The clown defense hypothesis

In the early 00’s I remember hearing a song by Therapy? Called “Be Happy” or something like that. Apart from being a great song it was about someone that the band knew as a kid who had been the class clown but as an adult committed suicide. I began thinking about people who put forward a personae of “the clown” as while being a clown in primary school can be useful to direct the attentions of bullies away from you, as an adult, it tends not to go down very well, being perceived of as a sign of immaturity and irresponsibility.

 

I do continue to wonder though whether being an adult clown is a defense mechanism that allows the person to hide what they really are: very unhappy. Clowns seem happy on the surface even if they also seem immature, and we may think that clowns don’t feel emotions deeply. I think, however, that they feel emotions particularly acutely and are overwhelming. To avoid appearing distressed to those they know they put on the clown mask to avoid uncomfortable questions about whether they are alright.

 

If you think this is all bullshit, think of Robin Williams. When I heard last year that he had committed suicide I was shocked but not surprised. He was probably the most well known clown and, quite frankly, it must have been exhausting keeping that up.

 

So, if you know someone who is a bit clownish, ask they how they are and don’t necessarily take “I’m fine” as true.