When I Want to Cry, I Don’t...and Then I Start Crying for Nothing

05 September, 2017

Crying is an infinitely complex act, and it’s also infinitely moving. In fact, science still offers us an incomplete answer when it tries to explain why crying takes place. In humans, it is a reaction associated with strong emotional states, whether happiness or misery. In some animals, who also let tears flow from their eyes, the same motivations apply.

Crying is basically the first way we have to manifest ourselves to the world. It’s the foundation of our communication during the first months of life. A way for us to say “I’m here” and “I need others”. It precedes language and, simultaneously, transcends it.

“The tears we spill are bitter, but even more bitter are those we keep within.”
-Irish Proverb-

Every healthy human being knows what it is like to cry. Sometimes due to a suffering for which you have no more words. Other times because laughter crosses the limit that turns it into tears. Sometimes out of simple excitement. And also at times, we cry when we experience clashing emotions, without knowing why.

The title paraphrases a poem by Ruben Dario: “Youth, divine treasure, you are already leaving to never come back! When I want to cry, I don’t. And sometimes I do for no reason at all…” This is how we feel during those moments in life in which we need strength to move forward, but a tear tells us to pause for a moment.

Also, in moments of great inner transformations, tears can pour out at any moment. Every great change implies saying goodbye to another era, moments that will never come back. Even if these moments were filled with bad times, they were of great significance in your life. In moments of change, we become very sensitive to everything, and we tend to cry without something really motivating it.

Emotional tears have a different composition than the so-called “basal tears”. The latter are the ones produced when the eye needs to lubricate itself. Or also, when it is irritated (for example, when you’re cutting onions). Scientists discovered that emotional tears have more proteins and more hormones associated with stress. That’s why the idea that crying is a liberating act is a statement with scientific bases.

Crying is also a language, a form of communication. It appears when words simply aren’t enough to define an emotion. Like when you accomplish something, and it is a determining factor in your life. Or, when you witness something which moves every fiber of your being. That’s why they say that crying is highly complex, since it is associated with very profound emotions. And, even so, there is no theory which explains it in its entirety.

Those who brag about not crying suffer from something that could be defined as emotional illiteracy. The psychoanalyst Jean Allouch speaks about a period of time called “dry grief”. He postulates that nowadays people don’t want to cry, even when they have obvious and worthy motives to do so. He also suggests that this limitation could be the base of many forms of depression. Crying isn’t a sign of weakness, but of spontaneity. That’s why you can fearlessly say: let the crying begin!