Laughter can be regarded as a very powerful way of healing problems, disagreements, even health issues like tension and stress. Some people say that it is an aphrodisiac, one of the most attractive qualities there is. Laugh with someone and you build a positive connection. Make someone laugh and you establish a special bond.
There can be several reasons as to why we laugh. We may be amused, find something funny, or there may be less pleasant reasons. We may be stressed, embarrassed, uneasy, unsure of ourselves or of the situation that we find ourselves in. Some people laugh to feel superior, or at someone elses’ expense.
As a Counsellor, I feel that laughter can have several facets to it. On the one hand, humour and laughter can be a vicious weapon to be on the receiving end of. And in truth, jokes often have someone or something as the object of fun. They can be a way of ridiculing or bullying someone and as such are very cruel.
On the other hand, laughter can be wonderful as a shared experience. Something that people do together, a shared intimacy. Enjoying an experience or a joke together can remove tension and enable a situation to be seen from a completely different perspective. This shared sense of fun and laughter is often the first thing to be lost when a relationship is struggling or going through a difficult phase.
Laughter can improve the perspective on an existing matter or can help to change old learning and behaviour patterns as we start to see them from a different viewpoint and begin to entertain other options and ways of feeling about things. It is also a powerful way to alleviate and manage stress.
My ex-partner was brilliant at using laughter in a positive way. If I was ever feeling tense or irritable he would look at me in a certain way and we would both dissolve into fits of giggles, everything else completely forgotten. When laughter is used with empathy about how the other person is feeling, with affection, love, and understanding then everyone feels safe and it is able to be used as a powerful tool for healing and benefiting a situation.
Laughter is a powerful means of changing the perspective on a situation. Looking at something with a different pair of eyes, feeling less tense, taking it less personally, is an important change of attitude. Laughter can defuse tension, break the ice, release negative emotions and allow everyone to relax and be less wary or on edge. And it is contagious. One person starts to laugh and everyone else will usually smile and relax too.
Learning to laugh at ourselves is a big step towards healing our own insecurities and confidence issues. When we can see how we are behaving and reacting in a situation and then be able to laugh at it, we automatically become less serious and tense about ourselves and about how we present our image to others. We become warmer and more relaxed and this improvement often has a positive impact on our relationships with others.
Some cultures and companies schedule group laughter sessions for all employees in the morning before work. They found that even false laughter stimulates a feel good attitude within their staff. Their general mood improves and people feel more upbeat and pleasant about the day ahead.
The important thing to remember about laughter is to retain a sense of balance where it is concerned. Excessive clowning is irritating and counter-productive. People may well begin to wonder what the joker is hiding. Some people may use humour to hide their own insecurities or issues about low confidence levels and self-esteem.
It is important to be true to yourself and, if needs be, be okay about being the quiet one in the group. Let others have centre stage if it suits them better. Enjoy being amused, entertained and being a good audience for their antics. Use laughter in a way that is right for you, in line with your own sense of humour, to promote your personal happiness and well-being.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist