7 Reasons why Crying is Good for You

We have tear ducts for a reason. Use them… Crying is good for you.

Our emotions are very powerful and are what makes us human. The way we experience and express emotions is probably far more complicated than any other animal or organism. They also function as a processor to the events in life that we go through. Emotions make our lives a more richer experience. Imagine in life, that when you fell in love, there was no feeling of love – just indifference? Love and life would be less interesting. There are the unpleasant emotions of course. They also have a function as they can teach us things about ourselves, but it is important, that we should learn to release those unpleasant emotions. Crying is one of the ways that can happen. Later in this article, I will give 7 reasons why crying is good for you.

Paradigm extremes

In the current age, we are moving from one emotional paradigm to another. It used to be for our grandparents generation that you never shared emotions. You kept them bottled up. Stiff upper lip, that sort of thing. You’ll find people from that generation who still won’t complain even when things are going really wrong for them. They may be sick, in great pain, or be undergoing several misfortunes, yet, they won’t complain.

Then we have the other extreme. One British author describes it as ‘toxic sentimentality’. It is where there is an over-expression and over-absorption of emotions. We are encouraged to express all our hurts, pains, our suffering and emotions.  And there is an excessive – ‘I am a victim’ mentality encouraged. The downside to this is that it takes away self-responsibility for our lives. And without responsibility, we also lose power for our own destinies. Fortunately, most people will fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Crying

Despite this, I believe that letting go of stuff inside you is good for our emotional health. This is especially the case for someone who holds it all in or is a perfectionist. Ot maybe someone who is rigidly hard and has a ‘tough guy’ persona. Any kind of stuck energy will make us sick. And crying is a one form of a release mechanism.

Generally, woman are more comfortable with crying. Perhaps, a woman can explain to me why. It is the idea of crying, which men will tend to feel uncomfortable with. I have been influenced by the old ‘don’t show your emotions’ mentality. I am one of those men that feels uncomfortable with crying. It’s the old – ‘that’s just not the kind of thing one does’  kind of mindset or – ‘isn’t that a bit girly?’

The Japanese know how to make you cry

On the other hand, when I watched the Japanese movie ‘Departures’, those tears really wanted to flow right at the end of the movie. And a few did.

For those who haven’t watched it, the movie is about a musician (a Cello player) who fails to make it in Tokyo and so returns to his home town. Unemployed and married, he takes the only job that he can find – a kind of enbalmer – a job where he must prepare a recently deceased body with make-up and clothing, ready for the final funeral. What makes this job unique is that the entire procedure is carried out in a ceremonial way in the dead person’s house and with all the family members watching.

At first he hates the job, but gradually he comes to realise that his job is more than just preparing a dead body – it is also a way to help the family members deal with their loss. However, with such an unusual job, the lead character has to face several criticisms against his choice of work. At one point his wife even threatens to leave him and gives an ultimatum – ‘me or the job’. But it is the ending that really pulls on the heart strings.  I won’t go into it, as I don’t want to give away too many spoilers. Just watch the movie.

Other Japanese movies

And its not the only Japanese movie or series that has had this effect on me. There have been quite a few Japanese TV dramas and movies. Sono Sion is another director with this ability. His movie Himizu really brought out repressed angst in me – memories of my own youth and reminded me a little of the frustrations I went through. His movie Love Exposure is a modern masterpiece. There are a lot of Japanese TV dramas that also have the ability to create an emotional release with their stories and messages.

Some other examples of Japanese drama’s are:

