Those who put the accident into humorous terms were able to rethink it and to distance themselves from the trauma, and this group experienced significantly less stress from the viewing than did the first group.
Humor has been shown to be effective even for healthy patients who are not experiencing excessive stress. Jennifer Crew Solomon (1996, January) prepared a synthesis of studies looking at the connection between humor and positive physical, psychological, and social fitness among the elderly. She concludes, "Humor helps people to age well because it increases appreciation of [their personal] gains . . . and provides ways of coping with losses to the aged" (p. 270).
Patch Adams even argues that medical professionals need a sense of humor. In one scene, Patch is put in charge of readying the college auditorium for a visit by a distinguished group of obstetricians and gynecologists. He frames the outside door with a giant pair of female legs, making the entryway into an enormous vagina. Above the door hangs a sign reading, "Welcome, gynos! At your cervix." While Walcott is horrified by what he sees as a crass and undignified exhibition (and tries to use the prank to get Adams thrown out of school), at least a few of the doctors are amused, realizing the importance of having a sense of humor about their profession. The scene mirrors an earlier sequence in which Patch ends up at a meat packers' convention, seeing a large and rowdy group who are also proud of what they do but do not take their job so seriously.
In another scene, Walcott finds Adams amusing a patient and his family by cavorting in a foldup bed, wearing a bright red rubber nose and squeaky clown shoes. When Walcott demands to know what Adams is doing, the student replies, "Just getting a few laughs, sir" (Shadyac), and then proceeds to tell him that the American Medical Journal has found laughter beneficial in increasing the secretion of endorphins, oxy...
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