The first sound a healthy baby makes is crying. It lets the delivery team and parents know that the newborn is vitally alive. Crying exercises the lungs. It is a celebration of life and something to be treasured.
What are the statements you have heard about crying? “I’ll give you something to cry about,” and “Real men don’t cry,” are damaging messages. The first causes fear of emoting, the second dehumanizes boys and men. Imagine what relationships would be like, indeed, what the world would be like, if people felt free to cry as desired and needed. Un-shed tears turn into anger, withdrawal, and depression. ‘Stuffing emotions’ sometimes leads to addictive behaviors and substances to self-medicate.
A paradoxical statement a parent sometimes uses with a daughter by way of encouraging emoting is, “Go ahead and get it out of your system.” The parent may then hold their daughter and ride out the tears with her. Later in life, the daughter may ponder the double meaning. Although there was permission to cry, there may also a have been a feeling that the tears needed to be released and then ceased, like a solid sneeze. The truth lies somewhere in between.
Tear ducts are part of the human apparatus that become activated when people experience physical pain or emotional release. In many cases, it is reflexive. It may indeed take more effort to withhold tears than to allow them to flow.
According to an article in the Harvard Health Blog called “Is crying good for you?”, states that crying is indeed beneficial. It goes on to share that in Japanese culture, tears are so valued that some cities in Japan now have “crying clubs” called rui-katsu (meaning, literally, “tear-seeking”) where people can shed tears in the presence of others. In a safe environment, imagine how cathartic it would feel to let the tears flow.
The article indicates that on average, American women cry 3.5 times each month, while American men cry about 1.9 times each month. Infants and young children often cry when they are unable to verbally express sadness, frustration, pain, and anger. The message is heard, loud and clear. They don’t judge themselves for wailing, why should we?
Reasons adults may choose not to cry:
- Perception of weakness
- Fear of being considered unprofessional if one cries on the job.
- It may make someone else feel uncomfortable.
- There is a misperception that once the tears start, they will never stop.
- Unwillingness to be vulnerable.
Reasons to cry:
- It counters cortisol which builds up when we are under stress.
- It replaces stress hormones with endorphins (a feel-good hormone).
- It helps us sleep better.
- It increases empathy. If you are in the presence of someone who is crying, it can help to join them.
It humanizes us.