When the almighty created humans, He bestowed us with an immune system, to fight against the illness that could make us sick. Humans went one step further and invented vaccines so that the illness doesn’t affect us at all. Both the immune system and the vaccines have been very effective in fighting the malicious micro-organisms in our society.

Unfortunately though there exist in our society some more malicious elements and are capable of making us equally sick. We often tend to under-estimate their effects on our well-being and that is why we don’t have a preventive measure ready for it.

We are essentially social beings. All through our daily lives we interact with fellow human beings on various levels. Some of these interactions are pleasant and fulfilling. They make us appreciate the presence of others and gain from them. Some interactions though are unpleasant and leave a bitter after taste. They can range from being annoying to something that affects us emotionally and can even leave scars. A lot of time some of these interactions have a larger impact and influence the person’s behavioural pattern. They can even have a long lasting impact on the individual and effect all their future interactions.

From being teased by peers, to critical comments by authority figures to mean and nasty comments by people around us, we all have dealt with this malicious virus in our lives. Sadly for us, no one ever taught us how we should deal with this virus, how we should prevent it from affecting us and making us sick. Most of the times we have been taught to underestimate its impact or ‘be a sport’ and carry on with life. Other times we have been told how it could have been worse or that it is a part of life and there is nothing one can do about it!

Unfortunately it is a big deal and it does affect us and rather than brushing it under the carpet or pretending that it is benign, it is important to learn how to deal with it. In other words have an effective vaccine ready!

If I ask you to think back to the ways one tried to deal with all the teasing and negative remarks that we faced, there will be a hundred different ways. Some of us may have reacted in anger, some may have avoided that interaction altogether, while some may have given back with negative comments of their own. A lot of us may have broken down after such an incident. Most of us probably doubted ourselves and wondered if what others were saying was in fact true. Sometimes it has impacted our confidence and created a negative self image in our head.

However, one of the most effective ways of dealing with stressful interactions is the use of humour. One of the most prominent signs of intelligence is the ability to use humour in a situation. One of the greatest signs of emotional maturity is to see humour in a situation.

Laughter has its own benefits. A lot has been said about the biological and physiological effects of laughter on the health of the individual. It refreshes the mind and rejuvenates the body. But above and beyond that it helps us deal with stress.

Humour has been used as a weapon since a very long time. History is full of examples of satire and sarcasm being used to convey serious political and social issues in a humorous manner.

Humour is also the best form of defense, a vaccine of sort to deal with situations that have the potential to be hurtful.

Like a vaccine it diffuses the power of the attack: A vaccine helps prepare anti bodies so that even if the person was to get ill, the potency of the illness would be much less. Humour too serves the purpose of diffusing the stress one could feel. It can make it bearable. A woman dealing with a second divorce had started avoiding the company of her friends who had started judging her. She felt hurt by the advices on how she should have tried harder to make at least the second marriage work. Then she slowly started using humour to deal with her situation. She used humour at the expense of her married friends as well as her being single. Though the often caustic remark did hurt her occasionally she was able to deal with them better.

Like a vaccine it creates antibodies by inducing the symptoms: Some vaccines create the symptoms of the disease it is supposed to fight so that the immune system of the body has antibodies ready to fight off the illness. People who use humour at their own expense do something similar. A badminton player who lost an easy match anticipated that he would be teased and ridiculed by his peers. He went into the situation and started making fun of his own loss and laughed at himself. His peers no longer had a reason to tease him and the incident was soon forgotten.

Like a vaccine it fights along the immune system: The vaccine aids the immune system of the body to fight the illness. The illness is then no longer a threat. People who join in the laughter when people are mocking them use the same strategy. A young girl, full of life, was often teased for her curly dark hair. When the people around her would make fun of her, she joined in their laughter and often laughed the loudest. Soon her peers saw the lively person and laughed together and not at each other. Together they laughed at the stress of exams and deadlines, heartbreaks and pressure.

Like a vaccine it strengthens the person:  A vaccine works on building a strong immune system which is capable of dealing with any illness. Humour and the ability to see the funny side of the situation helps you cope with reality. Though you realize that the situation is difficult, the changed perspective gives you a new vigour. It improves your self-image and strengthens your faith in your own ability to deal with it. A boy dealing with rejection used humour to make himself popular among his peers. A woman dealing with a tense business situation used humour to lighten up a meeting. Laughter helped ease the tension and they could look at the situation more optimistically.

Life like medical science comes up with new challenges every time. Thankfully we already have an all powerful vaccine. Unlike all other vaccines though, no one can claim to be allergic to this one.

Dr. Gauri Nadkarni Choudhary
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