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The joke is on Parkinson's

Friday December 11, 2015

We know that Parkinson’s can destroy our sense of smell, impair our sense of balance and threaten our sense of dignity. I just discovered recently there is at least one study that claims it can also undermine our sense of humor. The study, published in 2012 found that “Patients with PD have a decreased sense of humor compared to healthy controls. Utilizing audio methods of presentation and humor in an obvious mode appears to be the preferred approach for eliciting responses to humor in a PD population.” Please tell me they are pulling my restless leg.

If there is one sense I could not face this disease without, it would be humor. I can think of plenty of things I prefer not to smell, see, or hear, but few things I don’t enjoy laughing at. And the number one thing on my top ten things to laugh at?

Parkinson’s Disease.

Why? Because Parkinson’s scares me, threatens me, has power over me. I can’t afford not to laugh.

Decades ago political philosopher Hannah Arendt pointed out that much of the power anything has over us is the power we give to it. She was writing about the confusion that police states make between violence and power. Arendt was proved right when the wall fell in Berlin, where the state retained and all the levers to impose the tools of violence, but when confronted by crowds that no longer clung to fear, the  men in charge could not summon the power to unleash those tools.

So the question becomes “How am I giving power to Parkinson’s?” Much of the juice this malicious intruder has rests in the fear that we have of what it will do to us. One of the best tools we have to neutralize fear is knowledge. Learn all you can about PD, and you will become less afraid of it. There are things a patient can do to mitigate the damage that this disorder can impose. Exercise, for instance,  can  influence the symptomatic progression and likely the underlying disease as well. 

And don’t forget to laugh. You have PD-related pain? Humor can help. According to  Medical News Today  “A team of Swiss researchers reported that laughter and humor can increase pain tolerance and improve quality of life. According to Thomas Benz (RehaClinic Zurzach, Switzerland), targeted humor interventions should be part of pain therapy. A possible explanation could be that humor activates the release of endorphins and relieves muscular tension, thus having an effect on pain on both a mental and physical level.”

Depression frequently accompanies Parkinson’s Disease.? Treat with humor, says no less authority than the Mayo Clinic.

NWPF Blog Illo 24And humor is a great antidote to fear. What demonstrates lack of fear more clearly than laughing? Why does the villain in a James Bond movie cackle insanely as he lowers our hero into a pit of hungry alligators? And after Bond escapes certain death, and blows the evil mastermind’s hidden stronghold to smithereens, why do we say that Bond “had the last laugh? Why does a tyrant in the middle East have the hands of a cartoonist broken? Because laughter is the enemy of power. When you laugh at something, the power drains away from it like the current in a dying flashlight battery.

Sure, Parkinson’s is unable to care if you laugh at it. But you will feel better. A smile is a lousy umbrella, but laughter truly is good medicine.

Peter Dunlap-ShohlPeter Dunlap-Shohl
NWPF Blogger

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