Why Cry?

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Illustration by June Kesner

I just thought I would share some information my Mum sent me today about the benefits of having a good old cry…..

Tissue anyone?

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“New York Times reporter Benedict Carey referred to tears in a recent piece as “emotional perspiration.” Given that I sweat a lot and hate deodorant, I suppose it makes sense that I weep often. But I’m not going to apologize for that, because after a good cry, I always feel cleansed, like my heart and mind just rubbed each other’s backs in a warm bath. In his intriguing article, “The Miracle of Tears” (answersingenesis.com), in which I found some of the research for this gallery, author Jerry Bergman writes: “Tears are just one of many miracles which work so well that we taken them for granted every day”. Here, then, are some ways tears and the phenomenon we call “crying” heal us physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually.

Biochemist William Frey, who has been researching tears for as long as I’ve been searching for sanity, found in one study that emotional tears —those formed in distress or grief—contained more toxic byproducts than tears of irritation (think onion peeling). Are tears toxic then? No! They actually remove toxins from our body that build up courtesy of stress. They are like a natural therapy or massage session, but they cost a lot less!

Do you know what your manganese level is? Neither do I. But chances are that you will feel better if it’s lower because overexposure to manganese can cause bad stuff: anxiety, nervousness, irritability, fatigue, aggression, emotional disturbance, and the rest of the feelings that live inside my head rent-free.The act of crying can actually lower a person’s manganese level. And just like with the toxins I mentioned in my last point, emotional tears contain 24 percent higher albumin protein concentration–responsible for transporting small (toxic) molecules–than irritation tears.

Tears really are like perspiration, in that exercising and crying both relieve stress. In his article, Bergman explains that tears remove some of the chemicals built up in the body from stress, like the endorphins leucine-enkaphalin and prolactin. The opposite is true too. Bergman writes, “Suppressing tears increases stress levels, and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and peptic ulcers.

In her “Science Digest” article, writer Ashley Montagu argued that crying not only contributes to good health, but it also builds community. As a prolific crier, I always come away astounded by the resounding support of people I know, and the level of intimacy exchanged among them. Tears help communication and foster community.

Even if you haven’t just been through something traumatic or are severely depressed, the average Joe goes through his day accumulating little conflicts and resentments. Sometimes they gather inside the limbic system of the brain and in certain corners of the heart. Crying is cathartic. It lets the devils out before they wreak all kind of havoc with the nervous and cardiovascular systems. As John Bradshaw writes in his bestseller “Home Coming,” “All these feelings need to be felt. We need to stomp and storm; to sob and cry; to perspire and tremble.”

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One of my favourite films is City of Angels (1998). In this quote Meg Ryan’s character Maggie, is trying to explain why humans cry, to the character Seth, played by Nicholas Cage, who is an angel on earth.

“Seth: Why do people cry?
Maggie: What do you mean?
Seth: I mean, what happens physically?
Maggie: Well… umm… tear ducts operate on a normal basis to lubricate and protect the eye and when you have an emotion they overact and create tears.
Seth: Why? Why do they overact?
Maggie: [pause] I don’t know.
Seth: Maybe… maybe emotion becomes so intense your body just can’t contain it. Your mind and your feelings become too powerful, and your body weeps.”

Check out these touching home videos of parents to be sharing their news with family members (and making them cry).

Finally, here is President Obama setting a great example for us all during a moving speech.
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