A friend was talking to me over lunch yesterday, essentially about insensitive mis-treatment of someone by a government agent. Suddenly I realized I was about to cry. For some reason my whole being said “stop” to that feeling, and I said out loud, “No I’m not!”
Everything about my first tearing up response seemed to represent powerlessness, and I could see that getting in touch with anger, and letting it be energy to fuel action, was a healthier response.
So, is crying an act of powerlessness? We begin at birth with crying, to communicate needs. Very slowly we move from crying to words, until we use words most of the time. From then on, we cry mainly in emotional reactions to life events.
Jodi DeLuca, PhD, a neuropsychologist at Tampa General Hospital in Florida, says ”When you cry, it’s a signal you need to address something.” Among other things, it may mean you are frustrated, overwhelmed or even just trying to get someone’s attention, (http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/why-we-cry-the-truth-about-tearing-up)
Gender differences are interesting too:
“Women who report anxiety, as well as those who are extroverted and empathetic, are more likely to say they feel comfortable crying, ”according to a 2008 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.
Personally, I think a lot of tears are related to powerlessness, which I suspect is one of the reasons women cry more easily than men. Often men express the wish that they were “able” to cry, but I find this ironic, because in many cases I suspect crying is a substitute for action. And I would also say that women used to cry more – when they were more powerless – and likewise probably cry less now, as their power and assertiveness increase.
If all of this is true then I should find myself becoming increasingly active, and crying less often. In fact, this is what has been happening.
But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions….