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Laughter and Humor for Medicinal Use

Jul 05, 2008 - 4 comments

Laughter, humor, is not only good for recovery, one might argue that it is ESSENTIAL to it. In fact, I will argue that very point. The classic work on this is Norman Cousins' "Anatomy of an Illness" which is basically his report on how laughter literally saved his life. Google for that, and then see this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughter

As part of my own recovery, I would meet a friend every Wednesday night at a particular restaurant, where we would dine together before going to our "Power Over Panic" support group -a self-help group which had no moderator or therapist in charge -just the members. At dinner, and later in the meeting, we would frequently remark on how ridiculous and at times comical our disorder was, in terms of our avoidance behaviors, what we were thinking in certain situations, etc. Most of the time, when any of us had a story to tell about something that happened since the last meeting, it was something that had a comical or humorous side no matter how terrible it was at the time. This is why, I think, that people at funerals are often seen -you guessed it -laughing!

(My Father was a very impressive guy -always made his mark, wherever he went. He was known and loved and respected by many. When he spoke, people listened. When his coffin -he was inside of it- was moved from the church to the hearse for the trip to burial, the young driver accidentally triggered the vehicle's theft alarm somehow. The car started whooping loudly; the pall bearers nearly collapsed, and everyone stood frozen while the driver fumbled to correct the problem. In a few moments, he stopped the noise. By this time, there were perhaps 100 people who were within view and earshot. At the very same moment in time ALL of us broke into uncontrollable laughter. So like my Dad to make a statement!)

Matter of fact, there are outbreaks of humor and laughter right here on the Anxiety Forum. Look at this thread: http://www.medhelp.org/posts/show/521606. About 100 comments which ranged from the dead-serious to knee-slapping slap-stick. Its a LONG one, so read it when you've got 30 minutes free.

There is more to this than just the "feel good" release of endorphins that comes of laughing out loud. Seriously. Fact is, that the mere perception that something is "funny" or humorous requires an act of consciousness that makes us, as humans, unique in the animal kingdom. There must be the ability and the volition to look at something in a different way than it is normally perceived -there must even be the ability to RECOGNIZE that something is or could be "different." That's your brain at work, and it is that very process that fuels our recovery -seeing ourselves in some way OTHER than the way we are. In the thread I mentioned above, it was Mr. Green, I think, who said that in Ireland, folks who are diagnosed as agoraphobic receive free travel passes on public transportation. That's hilarious! OK, well, you could say that it is because -well, you know why. Get it? free travel for people who are housebound....? You had to be there...

And so, if humor can give us a new and different and even joyful understanding of who we can BECOME, then it nhelps us tap into our own psychology, to actually bring it about. I can't count the number of times my psychiatrist and I broke down laughing over som of the ridiculous situations I caused for myself.

But let's move along here. I will share with you folks an "encounter" I had with a representative of the MH "front office," referring here to the psychiatric cases who run this place. This person, in an effort to draw more new members and increase participation among the "regulars," suggested various topics and subjects which the rep. was convinced would get a lot of positive attention. I won't go into the details, but the theory was that people will respond to this "fun game." Those were the words: "fun game." I couldn't make that up. Being open-minded and a team player (I was a CL at the time) I played along and tried out a few of the ideas. Crashed and burned.

Why?

I'll tell you why: for people with a disorder which may mostly be defined as the same kind of torture as being locked into a "fun house" at the carnival, depression, anxiety, panic and all the condiments that go along with it is NOT funny stuff. It's damn miserable, that's what it is. Humor, "fun games," therefore, can't be artificially manufactured by an outside source and expected to have much credibility. It would be like distributing comic strips to innocent people sitting on death row -makes no sense- the ultimate "bad joke."

But humor which spontaneously arises within the context of our own interactions? That's DIFFO. We create it, we see why it is funny, we share it with others who react the same way, we take joy and endorphins from it. And you can't "make it up." The whole basis of the laughter, the humor, the quirky point of view is the reality in which we actually live -it is valid, credible, REAL.

This is not to say that you can't deliberately USE outside sources for yourself. But you need to know where your "funny bone" is. Norman Cousins knew where his funny bone was, and he deliberately deployed Marx brothers comedy and other things that made him laugh to literally and actually save his own life. Read the story: Anatomy of an Illness. It is the real deal.

My funny bone was tickled by Gene Shephard, who wrote "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash," among other books. The book is a collection of various boyhood adventures, and his manner of describing them would push me over the edge. I would literally laugh until I cried. From a book! I have purchased this book perhaps 5 or 6 times, because I keep giving it away. But YOU may find it to be a crashing bore.

To conclude: yes the humor works, not just because of the feel good factor, but because of the exercise your brain gets in being different from the way it is accustomed to being. See yourself laughing -and see yourself out of this mess.

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458072 tn?1291415186
by peggy64, Jul 05, 2008
I loved the agorophobic joke. Made me laugh out loud!!

It is written in Gods word: Laughter is THE best medicine. That is why it is so.....

Enjoy your writings....

213044 tn?1236527460
by AR-10, Jul 05, 2008
I just knew when I clicked on the link I was going to be reading JS Geare.
Hi JS! I'm still thinking...

Excellent journal entry, and a wonderful reminder/lesson for us all.
Thanks for taking the time to share. I benefit from most of your musings.  

460185 tn?1326077772
by lonewolf07, Jul 06, 2008
I've heard of Gene Shephard's book and even seen part of it on TV.

During the times I've been in the "looney bin", I've learned more, been helped more by other "looneys" who can make fun of themselves and the drs and nurses.  Conversations have ranged from the best way to commit suicide to whether a particular nurse is male or female.  Maybe others would find it bizarre but I found it healing.




Avatar universal
by Weffette, Jul 16, 2011
This forum needs to be re-started!  Okay...lets hear some jokes everybody!  Got a funny story? One liners? Just silly stuff to help another smile today??
We're waiting    :)

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