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Overly Serious Coping

Are you a serious person?  Do you have overly-serious coping?  What does that even mean? A dictionary definition of serious is showing deep thought, not joking, or a situation that requires careful thought. An example of serious is wearing a full suit to a casual dinner; serious attire. An example of serious is a person who doesn’t smile or laugh easily; serious person.

Of course there’s a time to be serious. But there are also times to be playful and teasing. It’s all about context and being flexible. Being overly-serious is like the person who wears a shirt and tie to the backyard barbecue. Sometimes it can make others uncomfortable and the research shows that being able to play and laugh is important for relationships and for coping well.

Being too serious can come from catastrophic thinking, or fearfulness. For some, it comes from being (perhaps unknowingly) on guard. What if you say the wrong thing or hurt someone’s feelings? You cope with worry and concerns and fears by having a serious view of life and what could go wrong.

For others, it’s just the way they live their life. They see life in serious ways.It’s true of course that life has many serious, difficult experiences.So perhaps playfulness and teasing may seem confusing or you don’t see the point. Maybe you don’t get how you are being overly-serious.

One of the ways of being too serious is hearing what others say literally. Imagine that I tell someone, “I love your hair that way!” with lots of enthusiasm. He responds, “So you hated it the other way?”  I take him seriously and start apologizing. “No,no, it looked good the other way too, I just prefer this style.”  Nothing wrong with that response, unless I over-apologize and become flustered. The truth is he is playing with me. I’m responding in all seriousness. How much more fun if I responded with a smile, “Yeah, I’ve been wondering for years when you would change that hairstyle.” Now we’re playing, enjoying the exchange. The mundane interchange is spiced with humor. (Okay, sometimes teasing can fall flat. That’s awkward, but it can be managed.)

Why tease? Teasing is a way of showing someone you like them. It adds fun to the interaction.  Teasing is kind–if it’s not kind, has an edge, then it’s something else, not playing.

Overly-serious coping can mean that you are task-oriented to a fault. You focus on getting a job done. No messing around and wasting time. When moving for example, you focus on all those boxes. The mess!  Unpacking, getting rid of the mess, and being able to function in your home is a top priority. You don’t want to “waste time” by playing around. When friends or your spouse puts on a Micky Mouse hat that was in one of the boxes and starts to sing, you smile and keep working. You don’t take a second to laugh with him or sing along.

What about work tasks? Is there a manual to be written?  Dishes to be done? Then buckle down and do it. Teasing and joking around is “wasting time.”  If others are goofing off, you’re impatient.  You could be finished so much faster if everyone just focused on the task.  Work first, play later, right?

Hmmm, not so much.  Turns out that playing around makes work more fun.  The time goes faster and you feel better while you’re doing the work. It’s not so grueling.  Over- seriousness adds to the tediousness or drudgery of the task, not only for yourself but for everyone else. Playing around can take only minutes, but adds relaxation, fun and friendliness to the situation.

Playful teasing, goofing off, and finding things to laugh about are part of  how people bond and adds joy to the day and routine tasks.. Putting on a Christmas hat you’ve unpacked in July and sing a Christmas carol? It’s all in good fun. It’s also one of those things you can choose to laugh at…or not. Sometimes having fun is a choice to pay attention to small, amusing things that happen.

When the dog climbs on those moving boxes, seemingly to keep you from carrying them to the truck, you could grumble and fuss (after all, you’re probably tired) or you could laugh or smile at their antics.

It’s a dialectic. There’s probably a long list of things to be serious about and at the same time there are small things we can notice for smiles and laughs. Doing so adds to your coping skills.

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Photo by Timothy Barlin on Unsplash

Mickey Mouse Hat Photo by Leighann Renee on Unsplash

Overly Serious Coping


Karyn Hall, PhD

Karyn Hall, Ph.D. is the owner/director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, a DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified Clinician, a RO DBT Approved Supervisor and Trainer and owner of www.DBTSkillscoaching.com, an online educational program. She is a trainer/consultant as well as a therapist and certified coach, author of The Emotionally Sensitive Person, SAVVY, Mindfulness Exercises for DBT Therapists, and co-author of The Power of Validation. Her podcast, The Emotionally Sensitive Person, is available on iTunes.


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APA Reference
Hall, K. (2019). Overly Serious Coping. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 15, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/emotionally-sensitive/2019/01/overly-serious-coping/

 

Last updated: 27 Jan 2019
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