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Healing Aspect of Laughter and Crying

By Roya Monajem, Tehran


Although I had promised not to repeat anything that I have mentioned in other pieces of this Corner, but it seems I need to break that promise in order to begin this article. And what I need to repeat is what I said about laughter before.


It is now a well-known fact that laughter invigorates our immunological defense system. Therefore, from survival point of view, it should be supported by our survival instinct. Yet because it has been looked down in nearly all religions and moralities as a symbol of pleasure and lust, it has been 'tragically' suppressed throughout human history. As the result now even our anatomy has lost its capacity to laugh for more than a few seconds or at most few minutes. As the result, while we can 'happily' cry for days without feeling any pain in any parts of our bodies (except our nose for being pressed so much and our hands for being used to clean our nose and our eyes might burn a little), laughing for more than a few minutes is usually accompanied with agonizing pain in jaws and facial muscles, stomach and behind the back of the head. (Try it and see for yourself.) This is how we all are at the present despite our national, religious, cultural differences. Only in very rare special occasions we are allowed to laugh and even that not very loud or for a long time, unless we are watching or reading a comedy. Let alone the extreme cases that we witnessed here in the past when young women were imprisoned for laughing loud in public. The second evidence for how laughter has been historically suppressed is that in all religions (with the exception of Zoroastrianism) there are special days for mourning and crying. Here Shiitism stands on top of the list both in quantity (i.e. number of days of mourning) and also quality (the degree of self-torture) and Christianity comes next - especially during Middle Ages.


The question is why? Isn't it strange that something that invigorates our immunological defense system should be so brutally suppressed, while crying which is the symbol of depression, and has just the opposite i.e. weakening effect on our immunological defense system should be supported? In other words, why is it that while survival instinct is the most powerful force in 'regulating' the healthy constitution of all living organisms, it has failed to overcome the power of Mind (religions and moralities)? Is mind becoming even more powerful than our survival instinct in this sense? Or does crying too have a positive effect in our survival?


In order to reach an answer to this question let us take crying as the obvious sign of depression. Depression however is the outer layer of several underlying emotions, such as anger, frustration, regret, powerlessness, desperation, despair and self-pity. And usually, we burst into tears when self -pithy reaches a certain degree or intensification. We cry and again depending on the degree of our depression, the process of shedding tears can continue for a long time. This is where the healing effect of crying becomes apparent. It is not that we just cry for ourselves as the result of self-pithy - which is perhaps the deepest layer of depression. With those tears we are in fact shedding all the above underlying emotions without bringing about much serious pain for ourselves and others. Even regarding the feminine type of crying which is perhaps a form of aggression shown by the physically weaker sex, it nevertheless helps! Otherwise, this ancient people called Persians - and perhaps other nations - wouldn't invent "ashkdaan" or tear-holder for women to keep their tears shed in the absence of their husbands! The process of "shedding diamonds" could have very deep subtle function other than the proof of women's love and longing for their husbands. This can be a form of discharging anger and aggression for a physically weaker sex and discharge of negative emotions is indeed a very effective preventive medical measure. And 'prevention' is usually easier than medical treatment.


Anyhow, as a male friend puts it sarcastically: "No woman-wife can physically force you (in the masculine way of expressing aggression) to buy her a diamond ring, instead she cries for it for days! Most probably she wins because her tears might mean that you are not a good husband and you have to 'prove' to her otherwise. Not disregarding the fact that tears provokes pithy and thus tender emotions particularly in men who can feel their strength (capabilities, abilities, capacities) most strongly when facing a weak, pithyful woman who happens to be his wife or his lover." Yes of course, but so what? What happens to the woman during those few days of crying? By the way, what was she crying for? Oh, yes. She wanted a diamond ring! And she was depressed for not having it. What other emotions she was feeling beside? For example, regret for having married this 'poor' man, frustration and powerlessness because she can not do anything about it now. Yet that is one of the emotions. In another instance in the course of shedding tears, she may feel very angry, and anger is one of the most fearful emotions if one attempts to act according to it, no matter whether it is directed toward inside or outside. In fact this is also the most critical point in the healing process of depression. Here is the point that if the person fails to control her anger, she can either kill the husband or commit suicide. The only conscious or unconscious hope for her is to replace her wish for the diamond ring with her tears that after all are very much like real diamonds, at least in appearance. If she does - which in the majority of cases happens unconsciously - after a few hours of more crying, all of sudden she feels relieved and with the last sigh she can start the next day with a better mood, hopefully of a more compassionate type both toward herself and her husband because with shedding of those tears she has automatically discharged many negative emotions that can bring about various dis-eases.


