Crying is healing.
No, I’m not being whimsical, the physical act of crying initiates an organic healing process on the molecular level. Carl Jung called tears shed without physical pain ‘psychic tears’, and suggested the holding back of tears a harmful act to the body. The ‘globus hystericus’, a “lump in the throat from swallowed tears” was diagnosed by Jung in many of his patients, and his only suggestion was literally to “cry it out”.
Natural crying is a reaction to pain, from without or within. The chemical makeup of tears changes with the kind of pain we are experiencing. Neuroscientist Norman Doidge explains the salient feature distinguishing psychic tears from pain tears is the presence of cortisol, a hormone related to stress levels. Cortisol is ejected from the orbital lobes, which are situated directly behind the eyes, and flushed out the tear ducts.
This means when you cry for emotional reasons, you are literally crying out your stress on a chemical level. It is only in recent centuries that crying out of passion or sadness has been seen as something bizarre or weak-willed. Odysseus, hero of the Greeks, frequently cried out passion for his homeland and his family, and was depicted culturally as a shining paragon of manly vigor. Individuals suffering from depression will often cry, but this is a common sign of growth; formerly numbed emotions finally breaking through and being expressed.
So, the next time you feel down in the dumps and your heart is hurting, try a natural approach. Grab a box of tissues, put on a sappy song, and let it (cortisol) all out!