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Dr. Judith Orloff

Celebrate Your Life!
Revel in Laughter, Play
and All Out Silliness
by Judith Orloff, M.D.

As a psychiatrist and intuitive I know that laugher is healing. We can become overly serious about the intensity of what we often face. Laughter is a way of lightening things up and celebrating your life.

Recently my patient Wes, an acting coach and jokester, was stuck in a long supermarket line. He was in a rush, but the pace was glacial. Everything that could go wrong did: the harried checker dropped a carton of eggs; a woman with a stockpile of supplies forgot her credit card; an irritating man disputed prices. Wes recalled thinking “I’ve had it with all this.” The next thing he knew, the coach in him had claimed command. With a booming centurion voice, he announced to the checker and people in line, “Everyone listen. Take a deep breath and focus!” “At first they just stared at me, stunned,” Wes said. “Then they all started laughing. I must have looked ridiculous. My outburst even shocked me; I immediately apologized for completely losing it.” Quite a moment. What most fascinated me was that amidst the ruckus, he’d inadvertently succeeded in unjinxing the line. It sped up and kept moving. Getting people laughing made them more efficient, woke them out of their energetic paralysis.

Positive Energy by Dr. Judith Orloff

Clearly, laughter liberates. Physically, muscular tension loosens clearing wreckage of exhaustion; Emotionally, laughter raises your spirits and softens rigid defenses. Subtle energy-wise, your system is replete with positive vibes which ease all that ails you. Studies abound lauding how laughter heals: it elevates immune response and endorphins (our body’s natural painkillers); relieves stress, anxiety, and depression; prevents heart disease. Imagine: Allergic welts shrank after patients watched Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times.” Physician Norman Cousins, beloved father of laugh therapy, treated his own pain from a life-threatening joint disease with a ten minute daily dose of  laughter. With the same strategy, the American Association for Therapeutic Humor advocates “hee-hee healing.” This brings to mind the film “Patch Adams,” about a doctor-clown played by Robin Williams which also shows the necessary magic of incorporating humor into our health care system.  

I’m a big prescriber of laughter in Energy Psychiatry. Not the contrived or canned kind, but laughter from the soul. Just as I guide patients, I’d like you to sense when your funny bone is legitimately hit, an energetic place that resonates. True laughter is a surrender to hilarity; a sound, a smile, a heart opening. You feel it in your chest, or your whole body may shake. Also, notice that prior to a joke, there’s an air of expectation, a subtle shift in consciousness and attention, the promise of mood transformation. But faking laughter is like faking orgasm; no positive energy to be had there. Since I’ve never gotten most conventional jokes, I know the awkward position of hating to fake a smile but being afraid to offend or seem clueless. Now I just make a joke out of my not getting it: that feels more authentic and relieves me of the negative fallout of pretending to be something I’m not.

Energy comes from humor. However, each of us, even the crotchety, must locate our sense of what’s funny, raucous or wry. Although jokes often elude me, I really respond to the spontaneous comedy of life itself. I get a huge kick out of quirky little things. Children squealing as they pop bubble wrap. The time a friend’s grandmother with Alzheimer’s ate the tulips on the table instead of the food, and out of a mix of respect and the utter goofiness of the moment, he began eating tulips too. Or when I look back at the night I once took a sleeping pill, then hallucinated that my mattress was trying to communicate with me! As for those jokes I do get, I love the middle eastern Nasruddin stories. He’s the legendary mystic trickster-sage (to whom numerous websites are devoted). It was once told that when Nasruddin left home he’d carry the front door with him. When asked why, Nasruddin replied, “It’s a security measure. This door is the only way someone can get into my house so I keep a close eye on it.” Of course, now the place is wide open! I’m always tickled by such gentle, victimless satire of our human fears.

