Many men may feel ashamed or feel below their dignity to cry and shed tears in front of others, since they are afraid of being evaluated as weak minded. Crying is regarded as a negative trait not befitting to manliness. Many consider that it is feminine or womanish to shed tears and they try to suppress their feelings to prevent crying. But modern scientific researches claim that shedding tears is a powerful and effective way of relieving stress and cleansing the mind.
Several studies have found that crying releases endorphins, thereby promoting feelings of happiness and well-being. A 2008 study of over 3000 people found that crying made people feel better in difficult situations. Researchers suggest that inducing tears and crying can be used as a form of therapy to eliminate mental stress.
Centuries ago, the famous British Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, upheld the amazing healing power of crying in one of his poems. He begins the poem with these wonderful lines.
Home they brought her warrior dead
She nor swooned, nor uttered cry
All her maidens watching said,
‘She must weep or she will die’
The tragic death of the warrior was so shocking to his wife that she became motionless and mute, unable to express her utmost grief and agony. Her maidens knew that she might die in deep agony if she was unable to cry and shed tears in order to flush out the suppressed sorrow. So they were trying their best to make her weep or cry. They tried many possible methods and finally succeeded to make her cry and shed tears ‘like summer tempest’. Tennyson’s poem shows that the magical healing powers of tears were practically known even to the people of the 18th century.
Osho was strongly asserting the power of tears to cleanse your mind and body when he said; “Tears will take out the agony that is hidden inside you”. Osho believed that the process of crying and shedding tears is a form of meditation. In his Mystic rose meditation therapy crying and shedding tears are included as essential steps.
Teaching the powers of shedding tears
In Japan, a good number of schools and organisations are trying to promote a crying culture among their students and employees as a powerful technique for managing stress and mental health problems. It was Hidefumi Yoshida, a retired Japanese high school teacher, who took the initiative to educate the people of Japan on the amazing healing powers of crying by organising regular workshops and classes. He teamed up with Hideho Arita, a professor of Medicine at Toho University to spread the awareness about the power of tears to reduce stress. Yoshida told people; ‘If you cry once a week, you can live a stress free life.’ They organised crying clubs where the members can watch sad movies or TV shows and shed tears.
Yoshida recommends the following methods to shed tears.
- Listening to emotional music
- Watching sad emotional films or videos that may make people weep.
- Reading emotional stories or novels that will flood their eyes with tears
The Science of crying
William H. Frey, a biochemist and researcher at Ramsey Medical Centre in Minneapolis, explains the psychological and biochemical aspects of crying and the mysterious health benefits of shedding tears in his famous book: Crying: the Mystery of Tears’. He found that emotional tears contain stress hormones and other toxins, produced during stress. They are eliminated from your body during crying or weeping.
Frey also showed that women are more prone to crying than men. This is because of the higher levels of hormone, prolactin in women which is believed to promote the tendency to cry. Also, the level of testosterone which may reduce the tendency for crying is less in women and more in men. Moreover, the tendency for crying is generally seen different in different cultures.
Studies also suggest that, the production of endorphins and oxytocin are stimulated by crying. These chemicals make you feel good, ease pain and improve your mood. A 2014, study showed that crying activates parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), thereby helping people relax.
Jerry Bergman, the author of the book: ‘The Miracle of Tears’ warns us that suppressing tears increases stress levels, and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress such as high B.P., heart problems and peptic ulcers. Crying is a process of emotional cleansing, which releases the pent up emotions like grief, sorrow, frustration, anxiety anger etc.
Holistic health benefits of crying
A good number of research findings, have confirmed the holistic healing benefits of crying and shedding tears. Crying and weeping are our body’s own natural defence mechanism to protect us from the perils of stress, sorrow, grief and other negative emotions. The benefits of crying and tears can be broadly classified in to physiological, psychological, social and spiritual categories as follows.
Shedding tears can help you in a variety of ways. Tears protect your eyes by properly lubricating them and removing irritants. Tears can easily clear out the noxious particles from your eyes. Tears contain a chemical called Lysozyme which has got anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties and hence protect your eyes from infections. During crying or weeping tears flow down to the nostrils also through the tear ducts and keep them moist and bacteria free. The air inhaled to your lungs through the nostrils will be free from bacteria and viruses and thus your lungs and the entire respiratory system will also be protected from infections.
