Discovering the Healing Power of Laughter

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by Carlos Briceño |

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When something attacks you, having a good defense to thwart the attack is an invaluable tool in staying alive. In some ways, because they both have been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, my wife, Jill, and our daughter are under attack. This disease aims to attack their minds and bodies, and since there is no cure, what can I do to mount a good defense in their honor?

One means of defense is humor.

I like to laugh. Luckily, so does my wife. In fact – don’t tell her I said this – she’s funnier than I am. We’re constantly laughing, and sometimes, especially when I’ve shared with her one of the hundreds of puns I’ve lobbed in her direction since I’ve known her, she rolls her eyes.

Sigmund Freud pondered the value of humor. “Humor,” he wrote, “is a means of obtaining pleasure in spite of the distressing effects that interfere with it; it acts as a substitute for the generation of these effects; it puts itself in their place.” He also said, “The small contributions of humor that we produce ourselves are, as a rule, made at the cost of anger — instead of getting angry.”

In other words, humor can deflect and derail sadness or anger, or any other kinds of emotions that dealing with a terminal illness can conjure up.

Don’t get me wrong, sadness also has its place, and we have gotten sad plenty of times recently. But we much prefer to deal with the illness through the “healing power of laughter.” (Fans of the television show “Children’s Hospital” will appreciate that phrase.)

Recently, Jill and I were watching TV, and one of the characters said to someone else: “Everything is going to be OK.” Jill turned to me and said, “You haven’t said that to me.”

She was right. I needed to make amends. So, within several days, I had written on several dozen slips of little paper notes that each started with the following sentence: “Everything is going to be OK because …”

I want to share with you several of these notes because, as a caregiver, it’s important that I need to remember to remind her that everything is going to be OK. And one reason is that despite how miserable Huntington’s disease is, there’s always the healing power of laughter.

  • “Everything’s going to be OK after you refresh yourself with a nap. Naps work wonders – just ask our dog.”
  • “Everything’s going to be OK because you are super awesome, and super awesome people always end up being OK.”
  • “Everything’s going to be OK because the Avengers will make sure everything’s OK.” (We love Marvel’s “Avenger” movies and characters.)
  • “Everything’s going to be OK because I love you, and love is a mighty powerful force.”

OK, the last example isn’t really funny, but that’s the other great defense when you are being attacked: love. Love the other person so much that they know you will always do everything you can to make them feel punderful.

(If you laughed and didn’t roll your eyes, you just encountered the healing power of laughter.)


Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


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