Cry. We have all cried at some point, both in childhood and in adulthood. Something happens that causes some internal tension, our eyes get wet, we are filled with tears and we finally burst into tears.
And although for many it is something uncomfortable and often socially hidden, the truth is that we are faced with a very healthy and useful act for our well-being. Now why are we crying? What can make us want to cry? Why do we sometimes cry for no reason? Let’s take a look at it throughout this article.
Crying and wanting to cry: what’s going on?
Crying is a complex process, which starts from a physiological mechanism that we have innately, and although it is often thought to be unique to humans, it is also shared with other animals. however, crying for emotional causes is more complex than it looks, Because throughout our lives, we learn to cry as a mechanism to release emotional tension: crying out of grief, joy or anger are examples of this.
Although sometimes tears appear out of nowhere, as a rule, when we are faced with a cry that results from an emotion, the person has already noticed a sensation generally described as suffocation or an obstruction in the chest or esophagus. , as well as a difficulty being sobs). In other words, it is not uncommon to notice that we want to cry.
In this process, the brain plays a key role, which begins to develop at the attentional level. At this time, the brain stem, cerebellum and various cranial pairs (III, IV, V and VII) are activated. Subsequently, the ascending reticular formation (which controls brain activation) is largely activated, which corresponds to the increase in tension and energy felt just before bursting into tears. After that, the amygdala, hypothalamus, insula, cingulate, and prefrontal will be activated, so that the emotion and cognition behind the discomfort will add to this energy.
Functions of crying
As boring and painful as it can be, crying plays an important role in our psyche, and it is the one that benefits us: Different research shows that in a large number of cases the fact of crying leads us to relieve our emotional state, to allow us to express our emotions and to release the energy involved in states of tension and deep sadness. They serve to reduce the increased energy levels that generate intense emotions such as sadness or anger, so that the body relaxes and returns to a calmer and calmer state.
Tears, when emotional, have a composition that also promotes emotional release. Specifically, they help remove manganese, prolactin, and potassium chloride, as well as endorphins and pain relievers. Substances that can be stressful are expelled, while others are released that help fight pain and suffering.
In addition to this, it has a function related to socialization: although not always, in general the act of crying provokes empathy on the part of the group, so that the one who cries often receives support and support from the group. be seen. as to need or vulnerable. It also tends to reduce the aggressiveness and hostility of others, as well as decrease the desire for sex towards them.
Other types of tears, such as basal tears, are used simply to cleanse and lubricate the eye.. Something necessary and natural. And in addition, they also clean the eye of irritants and even some bacteria.
Some of the main reasons we cry
As we know for better or for worse, there are many reasons that can make us want to cry. Among them we can find both emotional and physical elements.
Below we will see some of the reasons, mainly those of psychic origin.
1. Traumatic events and / or stressful life events
One of the main causes that make us want to cry and probably the most famous of all is having experienced some kind of traumatic or painful event.
The death of a family member or loved one, a break-up, a layoff, bankruptcy or even a minor problem but which can also cause us emotional suffering such as a discussion or the failure to achieve a goal or of a very expensive lens.
2. Physical pain
We also often cried when we suffered some kind of injury, blow, fracture, sprain …. And is physical pain one of the causes that can make us cry.
However, tears of this type usually go through a different process and even have different chemical makeup.
Another possible cause that can make us want to cry, even without knowing on a conscious level exactly why, is the existence of a depressive episode (whether it’s major depression, bipolar disorder, or other circumstances) .
In this case, a sad state of mind is maintained and an inability to experience pleasure, problems with sleep or food, hopelessness or even hopelessness is perceived. In this state, it is not uncommon to cry, although it is also possible that despite the desire to cry, the subject is not able to do so.
4. Anxiety and stress
Anxiety and stress are other factors that can bring us to the brink of tears. In this case, we are in a situation where we feel overwhelmed by environmental or social demands.
We feel that we don’t have enough resources to cope with what is asked of us or what is happening to us, and anxiety overwhelms us. Our energetic and emotional tone rises, and our body may turn into tears to relieve itself.
5. Anger and / or feeling of injustice
Like anxiety and stress, anger can also be a reason for the urge to cry.
In the end, more than one person will have cried with rage. The cause is the same as the one we observed in the previous point: we can find ourselves in a situation that we consider unfair and in front of which we do not see ourselves capable of doing anything.
In addition to the above, it should be noted that another reason we may want to cry is identifying suffering and pain in other people. We may feel like crying when we see another person cry or have a bad time. This is influenced by the so-called mirror neurons, which allow us to capture the emotional reactions of others and even reproduce them.
This situation not only occurs when observing another person in pain, but can also appear before viewing situations that if we were living we would consider sad, or when we see them in movies or novels.
7. Capture the beauty
Although it is not as common as the previous ones, some people may cry with emotion when seeing certain works of art, whether it is novels, paintings, sculptures, constructions or movies..
In this case, the reason for the tears is the emotion derived from capturing something that we consider beautiful, even though it does not generate sadness per se. This is what happens to people with Stendhal syndrome.
Why do we cry for joy?
So far we have explained why the urge to cry can arise and we have seen that we do this primarily as an emotional relief or in response to an aversive or painful event.
However, as many have probably already asked, sometimes we also want to cry when positive things happen: sometimes we cry for joy. Why is this happening?
Finding the answer to this question is more complicated than it seems, but according to some research, the reason could be that the body itself is trying to self-regulate after activating with joy or other positive emotions: it is trying to get back to a baseline state. by a reaction which reduces the rise in energy caused by the emotion. It is therefore, as it happens when we cry with rage, a way to regain emotional and energetic balance.
I want to cry … but I can’t
There are times when some people feel like crying or even want to cry but can’t. There are many possible causes for this, which can range from brain damage and diseases of different types (eg some autoimmune) to a much more common one – the existence of a blockage. emotional.
First of all, keep in mind that there is no rush: everyone deals with things at their own pace, and the fact that tears do not flow when they should theoretically be respected.
On the other hand, if the impossibility of crying is absolute and remains in time, it is possible that the causes are facing an emotional blockage. Emotional blockages arise in the face of events or situations that generate great anxiety and suffering, and which unconsciously appear as a defense mechanism to protect oneself from said pain.
However, this blockage prevents or makes it difficult to work and process what has happened. These blockages can occur normatively, but also in processes such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.
It is advisable in these cases to first give yourself a little time (Some situations need time to begin to be accepted as real, such as grief.) Then if the person wishes, try to work slowly on the aspects related to the cause of the blockage. If necessary first tangentially, gradually approach the event itself and try to relive and reprocess the situation so that you can deal with it.
The weight of culture
Likewise and especially in the case of men, crying has traditionally been seen as a sign of weakness, which is embarrassing. This makes it difficult for the audience to express their tears. But you have to keep in mind that actually crying in public implies acknowledging the existence of a moment of vulnerability, which on the other hand can also imply some value.
- Miceli, M. and Castelfranchi, C. (2003). Crying: discuss its basic motivations and uses. New Ideas in Psychology, 21 (3).
- On the origin of tears and tears. Bulletin of human ethology. June 1989; 5 (10): 5-6.
- Triglia, Adrián; Regader, Bertrand; García-Allen, Jonathan (2016). Psychologically speaking. Paidós.
- Vidales, Ismael (2004). General psychology. Mexico: Limousin.