  • ‘White Spring’ –  a criminal, (played by Abe Hiroshi) is released from jail and then tries to reunite with his family, but finds his wife has remarried and his daughter raised by a small bakery owner. He must deal with the frustration of losing his past life and family and yet wanting to regain a relationship with them.
  • ‘I’m Mita, your housekeeper’ – a housekeeper, who travels from one job to another. She takes a job working for a family with an extremely  troubled past. She then sets about making them bring out all their emotions in a somewhat disturbing, chaotic and emotionally charged way. It is not for the faint hearted.
  • ‘Life in Additional Time’ –  when a person dies, they get given an additional ‘stoppage time’ where they can finish any last business, before their life is completely ended. This stoppage time can range from hours to days. The drama really makes us consider the things we think are really important in our life and what actually are not. One episode shows a nurse who commits suicide after she find out her boyfriend has cheated on her. She spends the whole episode talking to another middle-aged man, who she just meets, about life and trying out new foods. There is no action, no sentimentality – just a message that there is more in our life for us to experience, than we think.
  • ‘The Queen’s classroom’ (Japanese version) – a drama set in a junior school about bullying, with a deeper meaning of finding unity with each other. The teacher terrorises the students. The students bully each other. Only one girl wants to try to  create ‘positive memories’ of her school days and tries to unify everyone. In turn, then she gets bullied. At times, the story evokes a lot of sadness and pity, but her will carries through and it becomes a much more optimistic story.

The Japanese psyche

So I wondered why the Japanese can create so many dramas that bring out these emotional responses and I feel the answer lies in that – they desperately need it. The Japanese have one of the most stoic, non-expressive mentalities in the world. They will hold their emotions within. They can be bullied at work or school, they will undergo all manner of stresses, long work-hours, family pressures, exam stresses – but they will keep it all in. Then what will happen is that they will eat the pain until it becomes too much and then they will die.

Yes literally, they will die. Either it will be karoshi (death from overwork), or train suicide – jumping in front of trains, or any other suicide method. Or they will just lose themselves in some addiction – like porn (massive industry in Japan), or some kind of hentai (pervert) type behaviour e.g. taking photos of schoolgirls panties or groping women on trains. You think I’m exagerating? Not so.

I think the Japanese are an example of what happens if you don’t express emotions at all and keep it all inside. Emotions will find a way out – often in distorted ways. And this is why they have so many movies and dramas that really bring out the emotions. They need somethings to purge themselves – a catharsis. And these shows are one such way. It is not like anyone set out to make Japanese cry. It is more like the national psyche energetically desired it and so directors started making these types of dramas. Perhaps on a subconscious level, the Japanese know that crying is good for you and so they created these types of dramas.

Western movies: Sentimentality over subtlety

We don’t have these types of dramas in the West and if we do – they end up being overly sentimental (obviously so). For example, they will be a story about someone dying from cancer – which really doesn’t take any imagination – as come on – its obviously going to be sad.

The stories usually go something like this: – a young couple meet up, fall in love. Then one of them gets diagnosed with cancer or perhaps has already been diagnosed. Then they have treatments but it not going well. And it gets all sad and emotional with lots of crying and hugging and then finally the person dies and its all very sad.

Well, it’s basically a copy of real life and well, I just don’t think we gain from this. It only makes us unnecessarily  sad and may even bring up some painful memories for someone who may have actually gone through it. It is not really cathartic because it doesn’t help us expel our own hurts and stuck emotions. In the end, Our dramas just don’t have the sophistication of the Japanese.

An example from Star Trek

On the topic of suppressing emotions, a popular example can be found in Star Trek with Dr Spock the Vulcan. The Vulcans come from a deeply emotional species that found their emotions were so turbulent – so full of intense energy, it threatened to destroy them. They realised that in order to survive peacefully as a species, they had to learn to control their emotions through meditation and over mind-control techniques.

Although the Vulcans are a key species in the Federation world, Star Trek would have been a very dull series if it was only about the Vulcan’s. Dr Spock is a character of  contrast compared to Captain Kirk – who is a full-body representation of the exciting, erratic, wild, emotional ‘human’. Both characters provide a balance to each other. Without Spocks calming influence, Kirk’s emotions may well have led him into trouble. He would probably have become a pirate.

The Value of Emotions

The good: Emotions can give us immense joy. For example, the feeling we have when we fall in love for the first time is intense. The same with a kiss. The positive emotions we experience when meeting an old friend and laughing together makes life worthwhile.

The bad: Emotions can also be the source of suffering in our lives. It is not fully accepted in Western medicine that emotions are a cause of disease. However, in Traditional Oriental Medicine, emotions are seen as a cause of disease – particularly the emotions of anger, joy, fear, worry/pensiveness and grief/sadness.

