It is often a social norm to console another individual when we see them crying. And the comforting words we provide them is “stop crying” and then sometimes we give them reasons to why they should stop crying. Sometimes it might involve comparisons of their plight to one of those more unfortunate than them, in an attempt to make them feel better somehow at their good fortune.
Are you hiding your emotions? Cry if you feel
Here is where we are going wrong, people. When you see someone cry over something, do let them cry. Sure, be there for them, lend a listening ear, but never tell them that they don’t have the right to be upset or to be crying. Not only is it not your place to say something like that, but also “crying” is often a self soothing behavior.
What does this mean?
When a child is born, its first life affirming behavior is to cry. It conveys to the world that oxygen is being drawn into the child’s lungs and a new life has begun. From a biological point of view, while a human cries, it helps in homeostasis of the body as well as mood. As Freud and Breur studied and explained in the late 1800s to mid 1900s, crying mainly helps in stress reduction and mood enhancement.
Apart from the benefits that the individuals themselves have from crying out their stress and sadness, it also has social advantages. Certain established and famous theories like attachment theory by Bowlby and behavioral evolution theory by Hasson has instigated how when we see another individual cry with its characteristic noises and facial expressions, it triggers the protective instinct in us and we gravitate towards them to console them and to temporarily put their needs ahead of ours. Crying helps to gain attention from one’s peers and hence why one cries when hurt and is in need of external care.
So in short, crying is not an act that shows weakness or something that is inherently embarrassing. Studies have actually shown that people who deal with extreme sadness and stressors, cope with them better when they let go and cry. This is a point to be noted because as a psychologist, I have encountered countless people who have problems with no solutions, of which they are aware of, but the reason they come to me is they need to stop feeling the sadness. And the only way to deal with sadness is to let yourself feel it completely.
It is a method to practice emotion focused coping of unwanted or intense emotions. It is something which in Freudian terms would be called catharsis, which is the process of letting out excess emotional energy through various actions, one of which is crying.
As we discuss the act of crying and how it helps you move ahead through the stages of grief or to cope with excessively intense positive or negative emotions, we can also see how it brings relief sometimes to pent up emotions. Sometimes the smallest things trigger it and we cry out a river after which we realize we feel relief.
Is it okay for men to cry?
Looking from a social point of view, men who cry have been considered weak and “emotional” as compared to women who cry, who are given much more liberty in this area. We should ask ourselves this now? Men or young boys who cry; is it really fair to tease them and call them weak and deny them all the aforementioned benefits of crying? For all you know, people who cry are mentally healthier and stronger, as they cleverly put down their burdens without carrying them along all the time.
To conclude, crying is not wrong, people. It is actually almost medicinal and is recommended when one feels overwhelmed. After letting out all the frustration and pent up anxiety, one can actually work on solution focused coping without its interference. The stereotype where men who cry are considered fragile must be avoided. When overdone, it can definitely have negative effects on how you view life and how people view you. But if not at all done, you might actually overload and malfunction.Are you hiding your emotions? Cry if you feel Click To Tweet
Gračanin, A., Bylsma, L. M., & Vingerhoets, A. J. (2014). Is crying a self-soothing behavior?. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 502.