Being tickled can be fun sometimes, but most of the time it’s a tortuous experience filled with unwilling laughter. Whether you enjoy tickling or not, here’s an explanation for why we’re ticklish in the first place, and a few tips for how to overcome it.
Hank Green, host of the YouTube channel SciShow, explains the evolutionary root of our ticklishness and why we laugh when it happens. Tickling breaks down into two major types: Knismesis — or the tingling sensation that makes you want to itch or rub an area as if a bug is there — and Gargalesis. The squirming, laughing, breath-stealing kind is Gargalesis, and is caused by a being touched in specific places. The armpits, ribs, neck and inner thigh are all ticklish zones, and the reason is because they are some of your most vulnerable zones to attack. Many scientists believe that we laugh and squirm when we’re touched there because it’s an evolutionary mechanism that’s meant to teach ourselves self-defence. We try to get the tickler’s hands away from these zones, yet we involuntarily laugh at the same time to encourage the activity for both parties.
But what can you do to not be so ticklish? Some people can hardly be touched without experiencing Gargalesis, but it all comes down to mind over matter. There’s no guaranteed way to stop being ticklish, but if you can convince yourself that you don’t feel ticklish, it can help. Have you ever tried to tickle an angry person? It probably didn’t work very well because of their mental state. Next time you’re being attacked by a tickle missile, close your eyes and focus on something that’s not tickling. Then tell yourself that you’re not ticklish over and over in your head. If you feel like you can’t be close or intimate with someone because of your ticklishness, place your hand on top of their hand when they touch you. It’s how many massage therapists handle ticklish clients. These tricks may not work for you, but there are far worse things than being ticklish.
Why are we Ticklish? [YouTube]