For example, if we have too much of the emotion of sadness – it weakens the lungs. On a physical level, a really sad or depressed person may slump and their shoulders turn inwards. This act constricts the physical lung organ but also hinders the flow of energy that revolves around the lung. If it continues for a long time, it may eventually lead to a physical manifestation of this energetic blockage.

One emotion can counteract another

Emotions are seen as a cause of illness. But they can be used to heal. There are references to how ancient masters of Traditional Oriental Medicine used the power of one emotion to heal an overabundance of another. For example, there is a story of how  one patient was depressed.  A famous Chinese doctor saw him and rather than treat him, instead he told him things to upset him. The patient grew really angry and as a result, he realised that he had moved out of his depressive state and had become motivated to act.

This is a simple example and not all cases can be dealt with like this, but you get the message. However, I think if a client paid me to treat their depression and instead I told them, ‘you’re a slob, your house is a mess and your wife is cheating on you, with me‘, well, sure it’s likely, they won’t be depressed right then. Angry perhaps – and they’d probably hit me. But I’m not so sure they would thank me for curing their depression or even pay me.

Our emotions and mindset can energise us

Yet our emotions have a great power over our mental and physical states. Look at Donald Trump. Love or hate him, you have to wonder how this 70 year old man has the energy to campaign all throughout the USA, do one rally after another and then become President? Where does this energy come from? I believe it is the energy of enthusiasm. If instead, he had decided to say ‘well, I’ve been pretty successful with my property empire, my golf courses, my TV show and yes – I was in ‘Home Alone 2′, well maybe it’s time to retire and play golf for the rest of my life’ – I think that maybe he would have gotten old and slow and maybe just disappeared from public life. But a strong desire, a motivation to achieve another goal –  all gave him the energy of 10 young men.

Our emotions are our beacons in which we respond to human life experiences

Our emotional state is essentially our gauge in this world of experiences. Everything that happens to us has an effect on our wellbeing, our psyche and our mental state. This is more so the case, when we come to a situation where we, or a family member, are faced with a life-limiting illness, disease, bereavement or the potential loss of someone close to us. It is at these times, when we will experience the most challenging emotions of our lives.

Sometimes, our suffering experience can be very great. It is natural to want to switch it off. We’d like to put up a high wall where we don’t let the pain get in. And sometimes, doing so is necessary to be able to function in life. However,  the wall must not be set too high, otherwise we are in danger of becoming like the veritable Dr Spock. Not only do we block the pain, but we also throw away the good – like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Perhaps this could be one of the reasons, why depression and suicide is very high among medical practitioners. They face a lot of suffering on a daily basis. How do they deal with it? Cut it off, dispel it? Perhaps the best is to let it flow. We feel it – it allows us to feel empathy, it comes, then we let it go. So instead of becoming a wall, we become a river.

Healing and Crying

In an earlier about healing, I discussed the possibility that ‘healing’ is a much deeper process than ‘curing’. It involves the emotional, the spiritual, and the mental. Healing is about growth. It also works both ways. There is a relation between healing and crying. This is because crying and the release of tears has a healing effect on the body.

Ponticus

Here is a story that I find fascinating. It involves the the creation of the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins and a Christian monk in the year 345-399AD, called Ponticus. Ponticus was a lector (a kind of reader in church) and recognised as being an intellect, a talented orator and writer. He was promoted to the high position of deacon and lived in Constantinople, a bustling city.

Ponticus was so successful, that just like celebrities today have all sorts of temptations thrown at them – the same thing happened to him. Good food, wealth, woman and fame came to him. Ponticus became infatuated by a married woman, but then received a horrible vision. It was a kind of premonition that he was imprisoned by soldiers of the governor, at the request of the woman’s husband. He immediately fled from the city and went to Jerusalem. Yet, even then, he still had too much pride. He wore the best clothes, dandying himself around the streets and showing off.

