The Healing Effects of Humor: Exclusive Interview With Dr. Patch Adams

The Healing Effects of Humor: Exclusive Interview With Dr. Patch Adams
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It was an ordinary, relaxing Sunday evening with my love as we snuggled into our bed to start watching our seasonal Netflix show.

It took a sharp turn toward extraordinary when I realized I had just missed a phone call by Dr. Patch Adams. THE REAL PATCH ADAMS, people! The real-life character Robin Williams played in the “based on a true story” Hollywood hit, Patch Adams.

HE was calling my cell phone.

Daniel was preparing for the evening (with two puppies the size of a queen bed, it takes some organizing) so I did what any other millennial would do and I checked my phone one last time before calling it quits to be present with my real life.

That’s when I saw it—the missed call and voicemail left from Urbana, IL. I leapt out of bed and yelled, “Daniel!! Listen to this!!!” And I played his voicemail on speaker.

Do you remember this movie? If you kinda sorta do, go watch it now. If you do remember this movie, go watch it now. If you don’t at all, then you need to watch it three times. Or you could simply wait until you finish this article because you will get so much more that is not in the famous movie.

Let’s back up a bit.

For so many years this has been my absolute favorite movie. When people ask me why, I tell them, “Because it has it all: overcoming adversity, romantic love (and all that comes with that), laugh-out-loud humor, unconditional inspiration, and a happy ending.” All things that everyday human beings have to learn in their lifetime.

I’ve leaned on this story for so many hard times in my life. When I was 18 years old, a 4’11” woman coaching and speaking in front of audiences double my age, I would think of Patch Adams and how he was never part of the “norm,” and it gave me confidence to stand tall and keep going.

When I’d start to needlessly worry about tedious things I would remember to live more lightly and not to take myself so seriously. Also, let’s face it, who doesn’t love watching a movie starring Robin Williams?

On November 18th, 2016, only one day after the release of my book, Back to Source: Cultivating Inner Peace in a Technology-Driven World, I found myself driving in my car headed straight to the library—only minutes after waking.

It was a gorgeous autumn day with a light breeze that swept over my face. I didn’t need a jacket and the crunch of leaves underneath my feet when I stepped out of my car gave me chills that ran up and down my body. I felt light, as if I was walking on air.

The sensation of being intricately one with the earth and truly awakened and alive was so real to me that I sensed at any moment I could easily be carried away with the wind. What I knew for sure is that I wanted more of this experience.

“Can I live this way in all encounters of my life, even the hard ones?” That day is when I decided my next writing piece would be on laughter and living lightheartedly.

Not joking, a week later I felt an urge to watch Patch Adams for the 1000th time. During the movie, I looked at Daniel with wide eyes, as if a lightbulb just turned on and said confidently:

“I am going to interview him, meet him, and use his wisdom along with my own to touch many lives.”

I wrote to him, sent him my two books, he sent me his books, and two days later, he called.

For those of you who are probably wondering, (Hunter) Patch is the real deal. His witty and natural comments made me laugh hysterically, and his love for people is undeniable. We talked on the phone for an hour and I got to ask him all of my questions I had prepared. Since then we’ve exchanged post cards and I truly consider him a friend.

This interview was life-changing for me and I hope it will be for you, too. My intention and hope for this article is that it touches your life in many ways. That you become inspired to live with more relief, that you become less afraid to express your laughter fully, and that you get to know more of this incredible human being.

How were you able to overcome unbelievable adversity in your life?
I’m not sure I really believe in adversity, Hailey. After my third mental hospital, I decided I would never again have a bad day. Instead, I decided that I would only be six qualities: happy, funny, loving, cooperative, creative and thoughtful.

That is so perfect. I love that, “decided.” What we choose shapes our entire lives, and what I think people often forget is that we can choose. We can choose the kind of person we want to be in our lives.
I’m in a great relationship, I work with my children, I’m seventy-one years old, and I am healthy. So you see, I don’t really have any adversity. Adversity, for me, is the worst disease in history.

I truly believe that things happen in our lives, horrible things sometimes, but even in the midst of what we perceive as trouble we can find something beautiful —always. I think that is what you did and continue to do.

Yes. Look at you, Hailey. You are beautiful, already have two books and a great man in your life. You’re a thoughtful person who cares about people. You don’t have any adversity.

You are so sweet. Thank you for saying that. You’re right, I am very blessed.
The saddest people I have ever met are people that were born with a deformity, or a person with their faces burned, people who believe they repulse people everywhere they go. But they don’t want to repulse people, Hailey. They want everything else any other human would want; to be loved and feel connected.

Can we just pause the interview here and acknowledge how wonderful this statement is? Think about it—people think that having a flat tire or sitting in traffic is adversity. But is there any adversity such as great as rejection? I don’t think so. Which is why I have dedicated my life to speak about human connection and the power of human touch, love, and acceptance.
I dove into the ocean of gratitude and never found the shore.

Mmmmm beautiful. Simply beautiful. I believe being thankful immediately connects us to a higher loving power. It launches us out of our sea of problems, even if only for a moment.
And if you’re not grateful you should be spanked!

*Roaring laughter*

Key Takeaways: Where is your focus flowing? On the things you cannot control, or the things that make you feel alive and grateful? You get to choose the world you live in. Every day you can be on the lookout for miracles and the things that you make you feel grateful. Or you can choose to keep sharing your problems and feeding your stress. Laugh today! Find someone to accept and love. Find somebody who has less than you and give them something that you have.

