I was sent an email this week of a professional nature from someone I have not met before, within it, after a specific fact they wrote in brackets (Don’t laugh) at which point, I absolutely cracked up laughing.
I know that as I write this I am thinking of the many occasions I have got myself in situations that are so uncomfortable not only for the people around me but for me myself. More so, my poor daughter, whom when she was a younger girl had to endure her mother collapse in absolute fits of laughter in really inappropriate situations.
My very first memory of this experience was when I must have been about six years of age, I had a primary school teacher called Mrs Bennet, a Dutch teacher who was very scary, always frowning and calling us stupid clots. She was leaning over my friend sitting next to me, telling her off and I creased up laughing, uncontrollably- at which stage Mrs Bennet proded her three boney fingers in my ribs shouting that I was a stupid clot – now this would normally put a six year old in extreme fear but not me it actually made me worse, I was therefore dragged to the corner of the class room and made to stare at the corner until I calmed down.
For years I have wondered why the hell I do this? I have been asked to leave funerals… yes funerals, I have had to get off train carriages an get on another carriage as soon as the train pulls into a station because something would have set me off and it gets to uncomfortable for me to remain. I have been told off in a court room, I have laughed in churches, at children’s recitals – the list is endless.
It is not that I void empathy for awful situations at all, so why the hell do I laugh? In fact I know of two people who are like me – my cousin Rachel – we were at our grandfathers funneral and we were both in bits crying with laughter and pinching ourselves to try to stop – and my dearest and oldest friend Nicola. She like me has to have information written down so she can digest and not react inappropriately. ( Which fails at times but it is the best and only chance of it being accepted in the proper manor)
I have, over the years finally realised what it is.. it is the pressure to react in a certain way. When a person looks at you in earnest with some bad news, or if things are very serious and everyone around is very stern and there is an expectation for you to react with a response, this is when its game over. This is a legitimate condition aptly called the ‘innaproppriate affect’ it occurs through anxiety, it is a phenomenon that ‘allows an individual to express stress’. I have to say that when this happens to me it is not a pleasant experience like a funny haha laugh, it is actually a horrible form of panic. You feel it rising from the tummy, your heart races and you feel really bloody hot! It is a form of fear because you know you should not be doing it but literally have no control over it.
I have laughed all the way through my wedding vows and at really important events. In Beijing, a distributor took us to see a Peking Opera (I adore opera) it was a very intimate and proper affair , the actors came out dressed in stunning attire but as soon as they opened their mouths, that was it. I think this was one of the worst, I had no where to escape so for two hours I had my head down, pinching arms, tummy and legs to try and get a grip. I eventually dropped to my knees and crawled to the back row at which I made myself bite the back of someone’s chair in an attempt to stifle my giggling, I actually looked like crap after two hours, I had laughed every scrap of make up off, felt drained and exhausted and gave myself a migraine for three days. (Please look up Peking opera and I am sure you will understand this one)
My nearest and dearest know what I am like and pay no attention to me, which to be fair is the best thing because looking shocked or offended is actually the worse thing you can do, it intensifies the situation!. I remember my friend and ex business partner talking to me in a nervous stance, worried sick about telling me something, finally building up the courage to reveal what was on her mind fearing the outcome only to find as she unraveled the story I was crying, whacking my desk and gasping for breath from laughter. Her shocked stares back at me (via skype) and realisation that I was a crank lightened the mood but we still chuckle over this.
My mother is the one who cant get her head around it, whenever she says “ oh no, did your hear….” I have to look away from her face, no eye contact while she continues because it will end in the wrong outcome if I do.
So, if ever you come across a situation with me where I laugh innapropriatly, please do not take offence, ignore me (sometimes this works ,sometimes its worse) it is never, ever meant in a malicious way it is a ligitamate, weird nervous phenomenon.
Laughter is the best medicine in the way of reducing pain, it is also a social icebreaker just not at funerals!