A psychiatrist writes, "I've witnessed time and again the healing power of tears." But what happens when time just makes you weepier?
Writing in the Huffington Post, Dr. Judith Orloff extols not only the physical (i.e. eye-lubricating) benefits of tears, but their emotional benefits as well. She suggests,
Try to let go of outmoded, untrue conceptions about crying. It is good to cry. It is healthy to cry. This helps to emotionally clear sadness and stress. Crying is also essential to resolve grief, when waves of tears periodically come over us after we experience a loss. Tears help us process the loss so we can keep living with open hearts. Otherwise, we are a set up for depression if we suppress these potent feelings. When a friend apologized for curling up in the fetal position on my floor, weeping, depressed over a failing romance, I told her, "Your tears blessed my floor. There is nothing to apologize for."
Okay, it's all a little frou-frou-y. And while we've all been told about the benefits of letting it all out, the various social and professional costs of crying can make it harder to do as an adult. Except for me it's gotten easier. Almost disturbingly so.
Historically, I haven't really been a crier. In my teens and early twenties I occasionally cried when I was really worried about something, or when I was really angry. But sorrow left me pensive rather than tearful, I was totally unfamiliar with tears of joy, and unlike my mom — who cried at Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar acceptance, for fuck's sake — I was very unlikely to respond to the emotional outpourings of others with my own. Sometimes I worried that I was a little numb, but mostly, I didn't worry about it at all.
The first hint that things were changing was when I was in Iowa, and the state legalized gay marriage. Reading about couples finally granted equal rights, I started choking up. I felt sort of presumptuous — I was neither gay nor in any position to be married, so it wasn't even really my thing to cry about. I did not, needless to say, give my tears the kind of free rein Orloff might recommend. But despite this lack of encouragement, I have since found myself getting wet-eyed at the following: people being nice to other people, especially if said other people are very sad; weddings; the deaths of famous people I do not know; and fucking kittens. The last is just embarrassing, and in all cases I tend to give myself a stern talking-to rather than letting the tears flow. But it's kind of disturbing that I get more weepy as I get farther away from childhood. When I'm old, am I just going to be sobbing all the time?
Annie Dillard (though, sadly, I haven't been able to find the exact quotation) has written about growing more sensitive to the world as she gets older, rather than less, and maybe this is common. Maybe rather than hardening as we get older, the boundaries between us and other people (and kittens) actually soften and become porous, leaving us more likely to be moved to tears. I guess this would be a good thing. But it's still pretty embarrassing.
Image via Serg Zastavkin/Shutterstock.com.
The Health Benefits Of Tears [Huffington Post]