Theoretical Paper

Humor as a Defense Mechanism and Working Instrument of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Author: Barbara Crǎciun
Titu Maiorescu University, Bucharest, Romania

The present theoretical paper sustains the idea that humor represents a complex phenomenon, characterized by a series of multidimensional valences whose implications can be observed at multiple levels of human functioning, by briefly looking over and analyzing its various conceptualizations, while still following two main objectives: on one hand to define and understand from a psychoanalytic point of view, the role of humor as a defense mechanism in people’s lives, and on the other hand to describe humor as a tool in the therapeutic work framed by the cognitive-behavioral approach.

Thus, among other relevant aspects, we discuss the distinction that Freud proposed in 1905 concerning the witticism, comic and humor, as well as the complexity of their intra-psychological relationships; we dissect the components of humor and their complex functioning underlying the psychoanalytic defense processes; we present and comment the cognitive theories of humor, as well as the evolutionary perspective regarding the utility of humor in human communication; and we analyze humor as an essential part of nowadays psychotherapeutic interventions. Moreover, we highlight the necessity of conducting more scientific validated studies that ask the beneficial effects of humor in cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Keywords: humor, defense mechanisms, incongruity, cognitive-behavioral therapy