Intuitively I can read from a patient’s energy field if they’ve been regularly laughing. Jillian, a free spirit florist who often chuckles has a light quality to her energy with lots of space between the molecules that surround her. I can sense this levity from many feet away. Fred, a thoughtful but emotionally repressed scientist, wants to laugh more but has yet to learn how. His energy field gives off a tautness, conveys a ponderous thud. I also sense an invisible skull cap compressing his head, especially the intuitive center. When patients laugh in sessions, it feels like joy-as-energy showering me and my office; these vibes linger for hours. And unlike traditional Freudian analysts who perhaps too fastidiously temper their responses, I don’t hesitate to laugh with patients. Humor can be a doctor’s psalm--the ability to see our weaknesses, bear them, even smile at them. Of course, I never undermine the serious issues at stake. But a humorless therapist is dead weight in the healing process, hinders upliftment. You can’t intellectualize someone into the value of humor. We therapists must model what we teach.

Second Sight by Dr, Judith Orloff

In Energy Psychiatry I consider loss of laughter a crime against psyche and spirit. With my patients, laughter’s absence never gets by me; I make it my business to notice when it’s missing, and help them recoup it. Otherwise, laughter-less, they’re unknowingly living in energetic poverty. We don’t ordinarily equate lack of laughter with deprivation, but, from an energy perspective it is.

Why don’t we laugh more? The crux is always that somewhere, somehow our inner child’s energy got squelched (An implosion of life force I’ll train you to reverse). I’ve repeatedly seen this dynamic play out in patients and myself. Unhappy childhoods, early losses, or overly serious parents can jam-up our laughter. Excessive work and no escape from current problems do it too. We may not even know when our sense of humor wanes, or perhaps we never had one. The secret is recovering our inner child who has silently slipped underground for refuge.

To begin, review your past. See where laughter was left behind. To retrieve it, seek to consciously identify and disengage from any somber reality-take your family communicated. Realize this block doesn’t have to dictate your joy today. For instance, when I think about growing up, I can’t recall the sound of my very outspoken mother’s laugh. She’d smile, make the motions of laughing, but not a peep ever emanated. This might’ve come from some Emily Post rule for “ladylike” response, a horrifying style she also urged in me. But it felt strange for such a dynamo to be so muted. My father laughed some, but humor wasn’t our family’s strong suit. At meals my physician-parents would discuss patients’ cancer-surgeries, diarrhea, dementia. No detail was taboo. In retrospect, I find an absurd humor in our deadpan dinner discussions of medical mayhem. At the time I was part mesmerized, part revolted, and in need of hearing my mother’s laugh more. It would’ve made me feel safer, that the world wasn’t so fraught with intensity. She would’ve been modeling a lighter side for me, something I’ve had to stretch to develop as an adult. 

In my recent life, for some very important years, I was blessed to have the companionship of a man who was born funny. (He also came from a funny family; his sister’s very first comment after meeting Yasser Arafat with other women-for-peace was, “I made him laugh!”) Being silly was a big part of how were together, a form of intimacy. We sung in the car--he did the melody; I did the background doo-wops. We chased each other around the house, a kind of hide-and-seek. We howled on the roof with a chorus of neighborhood dogs. Once he brought a caterpillar home to roam, and made a sign saying, “Place every foot carefully. Do not walk on dark places on rug!” Happily, my inner child had room to play; the sound of laughter, his or mine, didn’t have to be gagged. Of course, relationships are complex; they survive or don’t survive for many reasons. But from this one, a wondrous truth I learned was how vital laughter was as a way of being, a sweet lesson I’ll carry with me into the future.

A missing inner child can cause the blahs. This seldom talked-about-enough low energy state is not attributable to “inevitable aging.” Your inner child can reverse the blahs. Reactivating laughter will bring the greatest possible happiness. When Bill, a bespeckled, goateed man about forty came to my weekend workshop, he said: “Everything is peacefully settled in my life. I’m married to the lovely woman sitting beside me.” (I “saw” the finest jewel-like-twinkle interlacing their energy fields.) “Being a professor of English is gratifying. But I don’t seem to experience great awe or laughter as I used to.”

