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The Value of Crying

Image of a crying infant held by a pre-school girl. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, crying, Katherine Broadway

“I don’t know what is wrong with me,” Fay said. “Every year around the anniversary of my mother’s death, I get really teary. I feel like there is a lump in my throat all the time. I have been doing everything I can think of to make myself feel better, I am meditating, exercising and going out with friends, but when I get home, I start crying.” Fay is confused by her own behavior

For the first time in his life, Alex is examining the events in the alcoholic family in which he was raised. He is afraid to cry. He was taught as a child that boys do not cry. He saw his mother cry for hours and days. He believes that crying is debilitating, a sign of weakness, and useless; yet, he feels on the verge of crying several times a day. He wonders what is wrong with him.

Both Fay and Alex are unaware of the value of crying.

Not all tears are the same. Everyone produces tears as a necessary lubricant for your eyes. However, studies have shown that the chemical composition of tears formed in response to an emotion is different from the composition of tears that accompany yawning or onion fumes. All tears serve a purpose.

The Value of Crying

1. Crying is good for your health:

Tears are a safety valve to release the excess stress hormones that build up in your body. An excess of cortisol and other stress hormones can cause physical ailments and mood swings. The calm you feel after an intense cry is caused, in part, by the release of these hormones.

2. It opens blocked emotional pathways:

Unexpressed emotions block our ability to feel other emotions. When we cry, it lets the energy of that emotion flow out of us, opening the pathways of feeling and memory.

In Fay's situation, she pushed down her grief about the loss of her mother, and covered it with activity and excitement. She was unable to feel the good feelings that came with her memories. Fay learned it is a normal part of grief to cry on the anniversary of her mother’s death. She was told that her grief of the loss of her mother lives in her unconscious mind. It is not something that she feels everyday but there are times when it comes to the surface and crying is the body’s way of processing the feelings.

3. Crying is a way to release old pain and memories:

If we are not able to process difficult, painful or traumatic events when they

occur, the memory and emotion is stored in our unconscious mind, waiting to be released.

Alex learned that the pain of his childhood had been waiting for years to be released and processed so that it could be stored in its proper place in his memory. When memories are processed and stored, they no longer push to come out at unexpected times.

He learned one of the ways to process painful memories was crying. Not

uncontrollable or debilitating crying, but crying in response to specific memories in a way that moves pain out of its hidden places. It is a crying that has a beginning and an end, and, if allowed to come naturally and freely, usually lasts for a short time.

4. Crying is an important form of communication:

Crying conveys our state of mind. It tells of hurt, remorse, joy, frustration, care and longing. It can evoke strong emotions in others. We don’t just cry because of our own pain and sadness; the sadness of others can move us to tears. We feel empathy.

5. Crying enhances attachment and relationships:

Crying seems to elicit compassion and guilt which, at times, can help resolve

conflict. It shows the depth of feelings which cannot be expressed with

words. Your feelings are so intense that you are moved to tears.

Crying indicates a need for attachment and comfort. It is important to choose

wisely where, when, and with whom you cry.

6. Crying can protect us:

Tears help us express ourselves in ways that words often fail us, which, at times, can salvage a situation, express need, or de-escalate a situation. One of a newborn's first actions is to cry. Until they learn other forms of communication, it is how they get the attention they need to survive. As adults, crying conveys a depth of emotions which make it hard for most people to continue to argue and fight. It slows the situation down enough for the conflict to calm down.

An evolutionary biologist named Dr. Oren Hasson suggests that crying is a highly-evolved behavior. His research suggests tears “give clues and reliable information about submission, needs and social attachments.”

Although many animals yelp or cry when they are in pain, as far as science

knows, humans are the only species that cry for emotional reasons. To cry is to be human, and will help you both physically and emotionally.

Do you need help being able to value crying? I can help, call me at (919)881-2001.

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