those fears something less that they really are. This is the beginning of disengagement.
Once this happens – a meeting of the serious and the light starts to happen. You are serious enough to recognize yours and others emotions, drives, passions, concerns. But in the larger picture, you also know that these are not permanent and are illusory. You are concerned, but not convicted by them. You are compassionate but not captured by such feelings in others around you. This fine line can only come about by self-awareness. Therefore for the serious ones, learn to de-personalize these feelings and thoughts from who you are ( be the watcher of them). For the lighter ones, learn to face them and realize that they are not monsters that you have to run away from.
I hope this helps.