This is an article I wrote that was published in Coping magazine


Human Therapy


by Scott Burton


Humor is finally being recognized as a vital asset in most every level of American society. There is humor as entertainment, of course, as evidenced by the infectious proliferation of cable stand-up comedy shows. Humor is valued in communication as a way to get a point across and it denotes an openness to new ideas. Even the upper ranks of the business world are heralding its importance by calling for humor in the workplace, to the point that some corporate gurus and management pundits even recommend, on occasion, the wearing of a red rubber nose in the office or dropping a rubber fish into the fish tank. Though let's face it that's not humor, that's a cry for help.

The most encouraging development in society's new validation of humor is a renewed interest within the world of medicine and care givers. We are actually considering the need for "humor therapy." This new(?) angle has even received validation in the form of scientific studies through the medical community that says, yes, laughter does have healing qualities. To those of us who have battled chronic illness and have embraced laughter, this is certainly no surprise. This scientific "revelation" is like a 2 billion dollar study that says, "If you bathe every day you are generally cleaner than if you don't."

It's about time humor received its due. But, as is usually the case in this society, this one concept is taken on its own and is expected to be the answer. It is supposed that once we understand this marvelous "key" we can laugh away our troubles, laugh our way to better productivity and laugh ourselves into better health.

As opposed to the logical philosophy it deserves to be, humor in healing (and life) has become, instead, a new market. Seminars are held, conferences called, "experts" are brought in to show masses of people with life threatening diseases how to heighten their "humor potential." The patients are encouraged to wear silly paraphernalia, play games and sing songs to tap into the "comic within." For many, this approach has worked. And that is fine. It may even be how Howie Mandell got his act.

But, even having been a stand-up comic for the past 10 years and truly valuing humor, I don't believe it is the laughter itself that brings forth the restoration we crave. Laughter is good. Laughter is essential to all of our life systems. But laughter, alone, is not the key. Laughter is, instead, a pathway that leads us to true healing powers. Laughter is a glimpse of the passion that exists in our lives. It is that passion, that deep love and embracing of life that cures both our bodies and souls.

Passion, in this society, is not something we're told to look for within our own lives. It, along with feeling fulfilled with our lives, is something that comes to us (we're told) via: money, power, a perfect relationship, glamour etc. Unless we have a certain combination of those things we are not encouraged to love our lives. For the struggling patient of cancer or some other chronic disease that love of life seems even further away. Not only do you not have the things society says you must to be complete, now you have to worry about dying too! Inner strength is lost before it can even start.

What I am saying is love your lives anyhow! In sickness and in health. Laughter calls you to love your life. That is how it heals. Part of what gives laughter credence is, when we laugh, we let ourselves go. We are not so much in control anymore. We lose ourselves. Our fears dissipate. Our excitement for living heightens and, almost without knowing it, we achieve a positive attitude.

That passion, expressed in laughter, is our motivation to heal, achieve and is our expression of joy and of self. For me, even the thought of, because of chemotherapy, being stark raving bald and walking into a hair styling salon lifts my spirit and mind. I love the idea of walking in and, as they stare uncertainly, saying, "I'd like something new."

But not all people identify with laughter. For some it is reading quietly, others song, for some work, for others it's expressing love with another. For the survivor of any trial in life the need is there to find -- from inside -- what we love. It is the same passion we have when we express our individuality, the same passion we have when we feel for another. If it is laughter that brings you to that passion, so be it. But don't be fooled into thinking laughter is the only way.

The key, as opposed to what society tells you, is inside you.

We love to throw around important sounding phrases like 'quality of life.' That phrase has meant to denote there is something on the outside we need to enhance our lives. But the healing works from the inside out. Life is quality.

The evidence is right in front of us. If you are of Christian thinking, you can go back to your roots to see Jesus himself, upon healing the sick, would unfailingly say, "Your faith has healed you." He didn't have to say that. He could've easily started jumping up and down while shouting out and pumping his fist, "Yes!! I did it! Chalk another one up for the Messiah!" then strut around saying, "Who's the champ? I'm the champ!"

"Your faith has healed you."

Even in non-Christian thought this fits the healing from within scenario. It's common knowledge that we use only about 6% of our brains. 6%!! What are we doing with that other 94%? Channel surfing?!

Find the passion. And that goes not just for those who need humor and healing in their lives. These are words for all of us. We spend much of our time focusing on who we are, what we are, where we are and what we have. To heal ourselves we need to focus deeply and truly on that we are.

Laughter is the road (a road). It has all the healing qualities you can ask for -- and it's free. Let's not forget the other roads. There are millions of them, as individual as snowflakes, as individual as you are. It is not humor therapy. Let's call it human therapy. Take one dose and pass it on.