The Place of Tears

By Sue McCoy - November 9, 2018

There are many sayings that come to mind when thinking about crying. Ones like; stop that crying, cry baby, boys don’t cry and even a song title big girls don’t cry deriding the idea that it’s not okay to cry. As regular crier myself, I am always surprised by how determined many people are not to cry and wonder if this is a reflection of these ideas that have been instilled in us that crying is weak or not acceptable. Today hopefully we can appreciate that crying is not only a very credible emotional response to sadness, anger and joy but it is also backed up by research.

Research conducted in the 1980s (Frey, 1985) seems to suggest that there is a distinction between functional tears that moisten the eye in the presence of onions for example and emotional tears which are driven by impulses in the emotion centre of the brain. These emotional tears are thought to release substances that match the emotional release we obtain through crying. Not all crying is helpful though and this could be an indication of why some people don’t like to cry particularly if they have been shamed for crying or they have cried a lot without any hope of things changing (Bylsma). However crying with a supportive person, out of an overflow of sorrow and hope for change is the one with the most benefit.

The idea that crying can be helpful is great news challenging the idea that we should stop that crying! My favourite words on crying are found in a PsaIm that says weeping endures for an evening but joy comes in the morning. This matches my experience that weeping does not last and eventually joy can follows tears of emotional release of tension, anxiety and repressed feelings. Let’s create some new sayings around tears!

Tears are words the heart can’t say (Gerard Way)