Crying in public gets a lot of unfavorable attention these days — especially if you’re male and over the age of three or four years — yet is otherwise awesome for your brain.
Among other benefits, like releasing natural (i.e. free) painkillers, crying metabolizes cortisol. Because cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone, less of it means more relief for your brain and body. Awesome.
So, why the social stigma? Why do we insist on associating emotions other than anger (the only socially acceptable “male” emotion) with weakness?
Over the years, I’ve learned to love crying in the company of others… most of the time.
In elementary school, I was the kid in class who cried all the time. “Self-control” was the only consistently besmirched area of my otherwise perfect report cards. I even had a guidance counselor once tell me to cut back on the “water works”. In retrospect, I was not great at managing stress through most of prepubescence.
Now, as an adult, I seek out tear-jerking movies and television show episodes for those special days when I need a good cry. I even (lightheartedly) refer to that stash as my emotional masturbation material and am always willing to share when others are in need.
It saddens me to hear people compulsively apologize for crying in my company the same way that I’m saddened by apologies for emotional venting. Tears can be powerful releasers of emotion, and in most non-professional settings, I’m a big fan of emotional release.
In the grand scheme of human existence, one of my all time favorite shared experiences is crying together with another person. To me, mutual tear shedding acknowledges and validates painful experiences. It allows you both to expose and explore vulnerabilities, which opens the door for valuable emotional bonding.
So come cry with me. Let’s cry, let’s cry away. My shoulder’s always open. 🙂