The Warrior Spirit: Laughter is a critical component of resilience; An essay by Chris Schafer

What is considered a threat today pales in comparison to what our ancestors faced daily. A clear tribute to the ability of humans to create and invent better ways to live. At the same time, as we advance there arise new threats that are perceived as real but are less than physically harmful. Today there are unbalanced perceptions of what threats are. For many of our school-aged young adults, these perceived threats materialize into forms of despair through the loss of social status and reputation through shaming and malicious posts. However, being less than a threat to life or limb these new perceived threats have a real impact.

The Association for University and College Counseling Centers Directors in a 2017 survey found that one-third of students are depressed and about one in four students had thought of suicide.  Is there a direct correlation to our tech-savvy and social media society? Maybe however unlikely the correlation is singular.

Today we have an abundance of perceived threats like ‘trigger words’ and politically incorrect speech which are not threats unless the individual is unstable. Unfortunately, the National Association of Medical Illnesses has found that 1 in 4 college students are on psychological medication which may be the reason for Safe Spaces and the elimination of ‘offensive speech.’ The issue is who is determining what is considered offensive and what is not.

Physiologically the worlds that are created through platforms via technology like online gaming and social media become very real within the mind that is still developing. They like the rest of us struggle with the deluge of information that is available unlike any other time in our history. Training and guidance are key to defeating perceived threats and dealing with them in a positive way.

Real Threats

In our first world difficulties, there is little to teach our mind in how to distinguish between what is a real threat and what is not, outside of being in the military or first responders career fields. For the majority of us, everyday life is non-threatening. This impacts what we perceive as threatening events and shapes our response. Ever seen someone freak out about not getting enough ketchup packets in their value meal or a road rage incident for someone being cut off while driving? Unfortunately, these things do happen every day but are they real threats. Should they elicit an aggressive reaction? Our minds are naturally wired for flight or fight response but what of the non-threats that are perceived as such?

Threats like that of a damaged reputation and social status or that of being eaten by a lion have a commonality, and that is “loss,” and without training and perspective, the response to non-threats may be perceived as real enough to take action. Action to a threat without purpose and analysis can lead to disaster. The ability to laugh at situations that are less than threatening can thwart irrational acts and reduce anxiety and blood pressure. If you think it can’t be done or it won’t work, I offer the following:

Laughter in the Face of Death

I once asked my great grandfather Fred what it was like in WWI, the war to end all wars, with an estimated 40 million causalities. He told me that he had been mustard gassed and spent some time in a French hospital “The nurses were fine,” he said to me with a smile on his face. I was about twelve at the time. I gathered that the nurses that took care of Private Fred Schafer for nine weeks were very kind and pretty. Today I’m confident that he, like many of the Dough Boys, found the local women charming. The point is that he remembered the women, not the horror of being mustered gassed. Fred lived into his 90’s.

Laughter is a Commonality

I have found that many times when I talk with veterans of other conflicts, we laugh about incidents that would be considered mortifying and less than humorous by our non-military peers. Similarly, my teammates and I laughed more often when the threat was intimate, and we were at a disadvantage. The ability to see the lighter side of events while suffering hardship is a core principle of the Warrior Spirit.

Laughter can be a defensive mechanism and a way to cope with a situation that has little chance of improving or changing. Once the harrowing event has past, laughter is a way of conquering the moment and demonstrating relief. It’s a key element in seeing the problematic and embracing it with defiance. The question is how to train one’s self to laugh in such situations.

Training To Laugh In The Face Of Death.


Training to be resilient takes some self-awareness. It’s better to consider how the event impacts your ability to function. Asking questions like:

How it hinders or impedes the ability to do an activity or accomplish a task.


The warrior spirit analyzes the event for its ability to impact the function of an individual and calculates a response that is appropriate. Many times the warrior will do nothing understanding that patience and doing nothing is statistically better than forcing an action a majority of the time.


Warriors will take an initial look at something and then carefully consider the event before taking action. A seasoned warrior will go one step further studying and caculating the related return on investment before taking action. If it appears that it will be less than profitable, then the warrior will move along knowing that he was stronger for not being provoked.

Keep Calm

Remaining calm in stressful situations is paramount to survival. This improves our ability to react correctly to a real threat.

Today threats are new and more overt in their nature and require a warrior spirit to overcome them. There is a great need to teach and train or young in the warrior ways and to understand the difference between real and perceived threats and what is appropriate an action to take and how.

Photo from (Baiajaku)

CHRIS SCHAFER is a retired Green Beret and the COO of Tactical16 Publishing. He is an expert in leadership and business development with 13 years of experience. Chris is co-author of the book Intrepid Professionals, a book that helps executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and self-improvement seekers understand and leverage principles of the military mindset. Chris has advised foreign militaries, worked in 20 countries, and worked with numerous U.S. agencies including the FBI and DEA. He resides with his wife and children in beautiful Colorado. You may also email Chris here, or call him at 719.398.8002.

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