American artist, Emmanuel Radnitzky (1890-1976), known as Man Ray, was famous for his photography, especially Glass Tears (1932). The model is an artificial mannequin with glass bead tears on her cheeks. It is believed that Man Ray created this photograph soon after his relationship with Lee Miller ended. I photographed the image at the “Man Ray et La Mode” exhibition in Paris in September 2020.
Crying therapy is a healing practice to release emotional pain through the production of (real) tears as a stimuli response. Tears of joy and tears of sadness send messages to the brain. The brain controls emotional tears via the prefrontal cortex and the limbic lobe.
Tears contain lysozyme which washes away bacteria in the eyes. This is why we produce tears, called reflex tears, when dust gets in our eyes. Scientists have proven that emotional tears differ from other types of tears (such as reflex tears). In emotional tears, the protein content is 24% higher than in reflex tears, and the tears fall more slowly.
Emotional crying produces a release of oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone. Oxytocin is a mood-enhancer. Crying is also thought to increase people’s tolerance to physical and emotional pain.
Crying can be intense or gentle. When people cry more intensely, they tend to sob – i.e. take in short breaths. This is an involuntary condition. Even when the tears have stopped, the sobbing may continue. Scientists have shown that sobbing provides a rhythmic behaviour that is soothing. Sobbing also expends energy, resulting in tiredness and sleep for some people.
Crying often happens when we cannot find words to express our emotions.
Crying can be done anywhere, by most people but not everyone can cry. It is a self-soother. It is cathartic. It is normal.
Try the following:
- Just let the tears flow without consciously stopping them.
- To produce tears, think of something sad – such as a past experience or a sad movie. Just let the tears flow for as long as needed.
- It is not necessary to make a noise or wail, but for some people this helps to release sadness and negative feelings because it is self-soothing.
Some people can cry easily – at almost any emotional stimulus – while others find it more difficult, especially in front of other people.
Some people simulate emotional crying with the use of agents that provoke reflex crying, such as when peeling onions. Peeling onions produces tears and cleans the tear ducts, and for some, it provides an ‘excuse’ to cry when they want to disguise real tears. This is okay, because there are still some benefits from this type of crying.
When some people laugh really hard, tears flow. That is also a good mechanism for releasing tears.
Some people believe that crying in public is a sign of weakness, especially in men and boys. Therefore, scientists have found that some people may feel shame or embarrassment after crying.
Not everyone gains relief from crying. A 2008 scientific study (Bylsma et al.) across 35 countries found that most of the men and women reported feeling better after crying, but in their 2011 study, the percentage of crying episodes that were associated with beneficial effects was only about 30% of participants.
In the Bylsma study, men reported slightly smaller mood improvements than women after crying. Extroverts reported the greatest benefits from crying. Researchers also found that some individuals did not want to cry because they expected crying to increase (not decrease) their distress.
People who vocalise excessively during crying are perceived to be ‘annoying’ – depending on the loudness or duration. There seems to be a ‘switch off’ mechanism in people hearing a person crying loudly, in which they switch off emotions for that person. That means that the crying person is less likely to receive sympathy from others.
Sobbing that leads to tiredness and sleep may leave the crying person in a worse mood when they wake up.
Crying therapy and crying activities do not necessarily address core issues.
“Cry. Forgive. Learn. Move on. Let your tears water the seeds of your future happiness.” – Steve Maraboli
DISCLAIMER: This website’s author does not dispense medical advice or prescribe the use of any technique as a form of treatment for physical, emotional, or medical problems without the advice of a physician or psychologist, either directly or indirectly. Therefore, information provided here is not intended to replace readers’ existing or other medical, psychological, financial, or legal advice. The author’s intent is to offer general information to help readers in their quest for emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, guidance towards self-empowerment, and/or for entertainment purposes only. Rainy Day Healing and Martina Nicolls shall not be held accountable for any loss which may arise from any readers’ reliance and implementation of any information provided. For information on courses and personal consultations, see TERMS AND CONDITIONS.