Lessons from Ponticus. Crying as a part of healing…

This article is part 2 of – ‘7 Reasons why crying is good for you‘.

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.

 

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