Chapter 1 Excerpt
Belly Laughter in Relationships: Something Else Positive Below the Belt
"After God created the world, He created man and woman. And then to keep the whole thing from collapsing, He created humor." -- Ernie Hoberecht
Laughter is in many ways one of life’s greatest mysteries. It’s common enough that we see it as an everyday fact of life, but we don’t really understand it. It is not something that we even feel a need to understand. We just accept that laughter happens, and we like it. We generally take it for granted until it’s not around. Then we really miss it.
Sometimes, when I remember the good times in my own marital misadventure, I know that I miss the laughter we shared, and I am sad that I missed its vital significance in prolonging my relationship. As a professional counselor and laughter therapist, I am acutely aware of laughter’s importance today and would like to share that importance with you. To set the stage for our discussion, let me take you back to a time in my relationship that I enjoyed but unfortunately took for granted.
One August my husband and I decided to take advantage of the glorious San Juan Mountains of Colorado for a well-deserved vacation. We resolutely let go of our "serious" married life, rented a jeep, and went "four wheeling" for a week. We laughed together a lot as we bounced our jeep over peaks crowded with wild flowers, mountain streams, and waterfalls. We had lots of uncomplicated fun and the laughter that goes along with it.
In our jeep, we climbed high above even the tiniest towns, and as we rose higher and higher, leaving all stress behind, I felt my spirits rise as well. An unexpected laughter started deep within me and then, burst forth for no reason at all. My own joy lifted me up. Perhaps you’ve had spontaneous fits of laughter much like mine, so you know how wonderful I felt over and over again as my husband and I laughed together for no specific reason. I wish I had valued it more at the time. Had my husband and I known to encourage this kind of laughter in our everyday lives, I believe we could have had a satisfying relationship. However, it was not to be.
Unlike my husband and me, there are people in the world who have been wiser about laughter. I don’t know if Ralph Waldo Emerson had ever been to the San Juan Mountains, but he would have recognized the laughter there. He believed that "the earth laughs in flowers" and if that’s true, every spring and summer, the San Juans erupt into deep belly laughter, covering the hillsides with hundreds of colorful wildflowers. If even the mountains let go and laugh, it should be a lesson to human beings to follow the mountains’ example and allow and enjoy our own capacity for deep belly laughter more often than we do. We also need to value it more for its unique contribution to our lives.
The laughter we casually take for granted is almost magical in the way it impacts us so positively and in the way it adds pleasure to our interactions with others. In light of this fact, it’s interesting that we’re careless about appreciating our ability to laugh and that we don’t laugh more than we do.
It’s true, nonetheless, that even though we don’t laugh as much as we could, most of us do value laughter, at least on some level. We know it’s connected to things that are funny and that it feels good. We don’t always know, however, that it is also a serious necessity for good healthy relationships and good personal health. Sometimes it confuses us a bit that something so light can also be vitally important. We don’t yet understand why laughter is such a mixture of funny and serious. The contradictions are part of its mystery.
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