I replied, “When was the last time you felt them?” 

Bill thought about it, then smiled. He told the group: “You know, I’m amazed to hear myself say this, but I think it was when I was eleven years old.” He looked rueful. “I used to have absolute freedom dreams where I’d soar over hills, valleys, and rivers. I had a crystalline sense of who I was and where I was going. The flying was effortless and blissful.”

I was right with him. I sensed the ecstasy of his flight in my body, also recognized the archetypal phenomenon. Flying dreams, I explained, represent the hugeness of our spirit and capacity for delight. This is what many children possess innately, what so many adults have lost. Bill had hit the inner child mother lode, but needed to know how to laugh again. That night, I suggested he request an explanatory dream. The next day, excited, he told our workshop he’d had one: “I’m in a crowded place, some chaotic government office like Social Security. There was a long wait. We were supposed to take numbers, but some other man had mine. I tried to convince him to give it back, but he acted like I didn’t exist. The situation was maddening. I knew the number belonged to me, but I couldn’t get it.”

Guide to Intuitive Healing by Dr. Judith Orloff

Listening carefully to Bill, I realized this number held the answer to regaining joy as he aged, before and after Social Security. I didn’t foresee his solution’s specifics, but sometimes my role involves posing the right questions that intuitively feel “on.” One came immediately. I asked, “If you had a number that was just yours, what would it be?” There was a long pause. Then suddenly his whole being lit up.

 “It’s 46,” Bill announced with sudden certainty, and began laughing. “46 was my number when I played football at school. When I was eleven.”

Male initiations: eleven year olds and football is a real setting out on life’s adventure. As we learned, though, soon after Bill stopped football his flying dreams also stopped. Over thirty years later, he was ready to regain his inner child’s pleasure in discovery. To be whole, I emphasized, he needed #46, and #46 needed him. As Bill heard this his face softened, and he began to laugh again. I know how much we can miss this part of ourselves, how stark the adult world seems without it. After the workshop, Bill pledged to find #46 wherever he could--from sports and all kinds of play. He’d make his inner child a priority. In one of the tender closings of a circle that often ensue from a workshop, I later received an email from his wife saying that they’d found a photo of Bill in his #46 jersey striped uniform. As a reminder of who he was and who he can be, they put it on their bedroom dresser. She also wrote that between them now, his nickname is 46. An outcome which continues to make me laugh.

Make Changes Now. How to Nurture Your Inner Child and Laugh More

Here are some pointers I give patients to get them laughing. In this exercise be authentic, have fun, and feel the positive energy. Sometimes laughing has become so alien, it helps to have a plan.

§         Reclaim your inner child’s life force

Every grown-up has an inner child. Both are distinct energetic aspects of our life force. For full vigor, each must be accounted for. Your inner child may need urging but it wants to be embraced. (Having kids often naturally spurs this reconnecting process in parents who otherwise might never get there.) For starters, bring out your baby or childhood photos. Really look at them. The photos can rematerialize shelved energy. Next, with photo in hand, promise to honor that child’s needs. For example, I promised mine: “You’ll never have to smile for a camera again unless you want to--”an expectation I despised when growing up. Recall ordeals you had to endure; vow no repeats. Also, begin to recognize when your inner child is in jeopardy. The tip offs? Perhaps you’re laughing less, feeling overtired or overworked. Once, during a crazily hectic book tour, I dreamed I saw an infant in a crib turning blue who I couldn’t care for because I had a magazine interview! From hard knocks I’ve learned to nurture my inner child, particularly during periods when I’m overburdened. Small things like giggling with a friend or renting a funny video go a long way. Reclaiming your inner child will safeguard laughter and restore dormant life force. 

§         Find activities your inner child loves.

