Why It’s Okay to Cry
The act of crying occurs when feelings overwhelm someone to the point that their body must release those feelings as tears and ragged, shallow breathing. Some people feel breathless, or can be very loud when they cry while others may cry silently.
Many times when someone is crying, the feeling is negative. Sadness, anger, hurt, or disturbing thoughts can make people cry, though people also cry tears of joy. Although crying is not a pleasant experience all the time, crying is a very positive thing and there are benefits to crying. Crying is communication, it’s self-soothing, it creates empathy, and it’s healing.
Crying Is Communication
Studies show that crying is unique to humans, and emotional crying appears to have developed from animal distress calls. Babies cry as their only form of communication, and they do so instinctually upon birth. The unique thing about human babies is that they are incapable of helping themselves at even the most basic level or communicating with normal speech; they are entirely dependent on their parent and their only form of communication for survival is crying. The distress felt from crying can trigger sensory nerves that bring tears, alerting the caretaker or someone else that they are in need.
Crying in older children, teens, and adults signals more complex things. Many older children and adults cry when they are overwhelmed, communicating that something is wrong or that they need support. It’s natural to cry in front of people who feel safe and nurturing because the crier knows that person will care for them. It’s also natural to cry in front of people who scare you, or who make you feel small. There is no shame in crying since crying is a normal response to complex situations. Crying is the body’s way of communicating that one needs something, and they’ve had that instinct since birth.
Crying Is Self-Soothing and Helps With Emotional Regulation
Many people choose to cry in solitude. This is normal because it helps with self-soothing, but not in the way one might think. Self-soothing uses methods of calming down that are serene, peaceful, quiet, and meant to help one get to a state of peace. Crying escalates before de-escalating into self-soothing methods.
Crying is a great way to let out pent-up energy or repressed feelings. Crying can help people work through things that are bothering them and help them stop and see when they need a break. Crying can be seen as “breaking down” or halting important ventures. However, it helps people’s bodies to let everything out and calm down. Crying is referred to as emotion-focused coping in this aspect. Many times when people are finished crying they are tired and worn out, but more able to focus on self-soothing and working out what’s bothering them.
Crying Helps Foster Empathy and Promotes Social Behaviors Like Caregiving and Protection
Frontiers in Psychology write that crying serves two main functions: intra-individual functions and inter-individual functions. Intra-individual is the type of crying that one does for themselves as a method of soothing. Inter-individual is the type of crying that one does to communicate with someone else.
For example, someone who is displaying intra-individual functions may cry over a personal emotional problem that is bothering them. Intra-individual crying involves tears for the person who is crying, showing them they need to slow down and take a break from what they are doing to process.
Someone displaying inter-individual functions will cry as a form of communication, whatever that may be. This can be misconstrued as wanting attention when this is a signal that they need help, whether that be comfort, help problem solving, to talk through something, an apology, or any other form of help.
There is also crying for others. Crying for others fits loosely under the umbrella of inter-individual functions of crying. It communicates that someone feels for another and wants the other person to know they care and can help. This type of crying is unique to humans and is a known factor in facilitating empathy, caretaking, caregiving, love, and prosocial behavior. Crying with others and for others is not a weakness, but communication. It communicates that one feels another’s pain, they are with them, and they understand. Crying together can also be a bonding experience. When people cry together they can help each other heal from pain.
You’re Always Allowed to Cry
Even though crying can sometimes seem negative, it is okay to cry in any situation. Do not feel ashamed of crying or feel like crying is a bad thing—it’s not. Crying is natural, crying can be positive, and you’re always allowed to cry.
Crying is a completely natural response to feelings that overwhelm you, be they good or bad. Crying can also be used to communicate. Teens, in particular, might be known to cry often. This can be due to any number of things, including but not limited to hormone changes through puberty, growing changes, changes in maturity and understanding, as well as mental health and trauma. Crying is a natural and blatant sign that trauma may have occurred, but crying as a signal of trauma can be overlooked in teens due to other changes they are going through. If your teen has experienced trauma and the tears or other symptoms have gone beyond what you can help, call Havenwood Academy today. At Havenwood Academy, our professional and empathetic staff use research-based treatments that actively help with trauma to help heal your teen daughter. We understand trauma, and we want to help your daughter overcome hers. Call us at (435) 586-2500.
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