I cry often. Sometimes this makes the people in my life very uncomfortable. It can make them a little judgy, too. There is such a stigma about crying–have you ever heard anyone say that crying means you’re weak, that it isn’t good to show emotion, not to ever let them see you vulnerable, and so on? I have, too many times to count.
I’ve also been called a “sissy” because I am quick to cry and have been told countless times by countless people that I need to “toughen up.”
What those people don’t get is that for some of us, crying is a way to release tension. Nothing more. It doesn’t mean I’m depressed or that I am not “tough” (whatever that actually means). It means I am releasing stress and tension in a way that feels good to me–and this is a positive thing! Physiologically speaking, tears activate parasympathetic activity, which helps relieve stress and ease distress.
Crying activates both the arousing sympathetic nervous system and the sedating parasympathetic nervous system. However, the latter is activated for a longer period, which no doubt explains why people tend to remember crying as a calming and cathartic experience. (Source)
Yes, crying around others does make me vulnerable, but I feel this vulnerability is usually a positive thing, with positive results (if you do it around the right person/people). I’ve strengthened relationships as a result of allowing myself to be vulnerable in front of others. Sure, I’ve also damaged relationships by wearing my heart on my sleeve, by not containing my emotions–but how solid were those relationships in the first place if they’re so easily strained?! I’ve found that crying has sometimes led to increased connection. I betcha Brene Brown would agree with me on this one.
I spent a little time this morning reading about the myriad benefits of crying. Did you know there are 3 types of tears: basal, reflex, and emotional?
[Emotional] tears may have a number of social functions, in particular (1) communicating our emotions while emphasizing their depth and sincerity, (2) attracting attention, sympathy, and help at a time of danger, distress, or need, and (3) serving as a signal of appeasement, dependency, or attachment (for example, by blurring our vision and handicapping our aggressive and defensive actions). (Source)
In addition to all the social benefits of crying, there have been many studies stating the health benefits of emotional crying. For example, the chemicals that build up in your body as a result of stress are released through your tears.
Biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis discovered that reflex tears are 98% water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying. (Source)
If you’re someone who feels uncomfortable seeing others cry, please ask yourself why this is. Please try not to pass judgment on the crying individual or see their crying as weak or merely an attempt to garner attention. Please read this article.
Bottom line: It is healthy, not weak, to cry.