Monday, July 31, 2006

Laughter Cannot Heal

I recently read an interview with Robin Williams from the April 2006, Readers Digest. The interviewer asked about doing comedy after 9/11. Finally, the interviewer asks…

Readers Digest: But in this case the laughter really did have a healing power?
Robin Williams: Healing isn’t the word. Therapeutic maybe, or cathartic. After being in extreme situations, it kind of brings you back to life.
The interview allows this exchange to stand without comment. A few years ago, I read Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins. In this book, Cousins described the anesthetic effect of laughter. Since that time, I have heard so many people describe the healing properties of laughter that it has become cliché. As a result, Williams words took me by surprise.

As I have reflected on Robin Williams’ words, I think he’s right. Laughter can be therapeutic, cathartic or even medicinal. However, laughter cannot heal. I think of John Belushi or Chris Farley, and the pain which the laughter masked. If laughter actually healed, then both of these comedic greats would still be around. Like other medicines, laughter can be used and abused. Used correctly, laughter can help facilitate true healing. Used incorrectly, it’s like every other drug used to escape the brokenness.

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