If you are one of those who find it difficult to shed tears in times of emotional distress, try giving yourself private times just to focus on your sadness. Let yourself feel the grief and whatever other emotions come up. That may help the tears of healing to come.
Feeling sad? Grieving a loss? Anticipating a death? Sit yourself down, give yourself a hug and let the tears and healing begin.
Shedding tears is a uniquely human response to emotional distress, sadness being the most typical emotion leading to tears. And sadness is the emotion almost universally associated with grief…
Unfortunately, people are often afraid of crying. Among men in many Western societies, crying is seen as a sign of weakness. Boys are told, “Big boys don’t cry,” or, “Crying is for girls.”
Both men and women often associate crying with the loss of control. Have you ever heard someone say, “If I start crying, I will never stop?”
No one who reaches adulthood escapes loss. You grieve deaths, losses through divorce, job loss, and loss through ill health. Furthermore, you can find yourself grieving in anticipation of any of these, a sort of “grieving in advance.” And with the grief comes tears and with tears comes healing.
The funeral is the one public event where it is socially acceptable to cry. Even those “manly” beings who pride themselves on never crying often shed a few tears at funerals.
“Weeping is cleansing.” “Tears will wash away your sorrows.” Such admonitions have been around for centuries. More recently, I have heard the statement, “Sorrow needs to be metabolized.” But is there a biological basis for any of this?
Biochemist Dr. William Frey, noting that exhaling urinating defecating and sweating all release toxic substances from the body, concluded that tears serve a similar function of releasing toxins. He found that tears induced by stress have a higher protein content than tears induced by an irritant such as peeling onions. His research suggested that tears help the body to get rid of the harmful stress-induced chemicals.
Other research found that people with stress-induced disorders were more likely than healthy people to regard crying as a sign of weakness or loss of control. We can only speculate that their inability to let themselves cry contributed to the buildup of stress hormones, the weakening of their bodies’ immune systems, and ultimately manifested in stress-induced disorders.
Psychologists have argued for a long time that weeping is an important part of the healing process. Psychologically, weeping involves confronting your grief. You feel good after “a good cry.” It seems that underlying the psychological healing is a reduction in stress hormone load. No wonder it feels good afterwards!
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Dr. Neill Neill retired his psychology practice at the end of 2013. He maintains an active coaching practice via telephone or Skype with select clients dealing with alcoholic husbands or ex-husbands. Check out his book, Living with a Functioning Alcoholic: A Woman's Survival Guide. http://drneillneill.com