Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cry-ercise

Every year with my girls small group, we have "Cry Night". Sounds pretty sad, but the girls love it. In fact, they look forward to it. It is designed to be a judgment-free night of  milking toxins out of our bodies.

God designed us to cry. We are the ones who make it awkward and embarrassing. I know, because I am one of those people who messes it up from time to time.

 However, no matter if we like to cry or not, we can't change the fact that crying matters and was designed for a good reason. We cry basal tears that clean out our eyes which keeps them working properly. Our eyes should always have tears in them or we have a problem. 

When we cry we are draining and washing out our eyes. What I find so interesting is that we also cry emotional tears. Some scholars believe that this emotive crying is actually a survival mechanism sprung out of centuries of human evolution. When people cry, other's feel compassion or at least, they could possibly feel compassion. Compassion has spared lives across the centuries. It doesn't take a lot of effort to understand how tears can benefit a complex human being trying to live in community with other complex human beings.

Crying is one of the most vulnerable things we can do in front of another person. You are physically vulnerable because you have just blurred your vision and can't see very well. You are emotionally vulnerable because in our culture we often view crying as a weakness. Those two experiences combined usually are the root cause of most people's refusal to cry in front of others. You also loose some control of your body when you cry. Weeping sometimes leads to squish-face, hyperventilating, high voice, drippy nose and many other unsightly responses. Or is that just me? It is a vulnerable thing to let other people see you like that. All the responses listed above are unattractive, but they all have a useful purpose in the evolution of human crying.

But there is more...

 When you cry, you are actually releasing all sorts of toxins and hormones.  In fact, tears of joy and tears of sadness have very different chemical composition.
"One study collected both reflex (Basal) tears and emotional tears (after peeling an onion and watching a sad movie, respectively). When scientists analyzed the content of the tears, they found each type was very different. Reflex tears are generally found to be about 98 percent water, whereas several chemicals are commonly present in emotional tears (Source: The Daily Journal). First, is a protein called prolactin, which is also known to control breast milk production. Adrenocorticotropic hormones are also common and indicate high stress levels. The other chemical found in emotional tears is leucine-enkephalin, an endorphin that reduces pain and works to improve mood. Of course, many scientists point out that research in this area is very limited and should be further studied before any conclusion can be made."

Crying really is an amazing gift. It cleanses our eyes, our bodies, our hearts and improves our mood. How many of you have felt worlds better after a good cry? That's what makes you do it again and again. Over the years, I've taken to having a cry night a couple times  a year and occasionally more than that if there is a lot of stress in my life. I've called it "milking." Milking is a term used by snack handlers when they pull venom from a snakes fangs in order to make an anti-venom to cure people when they have been bitten. The cry nights that came from months and years of grieving my father's death often felt like milking poison that was building up inside me. It doesn't take much imagination to consider what could happen if I just let that grief-poison linger inside me. Sometimes it is hard to cry or allow yourself to cry. That is why I like the idea of a cry night. You can do it with a friend, you can do it alone, but it is a designated time set aside for YOU to cry.

A good cry is as important as a good run, a healthy meal, a good night's sleep. Crying is healing and perfectly part of God's plan for our majestic bodies.

Recently, a study was done of the physical topography of tears of all emotional degrees. I should not be so surprised by the depth and intricacy of God's creation, but I am simply awed by the photos below. They came from the Smithsonian's Collage of Arts and Sciences. Joseph Stromberg (scientist) explained that the various types of tears contain organic substances including oils, antibodies and enzymes all suspended in salt water. Different tears have distinctly different molecules which makes their physical look very distinct. Check out Stromberg's photos of tears and join me in the the wonder of this evolved creation! Perhaps these photos will inspire you to release some toxins of your own.

Tears from laughing until crying



Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears of change


Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears of grief


Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears from onions


Rose-Lynn Fisher

Basal tears


Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears of timeless reunion


Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears of ending and beginning


Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears of momentum, redirected


Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears of release


Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears of possibility and hope


Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears of elation at a liminal moment


Rose-Lynn Fisher
Tears of remembrance