Friday, March 30, 2012


“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before--more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”
-Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


I always say it’s healthy to cry, tears take the pressure off the brain.

There are three reasons we cry. Basal tears keep your eyes wet and protected and are always present unless there is a disharmony. Reflex tears happen when our eyes become irritated by foreign particles or when we smell onions or tear gas. Then there are psychic tears, these are very special tears brought about by emotions or physical pain.

And why are psychic tears so special? In order to cry psychic tears the brain must release the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. Once it hits the receptors the lacrimal glands start producing tears.  Psychic tears contain hormones that the other tears don’t, one of these hormones is an endorphin, one of natures painkillers.

Pretty magical stuff how our body takes care of itself.

I have cried from sadness, pain, anger, joy, laughing, seeing beautiful art, hearing amazing music, reading books, watching films and of course watching Oprah. There is something purging and cleansing about a good cry although it can be exhausting as well.

You can express and define things about the characters you write in the manner of how they cry. Is it a stoic tear trickling down the cheek into his beard or perhaps the full bore, wracking sob festival whilst curled up in bed? I have written both those character-defining moments in different books.

If you want to see some great examples of crying, check out ‘Casablanca’. I just saw it on the big screen for the first time and Ingrid Bergman cried beautifully, a mercurial tear sliding down her flawless skin. I also think that Ben Stiller cried magnificently at the end of ‘Something about Mary’ as he walks away thinking he’s lost the girl forever. Another beautiful cry was Maria Falconetti in the great silent film ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’.  One of my most romantic favorites is at the end of ‘What’s up Doc’. Ryan O’Neal’s character recognizes the voice of the woman he loves, his eyes well up with tears and he smiles with relief.

Make a list of your favorite crying scenes, books or films, what does it tell you about the character?
---Carmen Bydalek


Jae Awkins said...

Great blog, Carmen!
Women cry, men get angry. If women ruled the world more, maybe there would be more compassion and remorse instead of wars. Pent up anger eventually explodes somehow!
(men should try crying more! :o)
Thanks for this 'permission' to cry - it's a natural response, a good outlet for our emotions and, you're right, just plain feels good sometimes!
---Jae :o)

Tam Linsey said...

Wow - I love the science behind the different kinds of tears. I had no idea. Thanks for teaching me something.

LizbethSelvig said...

Carmen, this was a wonderful column. I had no idea, either, how beautiful crying is. It's comforting, since I cry at things like McDonald's commercials. I figure my brain must be very de-pressurized :-D Thanks, I really enjoyed this.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Hi Carmen, Thanks for all the cool information about crying. I love the Casablanca tears too. There's a good cry in The Artist also.

I cry a lot at movies, books, commercials, anytime I feel strong emotion. It's nice to hear it is good for me. :-)

Tiffinie Helmer said...

I hate to cry. Really hate it, but then I'm not a pretty crier, probably because it's been bottled up so long.

I'm like Tam, and loved all the science behind it. Thanks for the great information!

Anonymous said...

A great friend of mine (male) always says "you get one box of tissues in life, use them sparingly" and I love this sentiment. But tears do cleanse the body and purge the soul. I used to think as a child that rain drops were God's tears. This week I cried after my cat was diagnosed with cancer, so I used up my box of tissues. Where does that leave me? Great post...

Pauline Trent said...

Fiction rarely makes me cry, but when it does, I know I've found an author/filmaker/playwrite I want to follow for a long time. More often than not, when this rare occurance happens, it's going to be a case of courage and bravery in the name of friendship. Right to the heart ~ and the tearducts.

Anonymous said...

I'm amazed when someone shows me the science behind something we take for granted. Great post.

Jennifer said...

Wonderful post, Carmen! I always wonder why I feel different after crying, now I understand the chemical reason along with the emotional ones. I will no longer feel embarrassed by my easy tears, but blessed.