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Miscellaneous Musings

By Victor M. Parachin

* Have a Good Cry- By Victor M. Parachin
* Frequently Asked Questions About Crying
* The Healing Power of Tears
* Crying: Lies & Truth
* The Path of Tears
* Toxic tears: how crying keeps you healthy- by Charles Downey
Tears really can make you feel better!

At a community hospital in Chicago suburb, an eight-year-old girl asks, "May I cry or should I be brave?" It’s a question she poses moments before being taken to surgery for a leg amputation.

We share conflicting feelings about crying. On the one hand, shedding tears can show deep concern. On the other hand, might not tears convey a lack of courage?

At one time or another, everybody cries. The Old Testament tells us that King David wept on several occasions. And the New Testament reports that Jesus cried when He learned his good friend Lazarus had died. With great compassion, Christ also wept over the city of Jerusalem and its many inhabitants.

And recent statistics show that we’re a lot like Jesus in this respect: a majority of both me n and women say they cry. Yet there is, perhaps, no other element of living that carries so much confusion with it as the human tear.

Poets and novelists for years have known intuitively that crying is somehow good for us. William Shakespeare, for example, wrote, "To weep is to make less the dept of grief."

And poet Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote about a woman who learned her husband had been killed. "She must weep," the writer said, "or she will die."

Scientists are beginning to confirm the accuracy of such statements. Why is crying good for us? Tears, it seems, reduce tensions, remove toxins, and increase the body’s ability to heal itself. In short, scientists are concluding that people who cry enjoy better health.

Here are a few more things scientists are discovering about people, tears, and the benefits of crying.

Why do people often feel better after crying?

Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Colorado Medical School, works primarily with people who are mourning loved ones. "In my experience," he says, "I have observed changes in the physical expressions following the expression of tears. Not only do people feel better after crying, they also look better."

And according to Dr. William Frey, a biochemist and director of the Dry Eye and Tear Research Center in Minneapolis, Minn., one reason people might feel better after crying could be because they are "removing, in their tears, chemicals that build up during emotional stress." Frey’s research indicates that tears, along with other bodily secretions like perspiration, rid the body of various toxins and wastes.

As far back as 1957, it was known that emotional tears are chemically different from tears that result from eye irritation. Emotional tears contain more beta-endorphins, some of our bodies’ natural pain relievers, and protein.

In addition, researchers also are discovering that people who cry frequently enjoy better health overall. Margaret Crepeau, Ph.D., professor of nursing at Marquette University, believes healthy people view tears positively, while people plagued with various illnesses see them as unnecessary, even humiliating.

"I find," Crepeau says, "that well men and women cry more tears more often than and women with ulcers or colitis."

Consequently, at Marquette’s School of Nursing, students and professionals are urged not to automatically provide tranquilizers to weeping patients, but to let the tears do their own therapeutic work. "Laughter and tears," Crepeau says, "are two inherently natural medicines. We can reduce duress, let out negative feelings, and recharge. They truly are the body’s own best resources."

How often and why do people cry?

Most people shed tears more often than we would think. Thanks to William Frey, who had subjects keep "tear diaries" during a study conducted at the Dry Eye and Tear Research Center, a pattern emerges:
  • Sadness accounts for 49% of tears;
  • Happiness, 21%;
  • Anger, 10%
  • Sympathy, 7%
  • Anxiety 5%
  • Fear 4%

But even these statistics do not tell the whole story. Tears, it seems, reflect our very humanity. One man, a driven and successful executive, finds that he breaks into tears on the subway while reading about the debilitating poverty of a homeless woman with four children. One woman, a high-powered attorney in Chicago, weeps whenever she hears a Mozart concerto.

What if you can’t cry?

Since more and more research is giving credibility to the idea that good health is strongly connected to the shedding of tears, those who are unable to cry should try to get in touch with their deepest emotions.

For some this may mean therapy. One woman, normally a noncrier who grew up in a family where keeping a stiff upper lip was the rule, found herself crying deeply almost every time she met with her therapist. "There had been latent feelings bottled inside me for years," she says. "After every teary session I felt better."

Most people, however, find the tears flowing when they read a touching story or have thoughts of past sadness.

Should tears be controlled?

The simple answer is no. Very few people cry for the wrong reasons. Consider the man who rushed his daughter to a local hospital after she experienced a severe fall. Because tears were pouring down his cheeks, the emergency room doctor ordered the young father to stop crying.

Clearly, the doctor was wrong. Most people would do well to cry more often, and scientists as well as therapists and doctors are beginning to concur.

Can we cry too often?

There is, in fact, only one word of caution about crying. Says one psychotherapist, "People who cry easily should feel glad they’re in touch with their feelings. But if they’re crying a lot in response to criticism, they should try to get some counseling. This kind of crying is an alarm bell of a far deeper hurt; it could signify a loss of self-esteem that is triggered whenever anyone says anything negative."

Perhaps the best advice of all regarding tears comes from Charles Dickens. In Oliver Twist, Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, is a less than sympathetic character. But he’s got the right idea when he declares that crying "opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens the temper.

"So cry away"

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