Patch, I have found that even if some people laugh they don’t let themselves completely go. It’s maybe a little chuckle here and there, but it’s not their fullest Self-expression. In other words, how can others open up to laughter?
Well, I tell people to wear tighty whities on their head for a month wherever they go. So they’re used to people looking at them and laughing. I recommend for them to come on a clown trip. We took ten suicidal retired veterans to Guatemala on a clown trip and it stopped all of their suffering. Giving love and play in a setting where there is none is a transformational experience.

Absolutely. How many times have we’ve seen someone having it worse than us and suddenly we feel grateful?
On my fifty years of interviewing thousands upon thousands of people both as a doctor and as a human being, with 3 or 4 hours of interview, I have found that only 3% of them have had self-esteem. Hardly no one in this country loves themselves. What a stupid thing. Loving yourself is very important, and I always recommend sitting a half hour in front of a mirror where they have to look themselves in the eye and say, “I love me.”

As a young woman myself I can relate to feelings of inadequacy and have made it a personal goal to evolving this about myself. So I agree with that statement so much.
Yes. And they need to say this with clothes on, clothes off, with costumes, with anything on. But they have to be looking at themselves in the eye and saying, “I love me.”

I would like to pause here again and say that most of us have trouble truly valuing our worth. I just want to let you know that you are so magnificent and if you only knew how much our Creator loved you, you would never feel unloved again. You are not just a body, but a soul that extends beyond what any eye can see.
I also recommend steeping yourself in some volunteer work. Or picking up trash along the side of the road. Anything to get yourself in service mindset. People need to romance with nature, and romance with art. Nature, the arts, friends and God; if any one of these things are enrapturing your life it should be enough.

Our soul, at the deepest level desires only to joyfully serve. I believe that we are meant to be in states of bliss and whenever we aren’t we are disconnected from our true power. You’re right about serving; it’s the truest part of who we are.
If you have food and a friend, you have a good life.

Patch wholeheartedly believes that if you have a friend, someone you can call in times of joy and in times of great sorrow then you have a life. A good friend is like a sheltering tree: constant and comforting.

We live in a society now where people are always after more, more, more, and that we should always be striving for something “better” and so I love how simplistic this advice is.
I like to make the point to people using starvation. Because when you hold a starving child in your arms, there is a good chance you may never feel hunger again. To be grateful is such a huge thing.

Wow. That is amazing. You are so right. I feel as if gratitude is that thing that is so easy to forget but when you remember it, it fixes everything.
For me, I blame it on the capitalistic system. They always make you believe that you need more. If you don’t have the BEST car, you’re lacking. They want you to believe that if you’re number two in the Olympics then you have failed. Instead of, “Wow! Look at your body. Look how in shape you are.”

I couldn’t agree with you any more. I always tell my clients and my audiences, “You already have everything you already need. It’s walking around with you all the time because it’s you. Everything you need is already within you.” Our greatest adventure is re-discovering that for ourselves. That was the basis of my second book.
That’s why we have built a hospital where the doctors will live with the patients. They will always have access to nature, and theater, and massages. It’ll be such a playful environment. My hospital will be a place where as much as people want to suffer, they won’t be able to. There will be too much love and affection.

Hailey, all you can do is expose people to this type of love. That’s all any of us can do. If you are seeing people in your office or from the stage of where you present; help people to see the best in themselves, that’s all we can do, and it’s the best thing we can do for others.

Key Takeaways: You do not need any more. You need to be grateful and open to things that you have right this minute. If you are grateful you are connected to your greatest power. If you love people, truly love people and aim to see the best in them—you will! It’ll be the highest gift you can ever give someone.

From all the people that you’ve helped in your lifetime, what’s been the greatest lesson you have come to learn?
It’s hard for me to think in those terms. I feel the privilege of my life all the time. I decided at age 18 to never have a bad day again. So I am 54 years into that.

What’s been the best piece of wisdom you can impart to others?
Friends. Friends. Friends. Friends. Friends. Then I would say, Nature. Nature. Nature. Nature. And the arts are your friend. Then I would say, God. God. God. God. God. I would say that nature and God are your friends. People that truly have God cannot suffer, because if you really do believe in whatever your God is, it doesn’t matter which one—if you’re connected to that God, you just can’t suffer. God is with us in our suffering, but he does not KNOW suffering.

For 50 million years we have been tribal. OK, we are group primates. We’ve been group primates for 50 million years. Our natural state is as a group. We are genetically wired to be a collective species who belong together.

AMEN to this! That is my whole basis of the work I do: Human connection. We are made to connect to others. And when we don’t feel this connection, we feel lost, alone and afraid.
Yes, definitely. So I recommend to people to group up. Group up with the right people. Lean on them, cherish them, and Love them.

Patch, I am so grateful to have talked with you. It is very evident that you love and care for people with no limits. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today, I know many people will be touched by your words.
My pleasure, Hailey.

Key Takeaways: From the moment we were born, we were made to be in groups. We are social beings and we need other people to connect. Give unselfishly of yourself and watch how the Universe, God, blesses your life.

After the end of our call, Patch said to me, “Hailey, you’ve got a friend in me. Call me anytime.” Perhaps this is why people love him so much; he is so giving of friendship and love.

Whatever in life you may find yourself facing take comfort in the things you have right now. You can also take comfort in Patch’s words; I know I did.

Make it your personal mission to answer this question: “What IS going right in my life?” and keep looking; look until you have found everything you possibly can. Watch how your life unfolds so beautifully in front of you.

I want to leave you with this: If we do not enjoy our lives, are we really living anyway? Do you want to make it to the end of your life and realize you have rushed through it all?

Here is what I know for sure…

Our pain can wake us up to things we weren’t paying attention to in our lives.

Our highest purpose in life is joy. Find your joy and do it; do it as much as you possibly can.

Humor can heal our souls. The most natural state for us is to live easy and light. Like Jesus said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:30 Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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