There seems to be some social stigma when it comes to crying. Especially crying in public. When we see someone crying in a public place we look away, often more embarrassed about it than the person crying is. We tell our children not to cry. We tell our friends not to cry when they’re upset. A lot of people were telling me not to cry when I was sad about leaving Russia.
All our lives people are telling us not to cry.
Here’s an interesting perspective on being ‘allowed’ to cry:
It is a grave injustice to a child or adult to insist that they stop crying. One can comfort a person who is crying which enables him to relax and makes further crying unnecessary; but to humiliate a crying child is to increase his pain, and augment his rigidity. We stop other people from crying because we cannot stand the sounds and movements of their bodies. It threatens our own rigidity. It induces similar feelings in ourselves which we dare not express and it evokes a resonance in our own bodies which we resist.
― Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body
Have you asked yourself why you shouldn’t cry? I have, and I couldn’t find a good reason not to!
I cry easily these days. I don’t remember crying very much in my early adult years, but I’m sure making up for it now.
Different types of tears
Did you know that there are three types of tears? Neither did I, but I did a little research for this post because I wanted to give you some facts instead of just telling you about all the things I’ve cried about.
The three types of tears are:
Basal – these tears are a protein-rich antibacterial liquid that is constantly produced to keep our eyes moist
Reflex – these are produced as a result of something irritating our eyes – think of smoke, or onions. The tears arrive to wash away the irritant
Emotional – we cry as a response to many different emotions, and these tears contain a high level of stress hormones
Let’s look at some benefits of tears.
The benefits of tears
Basal tears help our vision stay clear and crisp. If we didn’t have basal tears our eyes would dry out and our vision would become blurry.
Crying cleans the eyes and the tears help to kill harmful bacteria because they contain lysozyme (an enzyme that attacks the cell walls of bacteria).
Crying in response to stress produces stress hormones and other chemicals in tears. Some researchers believe that this could possibly reduce the chemicals present in the body, and therefore reduce overall stress (though not enough study has been done on this to be 100% sure).
Emotional crying is useful to get attention from the people around you when you need support. This is called ‘attachment behaviour’ and is a well-known interpersonal, or social, benefit.
And when we cry emotional tears we release oxytocin and endorphins. These may help ease both physical and emotional pain. Oxytocin is also released when we hug or cuddle someone, or even when we bond in a social situation, therefore it’s known as the ‘cuddle hormone’.
What makes me cry
As I mentioned earlier, I cry very easily these days. I don’t know why I’ve become so emotional as I get older, but that’s how it is.
When someone I love hurts me (fortunately this rarely happens), or when I’m faced with the death of someone I love, I cry.
I cry when I say goodbye if it’s going to be long time before I see that person again. An example of this is when I say goodbye to my daughter. She lives in Australia, and I haven’t lived there since 2007, when I went to live in Moscow. I’ve visited Australia a few times since then, and my daughter came with her husband to see me in Moscow. So we’ve had a few sad goodbyes.
She was pregnant when she came to see us in Moscow, so you can imagine how emotional I was, knowing that at the end of their holiday she was going back to Australia and I wouldn’t see her again until sometime after she had her baby. I cried buckets of tears at the airport when she left, and then I cried for days after. I mean, I cried in bed quietly so my husband wouldn’t hear me. I cried when I was in the metro and tried not to let the tears fall.
I cry when my husband leaves me to go and visit his family in France (I don’t always go with him, so we’re apart for a week or two sometimes).
I sometimes cry when I’m physically hurt.
I even sometimes cry in anticipation of something that’s going to make me sad. When we decided that we were going to end our time in Russia and travel in Asia for a while, I started crying before we’d even made any real plans or had set a date to leave. I loved living in Russia so much, it almost killed me knowing that we’d be leaving our life and our friends there, possibly forever. I had tears whenever I thought about leaving Russia.
And then, of course when the time came to actually leave Russia it was much sooner than we expected, and it was in such a dramatic way that I cried during the four days we had been given to pack up and leave. If you haven’t read the story about our exit from Moscow, you can read all about it here.
And I didn’t stop crying when we arrived in Bucharest either. I cried during the first two weeks when we were in our little studio in the Old Town, and then I cried when we arrived in our Airbnb and I saw how big and wonderful the bathroom was!
Sometimes I cry when I’ve been drinking wine. And I don’t think that’s a very good thing, but you know there’s something about alcohol that makes you talk and talk (well, that’s how it works with me), and so sometimes the conversation turns to sad topics and then boom – I’m in tears.
Reading a book with a sad story can set me off. If I’ve really connected with a character and they die, I let a few tears fall down my cheeks.
The same with sad films. I have a few films that I love that are guaranteed to make me cry. Even though I know what’s going to happen because I’ve seen these films countless times. I can start crying before it even gets to the sad part! If I’m ever feeling a bit sad or depressed and I need a little cry I know exactly which films to watch.
Weddings also make me cry. It doesn’t matter who’s getting married, there’s something in a wedding ceremony that just gets to me. Maybe it’s the ‘forever until death do us part’ bit – because that’s just so romantic! (I’m not usually a romantic person, only at weddings). I even cried at my own wedding!
I’m going to stop the list of things that make me cry right here. I’ve just realised that this list is probably endless.
Cry if you need to
So, let’s go back to what I said at the beginning. People are always telling us not to cry. And we’re made to feel embarrassed about crying, especially in public.
Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots. ― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
What I want you to know is that it’s OK to cry. It’s even good for us. We need it. We need to let some stress out sometimes, and crying’s a good way to do it. We need to let others know that we need some attention, or that we’re hurting, and crying’s a good way to do it.
If we’re hurting, it’s OK to cry. If we’re sad, it’s OK. Stressed? It’s OK!
It’s also OK to cry when we’re happy! Like at weddings!
Another example of happy crying is when my daughter and her husband arrived in Moscow for their holiday. We met them at the airport and as soon as she came through the doors and I saw her with her pregnant belly I was off! I was incredibly happy to see her and I just let the tears fall. So her holiday in Moscow started and ended with my public tears.
It’s OK to cry, to be melancholic, to shed a few tears over a couple of glasses of wine. You have permission to cry and not feel embarrassed or ashamed.
Embrace your tears and know that it’s completely normal to cry when you’re sad, happy, watching a film, reading a book, saying goodbye, saying hello, hurt yourself physically, stressed, listening to a sad song, or a million other situations when the tears want to be released. Just let them fall.
Do you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when you cry? Do you try to suppress your tears? What things make your tears fall? Share your emotional stories with me in the comments and we can cry together.
Tears are words the mouth can’t say nor can the heart bear. – Joshua Wisenbaker
Disclaimer: this article is for entertainment purposes only. Born in a Car does not give medical advice. If you think that you are depressed, crying too much, or drinking too much and then crying, please seek independent medical help.