Pride comes before a fall

And then personal disaster struck. Ponticus fell gravely ill. It was at this point, that he realised he needed to change. He took instruction to become a monk and began the process of catharsis by confessing all of his problems. Then he joined a community of monks and also withdrew from life for several years in the desert. It was here that he formulated one of the most intriguing concepts, which is not part of the bible. He began to categorise the various forms of temptation and made a comprehensive list. A list of eight evil thoughts and eight desires/temptations from which all sinful behaviour evolve from.

The deadly sins

These eight patterns of thought are gluttony, greed, sloth, sorrow (apathy – a state of being without passion), lust, anger and vainglory (or pride). This list was later revised two hundred years later by Pope Gregory into what is known as the ‘seven deadly sins’. These states are like chains. With these passions, the mind cannot be tranquil. It is dragged along by these passion filled-thoughts and cannot be tranquil.

What was more interesting to me, was that Evagrius Ponticus, believed that the utmost sign of true repentance was tears. That weeping – sometimes for days at a time and opening oneself up to god was an important process of catharsis. It is the crying, the weeping that formed an important part of Ponticus’s recovery – his own personal healing journey.

Oh What a Piece of Work is a Man

If I think of Charlton Heston in the movie Planet of the Apes, where he screams and shouts, with an air of disbelief and humour as to the ridiculousness of his situation, during his captivity by the Apes, There is something very raw and masculine in his performance. I feel it is an unabridged portrayal of male emotional expression. When I reflect on this scene, I think there is something beautiful in seeing a man express himself naturally, without restriction or fear of judgement. Where a man laughs freely when he is happy, or cries out when he is upset.

Perhaps this is why we find small toddlers so charming (as well as annoying). They do not repress their emotions. If they are angry, they become the manifestation of anger, with their temper tantrums. If they are happy, they smile and laugh and we can’t help feel that laugh penetrate our soul. We can’t help laughing with them. It makes us happy.

Children will cry intensely when they are upset. Sometimes it’s good for them as it helps them use up energy and releases any excess feelings. Afterwards, they can sometimes sleep deeply. It is like a workout for them. They show us that crying is good for you. They show us the real expression of emotion and it is very powerful. Then they get old and serious and not so charming. Just like adults.

Expressing emotion – No go zone

I am from the UK. People don’t show emotions except when people are drunk (which is really ugly to see). We are about as rigid as they come and well we take ourselves far too seriously. Most people are just so miserable looking. Perhaps its the weather? Or the food?

And can you imagine it? A grown man crying. It’s ridiculous. In my country, he would be called a pansy, a little girl. Men don’t cry. And if women cry, then they are just being hysterical. But look at Ponticus – surely a great man. His work still reaches us today. For him, crying was absolutely essential to heal this man.

Tears have great power. One reason is because they are a great release of tension – of stress. This is why crying is good for you. And perhaps, it is natural that people are moving from being overly stoic to overly expressive. We are moving from one extreme to another, until we find a more balanced place, somewhere in the middle – where we can express in a healthy way. And be all the more better for it.

So to finish, here are 7 reasons why crying is good for you:

  1. Relieves stress. When we are extremely stressed, its either a case of hold it in or let it out. Better out than in.
  2. Removes waste products from the body. Its been found that tears from stress contain more biological toxics than other types of tears such as when peeling onions. Its a way of detoxificating.
  3. Cleans the eyes – give your eyes a ‘car wash’. Tears lubricate and remove debris.
  4. Endorphins. Crying releases feel-good endorphins.
  5. Connect with the heart. When we have a strong emotional experience and cry, we may feel a strong sensation in the heart chakra. This shows the chakra is being activated and opening, which is all good for the body.
  6. Lets out bad emotions. There is something deeply cathartic about crying. If we have pain or a really difficult circumstance in life – we must cry. Otherwise that pain stays within and poisons us.
  7. Apparently, tears also contain lysozyme, a natural anti-bacterial which I assume will help your immune system.

So get crying already:

And if you struggle with crying, then I recommend you start off by watching some of the Japanese movies or dramas, I mentioned in part 1 of this article. ‘Love Exposure’ is a great movie. It may not make you cry, but it’s worth a watch and might change your perspective on life. Just make sure you don’t watch ‘Love Actually’ by mistake. Unless you want to cry tears of blood.