gelotophobia meaning, symptoms & treatment

Notes on Gelotophobia
1. Gelotophobia or fear of being laughed at is associated with social phobia as in both cases the sufferer is having fear of negative evaluation and is therefore socially withdrawn. The awkwardness due to anxiety further draws response from others in a way which tends to reinforce the defective or ridiculous self-image of the sufferer. So, there is a vicious circle where a person is fearful and due to that fear the negative self-image which caused the fear gets further strengthened. Here we see what is called a psychological trap.

2. Anxiety of self-image creates an awkward behavior so if the anxiety can be checked then the reinforcing situations can be checked and finally the false image may be discarded by the sufferer. An effective way to stop anxiety from building is the technique of paradoxical intention advocated by the well-known psychiatrist Victor Frankl, the pioneer of will to meaning. Paradoxical intention is a matter of wishing the very thing you are afraid of.  For example, in case of Gelotophobia, a likely physical symptom can be profuse sweating whenever the gelotophobic is in social situations. Now, this person is getting conscious of his phobia and increasing his anxiety through sensation of sweat he is facing each time he moves into a social situation. To this person, Frankl would say, “If you only sweated out a quart before, now go on pouring at least ten quarts!”  Of course, when it comes down to it, the phobic cannot do it.  The absurdity of the task is instrumental to breaking the vicious circle.

3. Associating the sense of being disrespected/ dominated/rejected with laughter is the chief cause of this social fear. An association is a result of some conditioning and in case of gelotophobics this conditioning happens mostly while interacting with primary caregivers who employed less affection and more ridicule while disciplining them.

4. Gelotophobia like any phobia stands a chance always to become a disrupting force so it is important to avoid the causes by showing proper esteem-constructive behavior to children in their tender years.

5. The meaning attached by the patient to laughter of others is relabeled and reappraised in a thought stimulating and positive thought helping guided investigation by the cognitive therapist.
6. Fear results from anticipation of loss of one’s self-image on laughing by others. But, the self-image is also an image only and the more a person is detached or unidentified with his image lesser fear there is of losing or getting attacked at that image. ‘Though the image may be mine but I am not that image so why should I get disturbed if somebody, say, walks over my shadow image.’—  in this way the sufferer can be pointed to at his wrong identification with the image and his fear can be tackled by illustrating to him the gross misbelief that the laughing or laughter is responsible for his fear. In actuality it is his own loss of determination or confidence w.r.t. a self-image which is raising the issue that others shall laugh or not or he should be afraid of them or not.

7. If the blame for fear is shouldered by the sufferer then an easier approach to removal of fear can be found. Otherwise, if blame is on laughing people then there may not be quicker scheme for cure. So, that is an important first step. After it, we analyze and allow the sufferer to know that it is his own inability in preventing the determination on his self-image from wavering in face of laughter by the other which is responsible for the fear. If meditating practices are well known to therapist then meditation can be started and stuck to because the very attachment to an image of self or other is logically and spiritually a negative situation and to get  out of it, in remaining unattached to any image meditation is a definite help.

8. Laughter is a communication method among human beings and when you want to belittle someone or dominate someone then sometimes laughter is used as a signaling method. Then, if the person is frequently getting told through laughter of his rejection or submission status by a primary figure in his life then he stands chances of getting anxious whenever he sees someone laughing. To the phobic, mind falsely reports that laughter of others is repeating the painful communication suffered earlier at hands of an important or primary figure from the past. So, we have an issue of preventing a memory of painful experience from repeating itself in ongoing situation by reacting through fear and by wanting the man to correct his experience emotionally. In psychoanalytic literature this re-projection of past on present is called transference and it is well-studied and well-researched topic. In psychoanalytic frame, the transference is diagnosed through analysis of counter-transference i.e. the feelings aroused in the therapist through interaction with the patient and by suitably reciprocating the transference with a counter-transferential response of emotionally correcting kind, the healing is achieved.

9. From above, discussion we see that transference is the causing phenomenon of gelotophobia and in fact, as is abundantly researched it is also a root-cause of a variety of psychopathological incidences. So, to go beyond gelotophobia, one may ask for going beyond transference. The transference consists in reactivity of memory as thought which is of fearful or false nature. What we call thought is simply a reaction of memory, of past. So, the next question can be: Is thought the only means of entering into transaction with a person or is it the only means for connecting to a situation or challenge? So long as thought is the only significant means for doing it the projection of past or transference cannot be refrained from as the very essence of thought is past or memory. So, the consciousness research of Zen masters and Rishis of yore is worth attention and focus of psychotherapists since there we are promised of an understanding not depending on thought but on insight and intuition or direct perception without intervention of any memory.

Author’s Profile: Mr Mohit Kulshreshtha is an engineer by profession. He drew his attention to personal emotional management and is a psychotherapy hobbyist pursuing an on-line professional training at the Savio DSilva's esteemed institute named Enoma. He regards psychotherapy as an incomplete science of consciousness and seeks aid of the science of religion to get round the incompleteness he thinks is typical of modern psychotherapy.
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