“Weeping often occurs at precisely those times when we are least able to fully verbalize complex, overwhelming emotions and least able to fully articulate our feelings.” ~ Dr. Tom Lutz
I can’t count the number of times people I worked with in therapy said things like:
“Crying doesn’t help anything, what’s the use of it?”
“I refuse to cry, there’s no point to it.”
“Crying means you are weak, I don’t cry.”
These are all common beliefs perpetuated by U.S. culture today. Crying is seen as pointless, useless, and weak. Millions of people take great pains to avoid crying – especially crying in public – even to the point of literal, physical pain (headaches, eye strain, tight aching chest). I totally understand – for years I very, very rarely allowed myself to cry. When I did cry, it was always in the privacy and darkness of my own home and I had to be completely alone. (I had a lot of headaches in those days!)
I’ve come to see crying not as a weakness but as a sign of strength. I mean, what takes more courage – walling ourselves off and “handling it myself” or being vulnerable, reaching out, and asking for help? Vulnerability, such as crying in front of someone, can be very scary. Crying means that we have broken down and, as I’ve said before, the first step to healing often includes breaking down.
However, if you need more convincing that crying is useful and helpful to healing (other than my opinion!), there has been research done on the benefits of crying. Biochemist and tear expert, Dr. William Frey of the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota chemically examined tears produced by onions and tears produced by emotion. He found that the emotional tears contained more toxins while tears produced by onions were 98 percent water. Dr. Frey found that emotional tears contain 3 chemicals that are released by the body in stress: Leuchine-enkaphalin (a mood-elevating and pain reducing endorphins), ACTH (a hormone considered to be the most reliable indicator of stress, and Prolactin (the hormone that regulates milk production in mammals). Dr. Frey believes that crying has a physical purpose – to help remove toxic substances from the body – and this may be why we often feel better after crying.
So there you have it. The next time you feel the urge to cry and try to hold back your tears, stop and remind yourself – crying isn’t just a pointless endeavor, it really is for your health!