Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do We Choose To Laugh?

Most theories on laughter are based off of why or when or at what do we laugh, but few mention whether laughing is a conscious choice or whether it lies in the unconscious realm. 

I began by Googling "laughter exercises" to better understand the physiological aspects of laughter and came across laughtersize or laughter aerobics.  Here's a news story on laughing your abs off! What's interesting here is that the news commentators, despite acknowledging their uncomfortableness in laughter associated with exercise, actually end up genuinely laughing about it.

While watching the following group participate in a laughter yoga exercise class, I noted many people "attempting" keep the energie flowing by surrendering to laughter, which individually seems awkward, at least in the beginning. What's impressive here is that you can actually witness the transformation in their body language... when the rehearsed laughter dies down, people actually giggle in delight that they allowed themselves to let go and laugh. 

Initially, much of the laughter seems forced and artificial, but the more they laughed at themselves and with each other, the difficulty in laughing almost served as the unconscious trigger they needed, which allowed for involuntary laughter to emerge.

Many people would agree that it's difficult to laugh on command. Conversely, when asked to smile on command, most people can do so easily. The neurological control mechanism within ourselves that triggers laughter is almost spiritual in nature. You have to "get into the moment" for it to happen. Freeing laughter requires us to access certain frequencies or energie strands within ourselves. When we do, we create the life circumstances for laughter to emerge. We also perceive life as funnier, which allows the lighthearted aspect of our personality to participate in our intellect's judgements of "what's happening to us". Without humor, life can seem heavier, whereas the same circumstances can seem humorous if we allow ourselves to "find the funny".

The indignant "Ha!" is an entirely different energie strand. It manifests in the conscious realm because you "choose" to be defiant, but I think there's an element of unconscious fear here that simply masks itself as rejection. 

Laughspeak is a hybrid of laughing speech that communicates emotional tone. It also differs from genuine laughter.  The dynamics in laughspeak seem to be closely related to the theories of incongruity or superiority in humor rather than in the freedom experienced in rejoicing.

Instead of seeking answers from Freud or other philosophers, I should probably just ask an actor. They're the ones playing hardball with laughter. They know the rules of the game. From bombarding us with streams of jokes to taking us on a humorous ride through their comedy skits and routines, they've studied the art of making others smile and laugh and know how to solicit it from their audience. 

I think we're probably better at intentionally inhibiting laughter than producing it naturally. Despite this understanding, giving ourselves permission to laugh, just as one gives themselves permission to be happy, still results in laughter or happiness and as such, must be an inherent quality we can call upon if we so choose. 

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