In Tears And Loving It – Is Crying Good For You?


The room is dark and full of strangers. The images on the screen touch something inside you, the dam breaks and you feel a torrent of tears engulfing your face. You hear the people around you sobbing and whimpering, just as you are. Together, you give in to all the emotions you’ve held on to, all the problems, all the difficulties you’ve faced and you push it all out. Unrepentant and unashamed of who you are.

Finally it is over. You stop, spent and relieved. The light snaps on. You smile timidly and look around, just like everyone else is doing. And suddenly, you realise that you are not alone, that even though you don’t know the others, for one brief moment, you were one. 

Sometimes, things are just too much. Life engulfs us with its ups and downs, its problems and events, its issues and incessant goings-on. We need to unwind, de-stress, detoxify. And crying, most of the time, is one of the perfect outlets to do exactly this.

If you enter a bookstore and find the self-help section, you will notice many books telling you how to ‘Do things with a smile’, how to face life with joy, how to laugh in the face of the storm. However, while in the west, laughter seems to be all the rage, in Japan, it is crying which is, currently, in demand.

Being a country well-known for its traditional fostering of emotional restraint, instead of promoting the bottling-up of feelings, Japan is now experiencing the so-called ‘crying boom‘. Top selling writers and film directors in Japan take pride in marketing their books and films by guaranteeing that their products are so full of emotion that they will make their readers and viewers cry. While crying clubs – places where people actually meet up to watch sad movies and cry together, are replacing bars, pubs and karaokes.

We are constantly told about the therapeutic value of laughter, but what about tears?

Tears are scientifically identified as falling under three types. There are basal tears, – which are basically the liquid our body produces to lubricate the eyes. There are reflex tears – which pop out whenever one bites his tongue, sneezes, or in other reflexive situations. And then there are the so-called psychic tears – which are those tears created by an overflow of emotion, such as tears of anger, tears of sorrow, or ironically, tears of joy.

The liquid which forms tears is made up of organic substances including oils, antibodies, enzymes and salt. Different types of tears have different molecules. Dr William Frey, an American bio-chemist, concluded that since emotional tears contain protein-based hormones, which are released when we are stressed, having a good cry really does make you feel better, since those chemicals which build up in the body during times of stress, are dispelled and discharged when one gets rid of one’s excess emotions through tears.

Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher, who was fascinated with the composition and diversity of tears, published a project entitled ‘The Topography of Tears‘ (2010). This consists of around 100 photos of different kinds of tears, taken under a microscopic lens, where Fisher showed how tears stemming from sadness, joy, irritation and many other human emotions, are exquisitely and artistically different.

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