As tears lubricate the eye balls and eye lids, the dehydration of the eyes and other mucous membranes is prevented. Crying can ultimately improve one’s eye sight. It is found that much toxic chemicals are eliminated from your body through the flow of tears during crying.
Psychologists are of the opinion that crying will help individuals to release their sorrows, grief, anxiety, anger, frustration etc, even from the subconscious minds. According to Benedict Carey, the New York Times journalist, flow of tears is ‘emotional perspiration’. Psychologists warn that tearless grief bleeds internally.
It is found that crying stimulates the production of endorphins including oxytocin. These ‘feel good’ chemicals ease your pain, improve your mood and reduce your stress.
Sociologists believe that tears can strengthen human connections and social bonding. As Vingerhoets, a clinical psychologist and professor, Tilburg University, rightly pointed out; ‘We cry because we need other people’. Crying is an expression of one’s unconscious desire for getting others sympathy and consolation. It is a strong social signal that one needs help to resolve his distress and agony. It triggers empathy of others and make them extend their helping hands.
Tears are words that the heart can’t express. Your tears can trigger forgiveness and sympathy in others who are even aggressive or revengeful to you. Studies show that tears have got magical powers to improve interpersonal relations and community feelings.
‘Tears are summer showers to soul’; so sang the English Poet Alfred Austin. The famous U.S. painter and artist Eileen Mayhew reminds us of the amazing spiritual benefits of crying and shedding tears by her wise advice; ‘Let your tears come. Let them water your soul’.
Emotional tears can heal your heart and cleanse your soul. Crying is a process of self purification; physically, mentally and spiritually. Also it is a process of surrender and acceptance. You are submitting your ‘ego’ to the ultimate reality, the almighty. Your personal pride and prejudices are melting down in the process of crying and shedding tears. It is also found that crying can considerably reduce one’s agonizing feelings of guilt.
Osho believed and claimed that deep crying can become a ‘rebirth’. Let us not forget the advice of the U.S. poet Edwin Leibfreid; “Tears are soul’s baptism of cleansing. So never be ashamed of crying and shedding tears. Crying is a natural mechanism of self healing.”
In short, crying is an amazing process of physical detoxification, psychological cleansing and spiritual purification. As the famous American writer and speaker, Rita Schiano said; ‘Tears are God’s gift to us, our holy water. They heal us as they flow’.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. JOHN MUZHUTHETTU is a Human Resource Consultant, National Trainer, and Counselor. Formerly he was the Deputy Chief Engineer, Kerala State Electricity Board and is still working as an external faculty of HRD Programmes of KSEB. He is also a faculty of Department of Management Studies, Mar Augusthinose College, Ramapuram, under M.G.University, Kerala. He is the PG course co-ordinator of MHRM.
He is a columnist in several Magazines, like ‘Business Deepika’, ‘Creative Business’, ‘Donbosco’ etc. His articles have been published in many magazines and journals. His several speeches have been aired by All India Radio. His interviews on various subjects have been telecasted by Power Vision TV. He is the author of five best-selling books:
‘Stress-Manassasthra- Aathmeeya Pariharangel’. (Current Books, Thrissur) 4th Edition
Vijayiyude Vyakthithwam (Current Books, Thrissur)
Jeevitham Santhushtamakan, Nithya Yauvanam Nedan.(CSS, Thiruvalla)2ndEdition
Emotional Intelligence-Jeevithavijayathinu (CSS, Thiruvalla)
Vijayarahsyangal (Current Books, Thrissur)
As a trainer, he has conducted more than a thousand seminars and workshops for teachers, parents, students, executives and others, on several subjects like Stress Management, Time Management, Personality Development, Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual intelligence for Excellence, Communicative Skills, Assertiveness, Motivation, Study Skills, Effective Parenting, Counselling Skills etc. He is an external training faculty of Power Engineers Training and Research Centre of KSEB. He is an external faculty of IMG Cochin. He is also the Secretary of Upasana Cultural Centre, Thodupuzha.
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