Laughing and Crying

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Laughter and tears are two common human emotional responses that are primarily controlled from the Limbic areas of the brain – and hence mostly unconscious.  Both serve important purposes.  Laughter has been termed the best medicine, and there is a lot of truth to this.

Laughter

laughingA good description on the mechanism of laughter can be found here.  It is linked to the basic emotion of surprise or anticipation, and laughter is the end result of surprise or danger passing.  It can be used positively to bind humans together, and the best leaders are often those that use humour to encourage people to do things.  The mechanism of laughter in the brain isn’t fully understood, but once initiated from the limbic part of the brain is seems to spread through the conscious brain, and acts as a cleansing mechanism to relieve stress.  Laughing  feels good, and we feel better afterwards.  The Zen teacher Alan Watts was famous for encouraging his students to laugh, eg see Youtube.  Releasing tension and anxiety is a good thing.

Crying

cryingCrying is another limbic brain system for releasing stress.  As with laughter, the mechanism isn’t fully understood, but it does form an important reflex response resulting in the person feeling better afterwards.  It is linked to the underlying emotions of surprise and sadness.

We have only limited, partial control over laughter and crying, as they are controlled from deep within the Limbic brain.