Unfortunately, not all emotions are created equal.
The most widely accepted emotion, happiness, is a sign of confidence, security, and success, among other things. Even if we have to “fake it till we make it,” we’ve been told expressing happiness is a sure way of gaining close friends and admirers.
Fear is perhaps the most applicable emotion, as everyone has felt it in some regard. We’ve all been scared of something before: leaving a job, asking someone to marry us, confronting a friend about something they did to upset you. And considering the daily fear mongering by mass media outlets, fear makes a strong case for the most felt emotional sensation.
Anger, though rarely welcomed, is another emotion many of us feel and practice daily. Be it in the midst of heavy traffic, at your child for breaking a prized vase, or at an incompetent coworker, anger is, again, widely accepted as a completely normal emotion.
Disgust is highly suggestive and, for the most part, remains internalized but is still regularly felt. When disgust is expressed, in most contexts, it’s usually accepted and sometimes agreeable.
Sadness, however, is in a league of it’s own, much like in the new feature Pixar film Inside Out. Sadness seems to be alienated, picked on, and persecuted when expressed fully. Outward expressions of sadness such as droopiness of the body and face, slumping, and crying are considered signs of weakness and insecurity. It’s unfair that our culture puts sadness in such a tight box. It’s damaging, unhealthy, and downright unfair to the human life experience.
People who aren’t afraid to express sadness, in fact, are far more mentally healthy than those who suppress it. Here’s why:
They aren’t afraid of their emotions.
If you were overwhelmed with joy, would you hide a smile? If you saw the innards of a squished squirrel while running or biking on the side of the road, would you not grimace? If you had an awful day at work and your unemployed roommate drank your last ice cold beer that you’d been looking forward to all day, would you not be pissed off? If you were trying to find a light switch and didn’t think that your boyfriend was in the room, lurking, waiting to scare you thinking it would be funny, would you not be terrified when he jumped towards you and yelled?
So if you’re sad, why wouldn’t you cry? Why wouldn’t you slump around? Why wouldn’t you give yourself the right to be sad?
People who ignore sadness cheat themselves out of an important facet of life. Sadness, or crying, isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you’re a human and have feelings beyond what you’re told is appropriate to show in public.
They understand the healing properties of tears.
Much like a spit valve releases saliva from a trumpet, your tear ducts releases stress, anxiety, grief, and frustration from your brain and body. It’s soul-cleansing, mind-enriching, and goosebump-inducing, almost acting as a drain for the buildup of negative emotions that result from stress. The healing properties of tears aren’t just restricted to sad tears, either, but happy tears as well. In either case you’re dealing with extreme emotion. Allowing that extreme emotion to back up and stay in the body can be very dangerous both physically and mentally.
Beyond improving move and reliving stress, crying, specifically tears, have scientific benefit because they release toxins, help improve vision, and can kill 90 to 95 percent of all bacteria in just five to 10 minutes.
They know how therapeutic crying can be.
Recent psychological studies have determined that crying stimulates our brain’s endorphin release, the “feel-good” hormones that also act as a natural pain killer. Crying also lowers manganese levels, a chemical that, when overexposed to, can exasperate the brain and body.
Even though the problem may still persist after you’ve cried it out, there’s no doubt that the act of crying allows for an overall release of bad emotion even if momentarily. This allows us to think clearer about the problem and not be so overwhelmed by it.
They don’t care about gender roles or societal expectation.
Crying is stigmatized for both sexes. If she cries it’s because she’s unstable or a wreck or, the most delusional conclusion, needs attention from others. If he cries, he’s a pansy, a wuss, or, my personal favorite, not manly enough. All of these generalizations encourage both sexes to submerge their sadness to the depths of their soul.
Though it’s an uphill battle that can only be won an inch at a time, we’re working tirelessly to break down social constraints that hang heavy over both sexes. Those who allow themselves to be sad in public are not only brave, but also activists for an emotionally healthier society.
They invite others to not run from their feelings.
I like to cry. Or rather, I don’t let myself not be sad when I feel sadness. We are all working to overcome some sort of depressing demon that’s trying to tear us down. When we allow ourselves to feel pain when we feel it, we’re also encouraging others, either people we already know or not, to connect with our pain. To know that you’re not alone in thinking, feeling, or even acting a certain way is emotionally liberating and, in extreme cases, life saving.
Those who accept sadness when it stares them in the face allow others to do the same. Recalling the previous point, it’s dangerous when we keep emotions hidden and buried within. Since sadness has negative associations, we often won’t reach out to someone we notice is experiencing difficulty because we’re afraid, not of the person necessarily but of the act of being deeply upset.
When we’re honest to our bodies, we allow it to perpetually run at maximum capacity, even when we’re experiencing tremendous pain.
We’ve been seriously discussing good mental health practices for years now. With the dawn of therapy and heavily prescribed feel-good medications, we should all be more appreciative of our biological ability to cry and take full advantage of the natural anxiety-reliever it is.
Because crying shouldn’t be perceived as a sign of weakness, but a sign of internal strength and mindfulness.