In the below column, Dr. Cara Wheeler urges us not to shy away from a good cry.
By Cara Wheeler, Psy.D
Integrated Behaviorist – The Corvallis Clinic
I have a lot of patients tell me that they don’t cry or they don’t cry in front of people. They then tell me that early in life they received the message that tears were bad because crying showed personal weakness, or they were berated because of their tears. I have others who state that they don’t want to cry around their colleagues because others may perceive them as being overly emotional and therefore not qualified for a professional role.
Sheesh!!!! It seem like there are a lot of rules (spoken and unspoken) about crying going around. This begs the question: “Why do we cry then?” Science has shown that tears actually help us feel better. Our tears formed by emotion are filled with natural emotional pain relievers: prolactin, adrenocorticotropic, and leucine encephalin. And YES – they help us feel better.
I’ll never forget a time in college when I was having a particularly hard time in life. I found myself sobbing to one of my mentors and I realized that not only were my eyes crying, but my nose was too. I said out loud (between sobs with a bit of a giggle), “Well, that’s attractive.” I’ll never forget what he said to me: “Cara, it is not supposed to be attractive. It’s supposed to be healing; tears are there for a reason.”
Now, as natural and healthy a good cry might be, consider that frequent crying could be a sign of mental health concerns, such as depression or anxiety. It might also mean that someone does not have adequate support or enough coping resources. If this is the case, it is time to ask for help from a mental health professional.
But in general, if you are going through the occasional bad stretch, don’t be afraid of your own tears. It’s just a little healing water. We cry because we’re human, and we can survive getting a little wet. Don’t fret– crying is merely your humanity on display.
Dr. Cara Wheeler is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in The Corvallis Clinic Integrated Behavioral Health Department. For details on what Integrated Behavioral Health is all about, go to Clinic Integrated Behavioral Health.