Dr Dale Peterson, crying, healthy response

For Crying Out Loud!

For Crying Out Loud!

© 2000 Dr. Dale Peterson; © 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

I could always tell when my maternal grandfather was upset or didn’t agree with something that was being said. “Oh, for cryin’ out loud!” was his standard response. Yet, for the hundreds of times I heard him use the phrase I don’t ever recall actually seeing my grandfather shed a tear.

I watched my father endure severe cuts and bruises, lose his job, suffer physical and financial hardships and even the deaths of close friends and family members without tearfulness. Such a show of emotion was unacceptable to him. I can only guess when he learned not to cry.

I am certain that neither my father nor my grandfather were born without the ability to cry. I have delivered many babies over the years. Each time a new baby arrived I would tell the parents, “Babies come with guarantees. They are guaranteed to sneeze, they are guaranteed to hiccup, they are guaranteed to wet & mess their diapers, & they are guaranteed to cry – sometimes because they are hungry, sometimes because they are wet, sometimes because something is pinching or poking them, and sometimes they will just cry!”

The infants have never let me down. The guarantees have held true with each new arrival. Only as the infant turns into a toddler and the toddler becomes a child does he or she learn that spontaneous crying is to be discouraged. “You’re a big boy now, and big boys don’t cry,” the young man is told. “Don’t be such a baby,” the girl is admonished. Slowly the tears dry up and a progressively greater stimulus is needed to trigger them. In some cases they stop forever.

Human beings are designed to cry. I was taught the anatomy of the lacrimal glands and ducts in medical school. Knowing the anatomy of the tear apparatus and understanding the mechanisms that cause them to flow are two very different things, however. I don’t recall every hearing a lecture on the benefits of crying, nor do I recall seeing an article in a peer-reviewed journal on the subject. This is unfortunate, for tears play an enormously important role in maintaining our health.

Tears are triggered under incredibly diverse circumstances. It is as likely to see people crying at a wedding as at a funeral. We may weep when watching a sad movie, but are likely to have tears running down our cheeks when viewing something that causes us to laugh uproariously. Team members and their supporters are known to cry after losing a championship game, but the victors and their supporters often seen shedding tears of joy.

At times we may cry because we are experiencing pain, at other times we because we are overflowing with delight.

Yes, we are designed to cry. The shortest verse in the Bible is at the same time the most profound. It reads simply, “Jesus wept.” The Son of God, He who was able to restore His friend Lazarus to life, wept as he shared the grief of those He loved. His is an example we should be willing to follow.

The shedding of tears is simultaneously an outward expression of emotional intensity and a release of passions that are too strong to be kept inside. Through tears we demonstrate to others how we have been affected by what has transpired. It is a signal for them to share our joys and divide our sorrows. When we fail to demonstrate our level of emotion to others we are unlikely to receive the care and support they would like to give.

There is a greater price than loss of attention to be paid for keeping tears in check, however. When we fail to cry in appropriate situations the emotions that should have evoked the tears remain trapped, like the waters of a reservoir that has no outlet. Pent up emotions take a terrible toll on physical well being. Week by week, month by month, & year by year new events add to the emotional pressure.

If periodic releases of water do not take place a reservoir will eventually fill to the point that the dam bursts or the rivers filling it will eventually overflow their banks and cause damage to adjacent property.

We are designed to cry. We can cry a little bit now and then or we can keep things inside until the dam bursts with an uncontrollable flood of tears and sobs or the back pressure leads to a breakdown of one or more body systems.

The next time you find yourself in an emotional circumstance give yourself permission to cry a bit. I am confident that you will feel much better once you have done so. You will once again remember how, as a child, you could shed a few tears and quickly move on leaving the pain of the moment behind. You will begin to realize that there are good reasons for cryin’ out loud!

Receive the latest Wellness Updates and News. Subscribe now at WellnessClubsofAmerica.com