No one, probably, has not yet experienced, at least once, the painful yet surprisingly satisfying and gracefully soothing phenomenon of crying. It was the very first thing we did when delivered from our mother’s womb. The doctor, perhaps, felt a sense of assurance of the operation when she heard our scream of life. Our mother lying in bed, despite exhaustion, was able to radiate a heart-warming smile when she saw us, welcoming us to this world.
Yet our tears at that moment were only the beginning of many. We’ll come to experience it even more often as months go by. As toddlers, we almost do it every day. And, we don’t stop until a long convincing and comforting from our parents. Perhaps we didn’t get the toy we want; we didn’t get our favorite food; we didn’t get to the place we like to be, so, we loudly whine.
However, as years go by, the frequency of our cries becomes less. Yet at the same time, the cries become more and more intensified. In our adulthood, we don’t cry over small things anymore. As our knowledge of the meaning of this world grows deeper, and as our experiences grow profound, so do our tears. The clear salty liquid drops become heavier and harder to bear.
But as adults, we learned that we need to be strong. Crying, as the majority considers, is a sign of weakness. It signifies surrender. For that reason, most of us deliberately hold back our tears. We don’t want to look like a frail child in front of society. Self-portrait has never been important than before — not even as in the Early Renaissance! We like to portray ourselves as the matured, the mentally strong, and firm type of person. We try to avoid emitting the slightest sign of weakness on our part. We try to avoid crying as much as we can.
Unfortunately, although our intention to keep from crying is good, our effort actually has detrimental and unwanted effects on our own. Studies indicate that we shouldn’t ever hold back our tears, and instead let it flow to achieve a healthier life.
Psychology of Crying
There are 3 types of tears. But the main, powerful — and what we are very concerned of — type of tear is the emotional tear. While the other type of tears, basal and reflective, are mainly composed of water and some antibacterial compounds, the emotional tear is found to be very different from the two. Aside from having higher concentration of protein-based hormones, it is found to have other chemical compounds that are natural painkillers such as leucine-enkephalin, an endorphin that reduces stress and improves mood.
Looking just at the composition of our tears, it is quite obvious why our body wants to cry when we are, for instance, in extreme sadness. Our body wants to let out the stress and wants to kill the pain of our melancholy. It wants to release the tension to bring emotional and physical balance. When we are stressed our body produces chemical substances that build up in our system which elevate our blood pressure and accelerate our heartbeat. Crying helps expel those chemicals from our body to bring forth tranquility.
Crying is a natural instinct of Homo sapiens as well as of a few other animals. Nature allowed our evolution of shedding tears, meaning it is essential for our survival. It’s as natural as the phenomenon of hunger and thirst. When we hold back our tears, we’re denying the need of our body. It’s similar to not eating although we feel hungry; not drinking although we feel thirsty. And, of course, we know that it would cause serious negative effects on our own, especially when done extra.
In Japan, there are clubs intended to urge people to cry. Rui-katso, which translates to “tear-seeking”, is a session which Japanese people of different age and gender participates in. Inside the club tear-inducing movies, videos, songs are played to inspire a good time of weeping. After the sessions, people find themselves to have a sense of refreshment. One participant says it’s as if she had taken a bath.
The founders of the craze want to point out the importance and scientifically proven benefits of crying. The classic literature of Japan, says one instructor, has many references to crying. The archaic society had more liberty of sobbing whereas in modern Japanese world, crying seems impermissible. Many people — not only in Japan — hold back from crying. It has been negatively understood. Now, the rui-katso clubs aim to correct the public perception to reintegrate crying into society again.
But perhaps science is too dull to convince our tears to fall down. Researches published in journals often lack context and story that can help us absorb ideas. For, as human beings, we are more inclined to learn lessons from stories and analogies. That being said, we might find it helpful to look at our long source of knowledge and inspiration: art.
We can pull some insight from the painting “Rain” by Vincent van Gogh. The piece depicts a field blurred by the pouring rain. It suggests, implicitly, that rain is an inevitable part of life. That our sunny meadow will once in a while be stormed by sadness. However, nothing much to worry about; rain is a vital component of life. It may seem to destroy our comfort, but it actually secretly nourishes our paddy with the nutrients and minerals it contains. It might make us gloomy, melancholic, but rain is a blessing in disguise wrapped in a dark-themed sheath.
Rain, similar to tears, is perceived as a negative element in our modern world. We need to look back a bit to the earlier times, wherein rain was a beautiful subject. It wasn’t avoided; people prayed to Gods for rain to fall. Rain secures a good harvest for the next months that will feed families, nurture children, and maintain the town’s well-being. Comparably, crying do us as much benefit as the rain: it feeds our soul, nurtures our hearts, and brings balance to our minds. Just like how the rain washes away the dirt on the streets, tears clean off the debris from the insides of our breasts.
Van Gogh pointed this out in the succeeding year by painting the field again. On the next painting, “Wheat Fields After the Rain,” the paddock is now bright and teeming with grains indicating good health and joy. It highlights that after the storm there will be sunshine, and indeed there is. From a sad and sorrowful scene, it transformed to a vibrant and pleasing site. Van Gogh promises that rain will one day pass. But, it will only pass if we let it, otherwise it shall continue to darken the sky and block the light to our paddocks.
So, we should definitely let our tears fall. We should weep as much as our body needs. And, when we finally do, let’s remember that a genius artist is with us.