Norman Cousins: Laughter Best Medicine
I found a great article celebrating 25 years since Norman Cousins was diagnosed with an illness that led him to write his great book on the healing power of humor. Read the following article written by Jaimie Licauco from Inquirer.net and see for yourself how Cousins showed laughter to be the best medicine.———————————–
About 25 years ago, Norman Cousins, editor of the respected literary magazine Saturday Review in New York City, was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, an incurable and fatal spinal column illness of unknown cause.
He tried all sorts of alternative remedies, including Vitamin B-17 or laetrile, large doses of Vitamin C and several others, with little or no effect on his condition.
So, one day, against the advice of his doctors, he left the hospital and closeted himself in his apartment for one month doing what he enjoyed most—reading humorous stories and jokes, watching comedy movies and reading his favorite comic books.
He did nothing but laugh and laugh each day for one whole month. He also wrote original jokes which he would read aloud to himself then laugh like crazy. He noticed that every time he laughed, his pain was eased.
At the end of one month, Cousins returned to the hospital for a checkup. To the surprise of the medical staff who examined him, they found no trace of the dreaded disease. He was completely cured!
So they asked Cousins what medicines he took that cured him. They would not believe him when he replied he had not taken any medicine since he was told his ailment was incurable.
They said, “You must have done something you never did before.”
He finally replied, “All I did was to laugh myself to health.” He became known as the man who cured himself through laughter, and was even appointed a faculty member of the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine, although he was not a doctor.
Later he told his incredible story in a book, “Anatomy of an Illness,” which was made into a movie.
At that time, medical science did not believe there was any connection between the mind, the emotions and the immune system. The immune system was thought to be independent of and not subject to the directions of the mind or the vagaries of human emotions.
In the early 90’s, I met Leonard Ponath of Dallas, Texas at a YPO (Young Presidents’ Organization) regional conference in Cebu, where we were both guest speakers.
Ponath told the story of how, 18 years before the Cebu meeting, he fell buttocks first from a two-story building, broke his pelvic bones and was paralyzed from the hips down. Doctors told him he would never walk again.
While recuperating in a circular bed in the hospital, he began to visualize 100 construction workers reconstructing his pelvic bones. His visualization was aided by healing sounds used by the medicine men or shamans of Nicaragua’s Mesquito Indians. He did the visualization morning, noon and evening.
On the third month of his confinement, he developed a sensation in his toe, which was medically impossible. On the sixth month, he developed a sensation in his legs. Another impossibility. On the 12th month, he was able to sit down. When I met him in Cebu, he was jogging. Ponath told me, “If the people you (tell) this story to do not believe you, tell them to go to the Museum of Natural History in Dallas, and there they will find my story.”
There are many other stories I can relate here about extraordinary healing that occurred using mental imagery or some other natural means or techniques.
But western-trained medical doctors and scientists normally ignore and even frown upon such stories for several reasons.
First, they happen at random and quite infrequently. Second, they cannot be explained scientifically or rationally.
Third, they seem to happen mainly to people who are suggestible and therefore highly subjective.
But neuroscientists and other specialists in the last 20 or 30 years have begun to unravel the mysterious connections among our nervous system, emotions and the immune system.
They have discovered and are still discovering the vital role our minds and emotions play in the emergence of disease and its possible management and cure.
In the near future, more progressive physicians will be asking their patients not only about the symptoms they have but also the following: “How do you feel about your job? Your wife or husband? Your mother-in-law? What upsets you or makes you angry? Do you get enough sleep? Etc.”
They may prescribe not just drugs or surgery but also meditation, visualization, yoga, Qui Gong, Tai Chi or even laughter to fight disease.