That is perhaps why Persian Moslems have succeeded in maintaining the necessary efficient amount of "overall health" in Post-Islamic Persia. With Shiitism having so many occasions for mourning and crying Persians were helped to discharge their everyday negative emotions. Otherwise how could they survive so many despotic regimes throughout their Post-Islamic history?


The depression could have been definitely devastating if not "discharged" every now and then when one of those religious mourning days would arrive! It is the time that with the help of some sort of 'passion play' played in a mosque or takieh or shrine by certain Mullah, and identification with this or that "unfortunate" Immaculate, one can cry for her/his own misfortunes that knowing or unknowingly had given rise to some kind of depression which as mentioned before includes 'dangerous emotions' such as frustration and anger. Disregarding women who are "half-human being" in the Islamic world, no matter what the real source of this anger may be for men -whether a 'stupid' wife asking for a diamond ring or the new tax regulations enforced by the government - when this suppressed anger is discharged through shedding tears apparently for the 'sake of' this or another Immaculate, the aim is achieved. Like Sunday gatherings of the Hyde Park Corner! Whether by open shouting, accusing, protesting, condemning the source of the underlying anger, or identifying with rebellious Imam Hussein cursing his tyrant opponents (in this case, a ruthless boss or employer or wife or husband or ruler) and shedding tears for His agonizing death, a kind of emotional catharsis takes place.


So here comes the healing aspect of crying. Evolutionary this aspect of crying should have developed after the "Golden Age" of human history - when there were still no religious, social, moral, cultural 'rights' and 'wrongs', 'good' and 'bad.' Then social inhibitions start with the help of religions and the more we approach the present day, the more laughter disappears from human life and days of celebrations are replaced with days of mourning. It would not be surprising if we find a direct relationship between use or misuse of drugs with the qualitative disappearance of joy and laughter from human life. As Nietzsche reminds us not much research has been carried out about these major subjects and objects of human life.


To make it short, survival instinct is the most important life governing and shaping force in living organisms, including us. Never mind how much we might boast about our faculty of Reason and Mind. If a life enforcing factor like 'laughter' is inhibited by the force of Mind (all kinds of conditionings and educations) and we start losing even our anatomical capacity for it, it becomes replaced by crying.


E-motions can be looked at as 'stimulations' keeping us in Motion -alive. They are our source of energy no matter what they are called. They can constantly transform from one form to another. Our religious, socio-cultural settings determine the 'form.' From one perspective nothing has changed in regard to the most basic rules of human social life - the same Laws of Jungle-now called 'class struggle,' 'self-interests,' 'us and them' - rule our lives. From this perspective, ordinary human life was not very different for example, under the rule of official Zoroastrianism when the whole calendar was full of days for celebration, yet all oppositions - such as Mani-ism (Manichaeism) and Mazdakism - were as brutally suppressed as under the next ruling religion, i.e. Islam when all those days of celebration of life blessings were replaced by days of mourning. Suppression of one form of emotions frees other forms. From this perspective it is sad that 'laughter' has been replaced by 'crying.' Nevertheless the most important thing for individual and social life is to find ways to ensure their discharge in order to prevent both 'individual' and 'social' unrest and dis-ease. With crying all the underlying 'negative' emotions are poured out with the result of having 'a bunch of diamonds' in hand and a lighter heart, ready for 'enduring' the next run of personal and social pressures and tensions.


Enough of talking about crying and shedding tears particularly in these days when our beautiful earth is getting ready to put away its winter coat and put on her gorgeous white green Spring costume. Instead let us all burst out laughing as hard as we can - despite the accompanying agonizing pain and threat of being charged for it here- while reading these last words and Celebrate the coming New Year or as we Persians say Norouz, with the hope that our 'self-justifying' rulers would not bring more war and conflicts for this misfortunate beautiful planet of ours and her children throughout the world.


... Payvand News - 3/20/06 ... --

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