By Sanah Thakur
Crying has been such an essential part of my life, yet I’ve spent most of it resenting the act. We usually tend to associate crying with weakness and unnecessary water works. I don’t even blame anyone, because let’s be honest, it’s not the best sight to look at. I’ve never looked into the mirror while crying and thought to myself, ‘Girl, you look fine!’. I usually think something along the lines of ‘My face is making me want to cry even more’. However, for some reason I feel immensely lighter and often even happier after crying. There seems to be a lot more to the reason apart from ‘letting it out of my system’ and today I want to find out why. To cry or not to cry? It is always a decision and usually one of the hardest.
Do we cry for ourselves?
Though mainstream media has validated the need to cry personally, the biological reason we cry isn’t to emotionally depurate things alone. Like most things, we’ve forgotten why it was developed for survival – and the answer is that crying is a universal attachment behaviour. Through his research, Bowlby, Attachment Psychologist, stated that interpersonally, crying is intended to elicit comfort and care from others around us. Hence why, babies usually cry to attract attention to their needs and wants when verbal communication is a struggle. As we grow older, the need to use crying as an attention-seeking behaviour reduces. While it might feel acceptable to cry while watching movies and listening to sad songs, crying for yourself can help release pent up emotions and therefore sometimes you really can just cry for yourself.
Okay, at least cry for your eyes!
Most of us aren’t aware, but there are three types of tears and they’re all extremely beneficial for healthy eyes.
Basal tears are the protective soldiers that are on duty with every eye blink, fuelling our eyes and supporting everyday vision. Reflex tears, like the name suggests, are those tears that land up when we get in contact with onions, infections, tear gas or the wind. It’s important for the survival of our brain to react to negative external stimuli as strongly as it does to positive stimuli. Lastly, we have emotional tears that are released by lacrimal glands when we experience emotions such as helplessness and the loss of significant others. Apart from our eyes, crying has been linked with activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is instrumental in helping the body rest and digest. Since the benefits aren’t immediate, it explains why we cry for a considerable amount of time before we feel the soothing effects kicking in. Extended crying also releases ‘feel-good’ chemicals such as oxytocin and endorphins, that make the body numb and create a self-soothing effect. So the next time you start crying, give yourself some time before you swallow back those tears.
Don’t do it for the drama
While the listed benefits of crying are clearly nourishing, I’ve noticed that we get complacent in the use of the behaviour. For example, in certain situations, I’ve cried for longer periods of time just so that I could avoid the reality of dealing with the situation. Crying can get scarily comfortable and it gives us the perfect excuse to post pone developing a plan of action. In some situations, I’ve seen people cry as a defence mechanism against exposing the truth. Everyone feels sorry for a crying person and that’s why tears are often used as a blackmail currency. If you keep blaming the person for making you cry, they’ll eventually forget what they even brought up, that triggered the crying. This may sound like I just added to the list of benefits, but these are actually self-sabotaging behaviours that should be identified and called out. You can cry about realising these behaviours in your own life because it’s better that reason than the latter.
Research hasn’t been conclusive in finding evidence that other animals cry, so at this moment, crying is a uniquely human behaviour (at least exceptionally). If you feel like crying, forget the stereotypes and social norms and let those tears out. My advice, just do it for the right reasons.
* The author can be contacted on Instagram @sincerelysanah
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“The whole concept of humanity is to help others” — Misbah-ul-Haq, cricket icon and Director of Pakistan Children’s Heart Foundation