Laughter: A Tick or Tack?

I’ve been called serious, cold and humorless and almost all the synonyms you could think of for an expressionless face. But in my defense, I’ve always been an introvert. It’s not like I wake-up every morning and tell myself that I’m going to be grumpy and serious today! It’s how I’m genetically programmed and though my case may improve over time, I’ll probably never be able to rid myself of my inhibitions entirely. It’s not that I’m absolutely incapable of laughing. I laugh when I’m drunk and also when I’m humored. It takes a lot more than slapstick comedy to humor me. You’ll never see me laughing belligerently; at best, you’ll find me laughing in short bursts. If I find something amusing, I smile. Sadly, owing to my facial paresis (self-diagnosed), most people may not be able to tell the difference between when I’m smiling and frowning.

By now you would have understood that I’m a very reserved and somber kind of person. I also happen to be a very keen observer and I notice people’s behavioral patterns and mannerisms. Amongst all the things that I notice about people what baffles me the most is how laughing comes easily to most of them. For the record, when I say laughter it could be in the form of a giggle, chortle or snort. When I see people on the phone, laughing or giggling or making noises that can only be described as some sort of whale-like ultrasonic laughter, I wonder if the person on the other side of the phone call is actually a stand-up comedian. They can’t be that funny, can they? I sometimes see people laughing their intestines out, talking about the most trivial of things like doing laundry or enquiring what’s for dinner. There’s another set of people who while speaking, end every sentence with a laugh that has a different sound and frequency each time – “I missed my bus to work in the morning….ha ha ha… I have to pee…he he he…My phone got stolen…hu hu hu.” Then there are people who can’t hold in their laughter even in the most sober situations – like at somebody’s funeral or when someone trips and falls down the stairs.

I did a bit of research on why some people laugh so much and I’ve come to understand that there are multiple disorders related to laughter like Pseudobulbar Palsy, Kuru and Tourette Syndrome etc. but after reading the associated symptoms, I don’t think that’s it. Anyway, for a detailed analysis of all the laughter related disorders, click here. It’s nearly impossible to judge what’s funny and what’s not; what may seem hilarious to you may fail to create any impression on someone else. Laughter is an involuntary action that your body exhibits when you’re amused. But there’s also a common belief that laughter is a coping mechanism. There are various theories about humor but the relief theory by Herbert Spencer and Sigmund Freud is the most widely accepted. The relief theory in very simple terms states that laughter results from the release of nervous energy.

All said and done, laughing is certainly good for health and it’s a great way to relieve stress but like all good things, there’s something called ‘excessive’ laughter too. Be it a boisterous laugh or a sneer or even a giggle, if used in inappropriate situations, others may perceive it differently than how you intended it.  There’s no such thing as a courtesy laugh, all you need to do is smile. Also remember, a fake laugh is never the answer; only the dumbest person would not see through you. It’s also annoying to see the excessive use of internet slang for laughter – “Dude stop…I almost shit my pants…LOL…ROTFL…LMAO.” What the heck does that even mean?! Plus, a normal person needs to have a full range of emotions; I mean what kind of nutcase laughs all the time (unless affected by one of the earlier mentioned disorders)? Seriously! As far as my case goes, I’ll probably start carrying a bit of Nitrous oxide (aka Laughing Gas) in an inhaler. The next time you see me laughing like a caveman, you’ll know why.

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