Norman Cousins — A Pioneer In The Study of Love and Outer And Inner Peace
He is almost forgotten but he was an important peace activist, healing activist, and love activist
Norman Cousins – Norman (June 24, 1915 — November 30, 1990) — Cousins was a prominent and highly influential political journalist, author, professor, world peace advocate, and healing arts visionary. He was one of the first influencers to promote the concept of humor and laughter as a medical tool for healing serious diseases.
In the 1950 and 60s Cousin’s influence in the dialogue concerning nuclear issues was so prominent that he was able to organize important conferences on the subject and he on boards and as President of various organizations involved in changing nuclear policies and reducing the arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States.
By the early 1960s Cousins’ influence had expanded to the point that he had become what might be called an unofficial ambassador, between the communication between the Holy See, the Kremlin, and the White House. His work in this area helped lead to the Soviet-American test ban treaty for which he was thanked by Pope John XXIII as well as President John F. Kennedy.
The number of awards, prizes, and commendations that Cousins received for his work in the area is too numerous to mention.
Cousin’s proudest moment by his own description came when Albert Einstein personally invited him to Princeton University to discuss issues related to world federalism and nuclear disarmament. Norman Cousins wrote many best-selling non-fiction books on illness and healing, as well as a 1980 autobiographical memoir, Human Options: An Autobiographical Notebook.
Illness, Laugh Therapy, and Recovery
Cousins did research on the biochemistry of human emotions, which he long believed were the key to human beings’ success in fighting illness. It was a belief he maintained even as he battled in 1964 a sudden-onset case of a crippling connective tissue disease, which was also referred to as a collagen disease. Experts at Dr. Rusk’s rehabilitation clinic confirmed this diagnosis and added a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis. Told that he had one chance in 500 of recovery, Cousins developed his own recovery program. He took massive intravenous doses of Vitamin C and had self-induced bouts of laughter brought on by films of the television show Candid Camera, and by various comic films.
“Illness is always an interaction between [mind and body]. It can begin in the mind and affect the body, or it can begin in the body and affect the mind, both of which are served by the same bloodstream. Attempts to treat most mental diseases as though they were completely free of physical causes and attempts to treat most bodily diseases as though the mind were in no way involved must be considered archaic in the light of new evidence about the way the human body functions.”
― Norman Cousins
His positive attitude was not new to him, however. He had always been an optimist, known for his kindness to others, and his robust love of life itself. “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep,” he reported. “When the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.” His struggle with that illness and his discovery of laugh therapy is detailed in his 1979 book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient.
Later in life he and his wife Ellen together fought his heart disease, again with exercise, a daily regimen of vitamins, and the good nutrition provided by Ellen’s organic garden. He wrote a collection of best-selling non-fiction books on illness and healing, as well as a 1980 autobiographical memoir, Human Options: An Autobiographical Notebook.
Cousins died of heart failure on November 30, 1990, in Los Angeles, having survived years longer than his doctors predicted: 10 years after his first heart attack, 26 years after his collagen illness, and 36 years after his doctors first diagnosed his heart disease.
Today there is an entire field of study in humor and laughter as healing tools. From the work of Patch Adams to Laughter Yoga, one can quickly see Cousins influence and it continues to grow.
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