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Crying Real Tears and Having a Good Sob

Updated on March 26, 2011
My son, when I wouldn't let him have a biscuit - I'm aware that I could have him taken from me for this kind of child cruelty.
My son, when I wouldn't let him have a biscuit - I'm aware that I could have him taken from me for this kind of child cruelty.

It's perfectly normal, really.

Chatting to my friend yesterday, I realised that I haven't cried for a long time. She told me that she cries when she gets angry, that she blubbers away and it sort of negates her argument when she's in the middle of a good row. As she said that I realised that it's been a long time since I had a good cry. You know the kind, the proper sobbing with tears streaming down the face enough to require a hankie, the kind that leaves you feeling much better afterwards?

Thinking about this led me to wonder what it is about crying that can possibly make a person feel better. So let's have a little chat about that, shall we?

First of all let us analyse the different kinds of crying.

Silent crying

Silent crying can be done intentionally or unintentionally. Have you ever been watching a chick-flick with another person in the room, a really bad one, and something unexpectedly catches you by the throat and forms a lump, and threatens to burst out in the form of a choked sob? But you have to force yourself to stay composed, to concentrate very hard on not letting any tears escape your bottom lids, to will your tear ducts to drain especially quickly incase any of the other people in the room turn and see your eyes glistening in the light from the TV. And you dare not breathe very much incase you start to make those strange little rapid exhalations from the nose, evidence of an approaching sob. That kind of crying is intentionally silent, out of necessity. It would be shameful to be caught crying during a viewing of Bridget Jones.

Unintentional silent crying is much simpler. It's the kind of crying you might do when one of your children says something or does something kind unexpectedly, and you feel that you might burst with pride. Just one or two very small tears moisten the eyelashes, and the breathing does not alter. During this brief form of crying, speech is even possible without fear of the voice cracking or wavering.

Crying with laughter

This type of crying can be incredibly satisfying, but also particularly exhausting. Laughing so hard until tears stream down the face is a very good form of exercise. Unfortunately it is difficult to achieve this state of uncontrollable hilarity without formal training or a brand new DVD of Frankie Boyle or Sean Lock.

Warning: My partner has almost died with sobbing laughter on no less than four occasions when watching his favourite stand up comedians. Laughing to the point of savage tears is good exercise, but like any fitness regime, it should be used in moderation to avoid the risk of burn out and/or heart attack. People who suffer from asthma should seek medical advice before trialling this method of crying.

Crying that won't stop

This kind of crying is usually not to be laughed at, because it will typically have stemmed from some kind of grief or depression. Very sad, very serious, let's leave it alone, since we cannot give it a hug here.

However, sometimes you can experience this kind of crying for less serious reasons. It is then often dry-eyed, but accompanied by a variety of loud noises, ranging from a long drawn out moan to a hysterical screaming. Criers may often alternate between the moan and the scream, using a whimper from time to time when in need of a rest. The reasons for this cry could range from a relationship break up at the age of sixteen, to a misunderstanding over a stolen chip in the school canteen. In either case the only really effective solution is to issue the crier with a sharp slap across the face, and to offer some encouraging words of support such as 'Get A Grip!'. A good word to describe the kind of person who indulges in this kind of cry is 'wallower'.

But none of these are the kind of cry I am trying to find. I am looking for the whole body and soul cry, the one that cleanses the entire being, and leaves it feeling as though is has had a full massage and an enema. What I am wanting to experience is the kind of cry that requires a whole packet of those tissues with balsam on them that come in sevens. I might even need a cushion to clutch against my chest and under my chin with both arms, to stop my lungs and heart from falling out when I find this cry. The cry, which I will find, will make the tears flow fast and free, will make my nose run, and will make my breath come in short bursts that are impossible to spell but sound something like hiccuping gasps. My face will crumple into a frown and I will start to get a slight headache above the eyes. But be in no doubt, I will be enjoying myself enormously, and when I regain my composure I will be smiling a huge smile of relief.

I made some small attempts at achieving this state of emotional instability this morning, under the pretense of educating my youngest son in the classics - the Disney classics. Since it was a cold and damp morning, I had the perfect excuse for putting on Mary Poppins. I have often cried at some of the songs from that film. In particular, the song in which Jane and Michael recite their list of requirements for a new nanny has me in floods. 'Feed the Birds' is also a special favourite. But try as I might, today I could only squeeze out a quarter of a hankie's worth. Simply not good enough.

I will not give up. It has now become my mission, to enjoy the perfect sobbing session. I foresee the situation necessitating drastic measures: I am going to have to buy a DVD copy of West Side Story. And if that big gun fails, then it's going to have to be daddy of all weepers, Schindler's List. That will definitely do the trick.

But why do I feel the need to have a good cry? Let's have a very brief look at what happens when emotional tears are shed (brief because it's after midnight, and I'm very tired).

Some scientists believe that certain stress-related and stress-reducing hormones and chemicals are present in emotional tears, that are not detected in the tears shed when peeling onions or cycling into a strong wind on a dusty main road.1 Crying emotional tears could be our body's way of ridding itself of these used products. It could also be a way of getting rid of toxins that become present during times of stress. Prolactin seems to be a key word that stands out for me - I must be full of it right now, because I can find no other explanation for my need to cry. It is still somewhat of a mystery. Prolactin is prevalent in women at certain hormonal times of their lives, and can cause them to feel the need to cry. I have no stresses, no reasons to feel depressed, and I hardly ever even feel low (yes, I know, I'm very lucky), so chemicals are all that's left.

I will investigate this strange phenomenon further, since I sense that I have only scratched the surface. Check back at a later date for news of my scientific findings...


Update, 26th March 2011: I found my cry, as I was listening to the Rocky IV soundtrack!  Who'd've thunk?!


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