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On Laughing and Laughter

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

When I was a college student many years ago I wrote a term paper about the Pygmies of the Congo in Africa. While doing the research for the paper I came across one observation of their way of life that caused me to start laughing. The anthropologist who wrote his observations while living with these people was that when something struck them as funny they would begin laughing until the laughter became so side splitting that they rolled on the ground while tears came rolling down their faces.

I was recently reminded that when I was a child I loved to see Jerry Lewis movies. I would laugh so hard and loud that my laughter started to spread through the isles of the theater until everyone was laughing at me laughing.

I remember a psychology class I took in college where the professor used a lot of humor in his lectures. One day he said something that made all of us laugh. I don’t know if it was his joke, something about my mood that morning, or the atmosphere in the classroom but I couldn’t stop laughing even after the others had. That caused the other students to resume laughing after they had stopped. For fear of being reprimanded, I looked up and was relieved to see the professor laughing along with all of the rest of us. This was purely spontaneous and left me with such warm feelings about the class and professor that I still remember it after all of these decades.

It is said that the best medicine is laughter. Whether laughter is medicine is unclear. Psychologist Robert Provine, PhD, is the foremost expert on laughter. He states that:

“Laughing more could make you healthier, but we don’t know,” he says. “I certainly wouldn’t want people to start laughing more just to avoid dying — because sooner or later, they’ll be disappointed.”

Of course, that is a joke. Most laughter is not a result of joke but is a mirthful part of being with people. For example, the health of a relationship might be measured by the amount of laughter. There is tons of research on the problems and conflicts that cause people to divorce or to end relationship. Yet, one of the most obvious ingredients of any happy relationship is laughter. In other words, laughter may be a symptom of how well a couple is doing. Laughter binds people together. Generally speaking, during the early stages of a romantic relationship there is lots of laughter. It is warm, mirthful and spontaneous. It is very possible that couples need to laugh a lot more.

What is clear is that it’s lots of fun. Laughter is also very social. It brings people together. It brings people together because it’s contagious. Do you remember how, when you see someone yawn you also yawn? When you hear someone laugh you also start to laugh.

How might a couple reintroduce laughter into their relationship? According to Provine, the most primitive form of stimulating laughter is tickling. Not only does tickling cause laughter but is also causes the person getting tickled to turn around and start tickling. In addition to couples engaging in tickling and laughing, we love to tickle babies and children because it’s fun to see and hear them laugh and giggle.

It’s always fun to get together with people who also spontaneously laugh. Once the laughter begins it seems as though everything that happens and is said is funny.

Do you allow laughter into your life or does everything seem to serious to be able to laugh? Just remember, we don’t laugh to solve problems. We don’t laugh to improve our health. We don’t laugh to relieve depression. We laugh because we just do and it feels great. So, let’s all get together and laugh.

your comments and jokes are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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