In defense of tears

I hate crying but occasionally I do break down and cry. I cry when I’m sad, when I’m angry, when I’m frustrated and even sometimes when I’m happy. I always feel better, often relieved, after crying but also slightly ashamed. Crying makes me feel weak.

There’s such a stigma around crying. It’s seen as something that should be avoided. But since taking Anatomy classes I realised that everything in our body has a function, so tears must too. And it can’t be only to clean our eyes. Because then why would we cry over emotions?

Lately I’ve been wondering why exactly we cry so I did some research. I found out that we actually cry three kinds of tears (who knew?). The tears we cry to clean our eyes are different than the ones we cry for emotions. They have a different composition, which means that our body creates different types of tears, each for their own specific function.

  1. Basal tears Glands in our eyes constantly create an antibacterial liquid. These are basal tears and their job is to lubricate, nourish and protect our eyes.

  2. Reflex tears These tears protect the eyes from anything that could irritate them. The tears you cry when cutting an onion are reflex tears. Reflex tears are 98% water.

  3. Emotional tears Emotional tears contain stress hormones, endorphins and pain killers.  In comparison to the other two types of tears, emotional tears contain a lot more chemicals. We cry these tears because our body needs to release stress and pain and calm down.

The way I see it: Emotional crying is how our body wrings out excess emotion and pain. In order for our bodies to get rid of these emotions, we have to let ourselves feel them, and cry over them. Only then can we let them go. If we don’t, they just stay bottled up, and we all know what that leads to.

There’s nothing strong about blocking emotions. In fact, I think it takes courage to feel and express them. Now I know “having a good cry” is biologically the right thing to do, next time the need occurs I’ll let go and let my body do its job.

A fun fact I also uncovered during my research: the Japanese are so convinced by the idea of having a good cry that they have actual crying clubs. Yes, people get together specifically to have a good cry. Only in Japan … But maybe the Japanese are on to something.

TED Ed has a fun video on the three types of tears that you should definitely check out if you want to know more about crying.

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