The way I think about crying is all wrong. I’ll go so far as to say the way we think about crying is all wrong. I don’t mean that in a ‘HuffPo click-bait’ kind of way (‘Is The Way You Are Crying KILLING YOU?’).
The way I think about crying is all wrong. I’ll go so far as to say the way we think about crying is all wrong. I don’t mean that in a ‘HuffPo click-bait’ kind of way (‘Is The Way You Are Crying KILLING YOU?’). Why do we cry? It starts simply: When a baby cries it is hungry or tired or wet. After the first few years, it seems to get infinitely more complicated.
I mean that if you google ‘why do we cry,’ there is not really a cogent answer. There are many, many sort-of answers that we already know: Sadness, anger, happiness, pride, fear, frustration… these things make us cry. Right. But why? Crying is variously described as bawling, weeping, wailing, and literature’s seemingly ubiquitous ‘gently sobbing, ‘ or is it ‘quietly sobbing?’ Whichever it is, it seems physically impossible. But I digress. Again, like ‘we cry because we’re sad,’ these words describe a kind of crying, but offer no explanation as to why tears shoot out of our faces and we make certain noises.
Science tells us there are three kinds of tears, basal (keeps your eyes moist), reflex (onions and dust hurt your eyes, tears will cleanse them) and psychic tears. That’s right, PSYCHIC TEARS. Let’s assume they don’t mean psychic as in ‘unexplained phenomenon’ and assume they do mean ‘relating to the soul or mind’; again, a description, not an explanation. Inter-web research also taught me that these psychic tears contain leucine encephalin, a natural pain killer, which seems, frankly, a waste. I’m crying because I’m sad (or angry or whatever) not because my cheeks are in pain and need a good dose of oxy.
Why do we cry? Medical science seems to have failed us in providing an answer. Now, there is an evolutionary theory that suggests crying developed as a non-verbal form of communication to elicit empathy and sympathy. Aha! Helpful. This same theory goes further and says crying was used to signal submission and passivity to an on-coming attacker, which seems an awfully subtle and probably ineffectual defense in the face of a Sabre-toothed tiger. Not so helpful. But this does change the way I think about crying. As opposed to pure release or expression, crying is actually a specific communication. Good. But also, bad. Because crying can be the result of so many different things, to the observer it becomes an emotional Rorschach test. For example, it seems a lot adult interaction around crying goes like this: “Why are you crying?” “If you don’t know why I’m crying, then that’s why I’m crying!” Or something. I’m still not sure what I did wrong, but it was definitely something. “Why are you crying?” “I don’t know!” “Why are you crying?” “ARGGHHHH!” (This last example is another form of primitive communication) But lesson learned. I think.
Instead of ‘why do we cry,’ I guess the fact that we cry at all is the point. There are certain emotions that simply overwhelm the capacities of language; emotions that are pre-verbal and beyond-verbal. We reach a point where something larger is getting communicated. Maybe that’s the point. There specific reasons are not as important as the fact that someone is crying. Maybe we produce psychic tears because our heads and hearts are so full at times that to keep that fullness inside would make our eyes pop from our heads, literally, and some part of us just has to come out. Whatever is inside is so big, it must be expressed and not explained. And maybe instead of being met with a ‘why,’ it should be met with sympathy and empathy. Period.