What is crying anyway and why do we do it? Is there more to crying then being sad or happy? Here’s my theory on the matter.
Ah…. the thing all people everywhere fear the most – crying. But why? What is it about this physiological action that makes us so uncomfortable? Furthermore, why does the act of crying weird us out so badly? In my view, I think these are questions worth exploring.
Firstly, I must say that this article is more speculative, rather than fact. I think it’s important for everyone to know that. I’m not big on spreading misinformation. What I am, however, is putting forth a theory that attempts to make sense of this interesting biological function.
Surprisingly, there’s very little data out there on the subject of crying. So, this is my best guess based on what is known about what makes us tic. Here goes nothing.
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So, what is crying anyway? Why do humans have such seemingly strong reactions to both joy and pain?
Firstly, I think it’s important to understand that pain is pain. Whether it be mental or physical, it’s all processed through the same biological mechanisms – you. Therefore, it’s all relevant. More than that though, pain needs to be released and therefore managed.
We all need something to re-regulate ourselves when pain becomes too overwhelming. To understand this better, we must learn that the human as a biological entity will always want to be at a steady-state, or homeostasis. How does it achieve this? Well, in this case, by crying.
I think of crying as a relief valve that allows for a watery release of pain. Or in the case of being overly joyed, laughing so hard it hurts, tears flow because we are laughing so hard that for all intents and purposes, our bodies have hit the peak of their tolerance. What do you get when you’re in this state? Tears.
Facts about tears
This release is why I think we say things like “I had a good cry and now I feel better.” Or “I laughed so hard, I cried.” Similarly, we also cry when in intense physical pain and when someone or something scares us out of our shoes.
And in my mind, this makes sense. When we choose to use mindfulness for example, we are, in some cases, attempting to quell our anxiety. Essentially, decreasing our anxiety gets us closer to a homeostatic plane.
So, if we were to pick out the one word to describe why we cry, it could be – overwhelmed.
Or to think of crying another way, when a computer gets too hot, its fan kicks in to keep it cool. You can think of this as a computer’s way of crying. The fan brings it back into the realm of homeostasis in a sense. essentially, the cooler the processor, the Better it operates.
Why crying makes us so uncomfortable.
You’re sitting down and having a heart to heart with a good friend. And you find yourself really opening up. Perhaps your spouse has cheated on you, you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, or have a long-held and painful memory from childhood.
Whatever the scenario might be, you feel the tears flowing up and out of your tear ducts. What do you do? You end up trying to stop the flow, turn away slightly and say, “I’m sorry.” My feeling on the shame associated with it is that we want to retreat because we feel vulnerable. Socially, we feel stupid, but maybe we feel this way because we are raised to.?
Or maybe it’s innate? What if our natural inclination is to try and “protect ourselves” for survival – perhaps it’s both.
One thing we do know is that throughout human history, we developed ways to make ourselves less vulnerable to predators. In other words, other humans and predatory creatures would look for reasons to capitalize on our weaknesses.
While my ideas here are conjecture, it nonetheless is plausible we would want to avoid crying so as not to be exploited.
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At the end of the day, our tendency to want to avoid shedding tears at all costs could very well be a result of social pressure. Whatever the case, I think we cry so as to re-regulate our state of normal functioning.
Finally, what can we take from my theory on why we cry? Well, that it is, in fact, ok to cry. You can think of it as a mental health healer and a way to cope. Go ahead and let mother nature’s relief valve help you deal with your pain in a healthy, natural, and remarkably effective way.
So, what do you think we cry? Let us know your thoughts.