When you bury your emotions, they have a way of coming out anywaysI always keep tissues in my counseling office. For a lot of people, once they start to open up, the emotions just find their way to the surface. Those emotions have been buried and pushed down long enough and the body knows. It needs an outlet. It needs to cry.
It's interesting that people often apologize when they start to cry in my office. I always reassure them that tears are a perfectly normal and healthy part of getting better. I point them in the direction of the tissue box. I like to think of the box as a reminder that they are not alone in feeling overwhelmed. Lots of people cry in my office.
You don't need to apologize for your tears; they are a sign of your humanity
I have one client who jokes with me abut how I like to make him cry. He's a stocky, muscular guy who played football in college. It's not exactly true that I like to make him cry, but I am grateful that he feels comfortable enough to let his feelings out. I am thankful, too, that someone who appears so tough on the outside now has a place where he doesn't have to keep it all together. The counseling office is a safe place for him.
I had another client, Oscar, who came in this week to talk about the sense of depression that had overcome him. Depression is not a common experience for him. He has been through it a few times in his life, but those times were few and far between and they had not lasted long. Oscar is a high-powered businessman. He's logical, confident, driven, and not highly emotional. If anything, anxiety is his go-to emotion. So I was a bit surprised when he started crying almost uncontrollably in our session.
We all need places in our lives where we feel safe enough to cry
Society does not encourage crying. We're embarrassed to cry in front of other people. I have had clients who had a parent die and did not feel they had the right to cry at the funeral. They got the message that they had to be strong and keep it together. That sucks. And it gives the clear signal that crying is weakness, crying is for the weak, crying is bad.
Our bodies need to cry to get our needs met
That is just plain WRONG. Our bodies were made to cry as a natural and healthy way to get our needs met. If you hold back the tears, you are missing out on a lot of benefits. This article in Medical News discusses 8 benefits of crying. So cry away when you need to do so. It can be regenerating.
According to the Medical News article, there are eight primary benefits of crying. The following list below is quoted directly:
1. Has a soothing effect
Self-soothing is when people:
A 2014 study found that crying may have a direct, self-soothing effect on people. The study explained how crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which helps people relax.
- regulate their own emotions
- calm themselves
- reduce their own distress
2. Gets support from othersAs well as helping people self-soothe, crying can help people get support from others around them.
As this 2016 study explains, crying is primarily an attachment behavior, as it rallies support from the people around us. This is known as an interpersonal or social benefit.
3. Helps to relieve pain
Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, shedding emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins.
These chemicals make people feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain. In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being.
4. Enhances moodCrying may help lift people's spirits and make them feel better. As well as relieving pain, oxytocin and endorphins can help improve mood. This is why they are often known as "feel good" chemicals.
5. Releases toxins and relieves stressWhen humans cry in response to stress, their tears contain a number of stress hormones and other chemicals.
Researchers believe that crying could reduce the levels of these chemicals in the body, which could, in turn, reduce stress. More research is needed into this area, however, to confirm this.
6. Aids sleep
A small study in 2015 found that crying can help babies sleep better. Whether crying has the same sleep-enhancing effect on adults is yet to be researched.
However, it follows that the calming, mood-enhancing, and pain-relieving effects of crying above may help a person fall asleep more easily.
7. Fights bacteria
Crying helps to kill bacteria and keep the eyes clean as tears contain a fluid called lysozyme. A 2011 study found that lysozyme had such powerful antimicrobial properties that it could even help to reduce risks presented by bioterror agents, such as anthrax.
8. Improves vision
Basal tears, which are released every time a person blinks, help to keep the eyes moist and prevent mucous membranes from drying out.As the National Eye Institute explains, the lubricating effect of basal tears helps people to see more clearly. When the membranes dry out, vision can become blurry.