Crying – It’s OK to cry

Crying is therapeutic, it’s not just a saying, science has proven it.

Why do we cry?
Emotions provoke a reaction which sometimes feels embarrassing or makes you feel exposed and vulnerable. Crying, it’s so normal we’ve been doing it since day one and if we didn’t do it then someone would think something was wrong with us. So why do we try hard not to as adults?
“Psychic tears, or ‘crying tears’ are produced when strong emotion is experienced….they contain a natural painkiller, called leucine enkephalin.
No wonder we feel better afterwards! But the real reason is an area in the brain called the hypothalamus where all our emotions are generated via a connection to the autonomic nervous system. This is carried by a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, and this stimulates tear production……”  Author: Dr Nick Knight

How is crying therapeutic?
Apart from analgesic properties, crying allows a build-up of emotion to be released in a safe and positive way. People who don’t allow themselves to cry, suppress and bury that emotion thinking that it has gone. It hasn’t gone, it’s just been well covered.
I heard an excellent analogy of this once:
You are in a swimming pool and every emotional reaction is an air-filled ball. You very successfully hold each ball under water where no-one can see it. Initially. However as you keep gathering those balls, and trying to keep them under the water, there comes a time when you just can’t hold them all, one pops up and then the whole lot burst up out of the water, and you have lost control because they’re flying everywhere.
That’s what happens when one little trigger sets off the whole collection of buried emotions and you are suddenly crying an unstoppable river of pent-up tears.

The crying effect
I just watched a beautiful North Korean girl talking about the tragic circumstances surrounding her life growing up in an oppressed environment, and the further betrayal of people who were supposed to be helping and protecting her and her family. As she spoke her words were interspersed with tears running down her delicate, heart-rending face. My reaction was I’m sure the same as anyone else witnessing her plea to the world for help. I had my own tears, and I felt that I wanted to help her.
Crying triggers our hearts to respond and help a fellow human. It alerts the parent to focus attention on a child and it calls a halt to carrying on regardless. It heightens the seriousness of an issue, and strengthens relationships that are involved in that connection.

Crying reduces our stress
Holding emotional baggage inside increases our stress and limits our ability to deal with further stress. If you can’t cry, like Cameron Diaz’s character Amanda Woods in ‘The Holiday’, it isn’t something to worry about, because if you remember the balls in the pool, it will happen eventually.
It’s just good to remember that crying is normal, it’s helpful and allows you to cope better with life. Stress is a risk factor for many diseases, crying unblocks the dam, lets a lot of bad feelings out, gives a peaceful calm as effective as diazepam and resets your emotional equilibrium.

Erica Fotineas
June 2017

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