Biology and Benefits of a Good Cry

When was the last time you had a meltdown? You know the symptoms of what I’m talking about. The kinds where you cry a bit uncontrollably and just want to sit because you really can’t do anything else with that sort of sobbing going on. For me they are a good release about a problem I’ve been holding on to or some emotions I’ve been storing, but this one I had yesterday kind of came out of no where and has perpetuated a series of entries starting with this.

Crying is a wonderful thing your body does for you. Think of it as a natural way to cleanse the spirit and release all those bits clogging up your rational thinking and good feelings. In psychic tears (the ones triggered by emotion), there is a hefty build up of stress hormones and toxins. In a study done by Dutch scientists of 200 women, most reported improved mood and reasoning skills after crying for emotional reasons. The only exceptions were those who scored high in depression or anxiety and who’s mood would be aggravated by emotional crying.

We are often told not to cry by parents or authority figures and I believe it is mostly as a way of protecting us and themselves. When someone cries you see their truest vulnerability. They are in a state of biological weakness as their senses are clouded due to tears in the eyes, the build up of mucus in the sinuses, and the affect of crying on our ability to take in oxygen in a rhythmic, natural way. This is distressing to anyone viewing someone crying and we react by trying to stop it as soon as possible so they return to a state where they can defend predators. Like the scary boss coming down the hallway or others who don’t know our crying companion who may see him or her as weak. Not only do we not want them to be in a weak position, we also don’t want to deal with someone in that state as it often makes us uncomfortable since we start to examine why they might be crying and how we feel about it. Ever notice those who start to cry once they see someone else crying? It can weaken us and we don’t like to be weak. Evolutionarily speaking, someone huddled in a corner who can’t see, smell, take in oxygen regularly, and making sobbing or whimpering sounds is a good snack for a hungry predator.

That said, it is necessary to allow ourselves to cry in a natural, uninhibited way. We release the stress, the toxins, regain our breathing patterns and feel a sense of clarity now that all that crap is out of our bodies. If you are around while someone is crying, allow them to talk to you, move them to a private place, but try not to stop it as it is a natural reaction that will play itself out in a few minutes and except for puffy eyes and a stuffy nose, they will be even better to work on something or tackle a hard problem.

My brother and I were raised in a house where we were never punished for our emotions. I don’t ever recall hearing something like “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” As a result, we both cry a healthy amount and understand that it’s normal and natural and good. When my brother was in middle school and high school he would get ridiculed when he cried because he’s a dude. A big dude who used to play football and is an awesome athlete. Unless you’ve just won the Super Bowl, there is no crying in football…or baseball. So sometimes he would have an issue and what was totally acceptable at home was not acceptable among fellow athletes.

Thus, he learned the bottling technique.

You know at least one person who does this. They hold all their emotions inside, appear fine, and then they just EXPLODE! Which is fine unless the person exploding is my massive brother or anyone with a good throwing arm, in which case it can be dangerous.

So if you have a bottler on your hands, here’s how I have best dealt with it. Brother usually has something that starts the crying and once someone tries to calm him down he says something like “No! Stop it!” and then proceeds to throw things and shuts down even more. I have now learned to let him cry until he gets the initial bit out and once he starts to talk to me, I let him talk and cry and talk as he needs to. Works every time with the big boy.

Now he has developed an even healthier technique where he talks about something as it is bothering him and if he should start to cry, does it in a private space where he doesn’t feel judged. But trust me, it took several years to get him to this point.

So next time you see someone crying or feel the urge to cry, release all the gook in your system or standby with a box of tissues and an open ear or heart for them. It is truly the best way to get them back to the natural, safer state of predator awareness.

PS. More about the meltdown later plus amazing advice from Mom, Best Friend, and Dude from TV who’s book I’m going to read.

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