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Crying – what is it for and why do we need it?

Crying is an emotional reaction that accompanies us from the first seconds of life. It is also often the first message we send to signal our presence in the world. Tears in the next stages of life and adolescence help us cope with the release of tension and stress, but as adults, we often try to suppress them or simply avoid them. This is a huge mistake! See for yourself that crying is our ally and emotional friend.

Emotion regulation system

Everyone’s emotional regulation system is very complicated but crying plays an extremely important role in it. The two-stage crying theory states that first there is a state of high arousal when the sympathetic system is active, and then a state of equilibrium and increased activity of the parasympathetic system. It is a quick change accompanied by a feeling of relaxation, letting go of emotions or surrendering to them, which is caused by a sudden drop in adrenaline. This is the moment when tears usually appear – when the adrenaline fades, we’ve spilt all our frustrations, screamed or completed complex and responsible tasks. Each of us has probably experienced situations where only after a crisis, e.g. after a car crash when we complete the necessary activities and formalities, our emotions overwhelm, and we start crying.

At the physical and emotional level, arousal first appears, accompanied by a state of mobilization to act, and when it wears off and the body returns to stabilization, the cry reflex appears. The body needs to release the excess tension, and crying is one of the most effective tools to do this.

Crying in the environment

The frequency of the cry reflex depends on many factors, such as temperament, openness or our individual emotions. The factor that enhances the beneficial function of crying is the environment in which we allow ourselves to release tension. If tears are met with acceptance, support from relatives and friends, or empathy of people who cry, then this process will be correct, and we will get a feeling of relief. Unfortunately, if we are mocked, ridiculed or we hear that “it is not appropriate for us to cry”, “crying is for the weak”, “boys/men do not cry” in such moments, then the sadness will deepen and misunderstanding will intensify and become tension.

It is worth noting that crying is beneficial in situations where it combats bad memories, helps to remember difficult situations or draws needed attention to yourself. However, crying loops of some kind, which plunge you into sadness or cause a long-term depressed mood while not being able to cry, may require consulting a specialist.

There will be time for a solution

When a loved one starts crying, we want to help them immediately – it’s a good and natural reflex. However, in such situations, we often give advice to “pull yourself together” or start a quick search for solutions to a sensitive problem. Meanwhile, it is worth remembering that the right time to act will come, and the body of the crying person must first restore its own balance and take a moment to rest after the accumulated and experienced tension. We should also remember that crying performs a physiological function of protection, a message to the environment, but above all, it is a healthy and necessary reaction of the body to what is happening in the emotional sphere. The process of crying is the process of cleansing, restoring balance and peace.