Laughter is a great tension release.  If you do not believe this, think about the times when you were uncomfortable and experienced a nervous laugh.  I once tried to get to the other side of a creek by walking on a floating log. I ended up in cold water laughing. Nervously. Yep, definitely a tension release.

There are many ways to release tension.  Meditation, physical exercise, sleep, relaxation exercises and various medications can all do the job.  What can be more fun, cheaper, easier and more natural than laughing?  Most of the time it is out of our control.  We just start laughing with no planning beforehand.  Sometimes we laugh so hard it hurts but it’s also fun.  Sometimes we laugh at the wrong time, like when we realize we just said something that could have more than one meaning.  

Humor also provides us with a way to speak of serious matters with a degree of lightness.  Comedians tell jokes that make us think and recognize the truth behind the humor.  When we joke about our own failings, it conveys the message that we can accept ourselves as imperfect.

I teach a class on the psychology of death and dying.  Serious stuff.  It’s also a class where humor helps us get through.  I should add that we are not disrespectful.  Humor allows us to take a break and pace ourselves when dealing with such a solemn subject.

While on the subject of respect, I recently learned that many colleges are demanding that comedians avoid certain topics.  Some comedians have decided not to perform at colleges at all.  This brings up the whole issue of the balance between free speech and promoting hate toward specific groups.  It also suggests that we look at how sensitive is too sensitive.  Humor is powerful and sometimes not everyone gets the joke.  

Just as we pass through stages of development physically, so it is with humor.  An infant giggles and smiles when tickled or bounced. Toddles enjoy being silly, both in actions and by mixing words in humorous ways.  They are toying with language and learning in the process.  Knock, knock jokes are popular in early childhood.  Teenagers try their hand at “adult” jokes demonstrating that they have knowledge not shared by younger persons.  Humor is a way of sharing and socializing.  It’s a testing ground.  If you want to thrive, look for the humor in things and laugh often.  It’s good for you.

Anyone have any good jokes?

—Ed. note: Dr. Sue Nesbitt teaches human services and psychology at Trinidad State Junior College. She has a Ph.D. in social work and hopes to bring her unique views on Trinidad to readers of The Chronicle-News.

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