Explore what your inner child genuinely finds fun or funny. First, recall activities from your youth that made you smile. Miniature golf. Bugs Bunny. Elmer Fudd. The fast-forward chipmunk voice you get from inhaling a helium balloon. Memories can get rusty laughter synapses cranking. Second, see what sorts of fun your inner child responds to now. Peruse the newspaper’s leisure section, ask friends what’s funny, check out genres of comedy from standup to radio. I get dependable laughs from the homespun satire of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” on National Public Radio. As an adult, I’ve also become enamored with magic. Not a slick David Copperfield show, but the wily eccentricity of Ricky Jay. My inner child is rapt watching him pierce a watermelon with the ace of spades thrown at a hundred miles an hour. Or hearing tales of daredevils and singing mice in his book, “Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women.” How do you know when something’s really funny to you? The subtle energetic components are spontaneous laughter; a surrendering; a lightening of your load; a shot of vitality. One thing you can depend on--your inner child is an expert energy reader, can tell humor that’s hot from a mechanical schtick. 

§         Seek out people who laugh.

We absorb funniness by osmosis. Hearty laughers spread those positive vibes to us. What counts most, though, is the energy behind the laugh, not just sound or facial expression. Take the Dali Lama’s infectious giggle which comes from a place of love and wonder--its healing energy goes straight to our hearts. The other extreme are people who have grins on their faces, but whose laughter often stems from malice or psychic pain. So confusing. They’re laughing, yet you’re being slimed with negative vibes. There’s no joy coming your way. Don’t be fooled; trust your energetic assessment.

§         Play with children

Children have PhD's in play; their lack of inhibition is contagious. Spend time with them. If you’re lucky enough to be around infants, watch how they grin at six weeks, then laugh at four months, a natural instinct. Or observe children at play; they haven’t learned to guard their emotions or hold in squeals and giggles. They’re just beaming. Try to open your heart, and absorb these vibes. Also, if you’re a parent remember to play with your children. This can be easy to forget in the whirlwind of goal oriented activities from homework to computer camp. (Like us, kids can become overly scheduled.) So, learn to laugh again from children, and enjoy yourself. 

§         Set an intention to laugh as much as possible

From the moment you wake up in the morning, look for things to laugh about. Regularly laughing buoys our energy field, reverses learned seriousness. If our parents had said at breakfast, “Be sure not to miss out on any laughs today,” it’d be a lot easier. But most didn’t, so we have to teach ourselves. At Santa Monica’s Wellness Community, cancer survivors have laugh-a-thons. They share jokes, crack up at just about everything including medical misadventures, and know that this will help healing. Real wisdom we all can benefit from, but let’s not wait for a health challenge to catch on. So, be amused by whatever you can, especially your own foibles. Laughter is a way of cherishing your energy and celebrating your life!

© Copyright 2008 Judith Orloff, M.D.  All Rights Reserved. 


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Learn to interpret dreams, tap into your intuition and protect your energy from draining people in free video mini-courses on YouTube.com that take only a few minutes of your time!

Welcome to Dr. Judith Orloff’s Living Room! Step right in at http://www.youtube.com/judithorloffmd and make yourself comfortable!

Judith Orloff, M.D. is offering a special yearlong series of FREE video mini-courses on youtube.com based on the materials in her bestselling books, Guide to Intuitive Healing, Positive Energy and Second Sight.

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* "The Art of Remembering and Interpreting Dreams"
* "How to Tap Into Your Intuition
"The Sacredness of Energy"
*  "How to Combat Draining People"
"How to Protect Your Energy in an Overwhelming World"

Dr. Orloff synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition and energy. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness.

Go to http://www.youtube.com/judithorloffmd

 and enjoy the mini-courses that are now showing. Learn when new courses are posted and find more inspiration by subscribing to her free E-newsletter at www.drjudithorloff.com.

Dr. Judith Orloff
Judith Orloff, M.D.
is a board certified psychiatrist and intuition expert who synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition and energy. She is author of Guide to Intuitive Healing, Positive Energy and Second Sight. She passionately believes that the future of medicine involves integrating all this wisdom to achieve emotional freedom and total wellness. Subscribe to her free E-newsletter at www.drjudithorloff.com.


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