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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The importance of finding humor in failure

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

The world of politics lately is pretty hectic. The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was reshuffled, and while thinking about the ministers who were removed of their posts or were offered new portfolios, there were also cases of the heads of political parties quitting or lawmakers leaving their parties. Many probably tasted the defeat of things not quite going their way.

    However, this phenomenon is not at all limited to the political sphere. There are times in our lives when our plans fail, or something completely unexpected occurs. Getting caught up in an accident or falling ill is also not uncommon. As a psychiatrist, my consultation room has become like a catalogue of "things not going according to plan." There are times where I think the number of people who come to me that have their lives in order are most certainly in the minority.

    The interesting thing is that each person reacts uniquely to times when things don't go well. Some fall into deep despair or others might look for someone else to blame, but there are also some who take failure in stride or see it as a chance to do new things. Out of all the cases in my "catalogue," I think the ones who recover the fastest are those who can still find something to laugh about even in their bitter brush with failure.

    For example, one woman I spoke with had been diagnosed with cancer in her large intestine, and she had come to me after not being able to sleep before being admitted to the hospital. I prescribed sleeping pills and commented, "Things must be difficult, huh?" At first she just agreed solemnly, but she then lifted her gaze and smiled. "But, there is one thing that I enjoy," she told me. "My main physician looks exactly like (comedian) Kimimaro Ayanokoji!"

    "Really?" I answered, caught up in her laughter. "Well then, if you have trouble sleeping once you get released from the hospital, come to me again and give me a full report on whether or not the doctor was as funny as the comedian," I offered. However, the woman never returned for consultation. With such a bright and positive attitude, she probably overcame her hospitalization with no trouble, and had no worries to prevent her from a good night's sleep after being released.

    Of course, there are also times when humor isn't easily found during hard times or situations where things aren't going your way. Still, if it's already happened, then there is no use getting caught up feeling depressed or regretful. Instead, like the woman diagnosed with cancer, I would rather find something to enjoy or laugh about, and even if my smile is a little forced, try to make some room to say, "This is pretty funny."

    If you can manage to do that, then you will be able to rest a little easier, and hopefully the heartache or pain from whatever you are experiencing will also lessen a little. Of course, if the politicians who hold the fate of this country in their hands keep smiling even when they fail, then we'll be in trouble! To those lawmakers, I want to firmly say that we are all counting on you to do your jobs. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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