Healing Power of Tears

“Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.”  ~Antoine Rivarol

 

When thinking about self-care methods, the method that came to my mind, embarrassingly fast, was drinking wine and crying. Your immediate thought might be that this, in fact, sounds incredibly unhealthy and probably quite sad, but hear me out: When we are young, we are told “big girls don’t cry.” This sentiment makes sense for children who are trying to get their way or who are being generally difficult. However, as adults, we are taught crying goes against all societal norms. Admittedly, we can’t just go crying to our bosses when our workload becomes too much. However, this idea somehow has come to encompass all forms of crying, as we grow into adulthood. It seeps so deeply into our societal norms that we apologize to others for crying in front of them. We get embarrassed and we feel weak. Just the other night, I stopped my friend mid-sentence so I could run away to the safety of the bathroom, to attempt to hide the fact that I was crying. I apologized profusely, as if I had just done the most offensive thing possible. We were having a very raw and real conversation, so my tears weren’t out of place, yet I felt extremely embarrassed.

 

adult alone anxious black and white
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

As the only species who cries emotional tears, we defy a lot of our evolutionary background when we shame each other for doing so. Dr. Oren Hasson, a researcher at TAU, says, “Crying is a highly evolved behavior,[sic] tears give clues and reliable information about submission, needs and social attachments between one another.” When we cry, we are bringing all our walls down and being incredibly vulnerable. We’re trusting whoever we’re exposing that vulnerability to; forming a stronger bond for both parties involved. We are saying, “I trust you enough to be vulnerable in front of you,” and the other person recognizes that they are special enough for us to display that vulnerability. When we see someone crying, it elicits compassion and empathy and these feelings build stronger relationships and a stronger community, which, in turn, provides protection and support. It allows for true emotion to be communicated. In short, crying helps us to survive.

 

Besides the beneficial pro-social reasons for crying, there are also beneficial biological reasons. Dr. William Frey from the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis researched the difference between emotional tears and reflex tears (tears that emerge when you do something like peel an onion) and found that, while reflex tears are 98% water, emotional tears contain stress hormones that accumulate in the body. It has also been found that crying triggers the production of endorphins, which act as a natural pain killer and generally make us feel good. When people refer to crying as “a good cry” it’s because you actually do, biologically, feel better afterwards. This is just another surprising reason that crying isn’t something our society supports more fully.

 

grayscale photo of woman covering her mouth using her hands
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

So, when I say that my self-care involves drinking wine and crying, I mean that drinking wine helps to bring my walls down and become more vulnerable, allowing me to express my deepest thoughts and emotions to people I trust to protect that vulnerability. Crying and discussing the things that have been weighing on me, with people who care about me bring validity to those thoughts and emotions. Doing this allows me to work through my emotions and thoughts in a healthier environment than going through anxiety-riddled circles in my head. Most importantly, this process allows me to nurture deep bonds with people who are important to me, and for them to do the same, creating a more supportive community. When someone cries in front of me, I know that they are being real, and I know that they are trusting me with some of their toughest issues.

 

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Alyssa Hohorst is a Psychology student at the University of Colorado Denver. She aspires to become a research psychologist and to study cognitive and evolutionary psychology between genders. Alyssa has recently become interested in writing and is excited about carrying this topic over and exploring women’s experiences in American society. When she’s not working on her degree, you can find Alyssa cooking, practicing photography, or bingeing true crime until she’s afraid to leave the house.

3 thoughts on “Healing Power of Tears

  1. I absolutely love the featured image here! The way that the ocean dwarfs us reciprocates how we often feel when we are crying: powerless and insignificant. I also like the lighting. Maybe the fact that it is sunset reflects that while we are encountering the darkness as night approaches, morning is certain to follow just as the tears are sure to bring the healing that you mention. And the quote is perfect! Awesome information about the differences between emotional and reflex tears. I appreciate the scientific additions to your post. Your final paragraph hints to the fact that you aren’t drinking and crying in a public setting among strangers, but in a private setting among friends. This may be valuable to include in the introduction. It may seem like common sense, but the dangers of drinking and crying to the wrong audience make me nervous.I like that you were willing to broach this subject. You’re absolutely right that crying has become the equivalent of weakness in our society. Thank you for the reminder that it’s okay.

    A couple of thoughts…

    – I think instead of a colon, I’d place a period after, “hear me out.”

    – Is “societal norms” the correct phrase for “It seeps so deeply into our societal norms…”? I think it fits in the first instance, but here I feel like we’re talking about expectations or fabric rather than norms.

    – A comma should be used rather than a semicolon after “exposing that vulnerability to,” and I think that “whoever” should be “whomever.”

    – I would put a comma after “compassion and empathy” in order to separate the final portion of the sentence rather than making it potentially seem like a third part of a list.

    – Can you make your hyperlinks open in a new tab rather than the same one? That way a reader doesn’t need to use the Back button to return to your article.

    – I would place a comma after, “a good cry.”

    Like

  2. Hi Alyssa,

    Wow, I was shocked to hear that stress hormones are actually secreted in tears. Very interesting. I’ve actually been hearing that phrase lately. Sometimes you just have to have a good cry. I thought sharing the science behind crying really helped me realize why exactly crying is actually good for you. I didn’t know that endorphins helped pain relief. I also liked how you were able to come back around to your personal experiences in the end. I thought it was a great way to end the piece off.

    -When you say “big girls don’t cry”, make sure there is a comma before the phrase and that the period is outside of the quotation marks. There are also a couple other punctuation additions that Denise mentioned that I would add.

    -Overall, great work. I learned a lot from your article and I thought it was great to be able to see scientific information being tied into personal experiences.

    Like

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