Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Power Of Tears

I have been avidly following Bruce Parry's TV programme, 'Tribe', in which he goes to live as one of the tribe in various locations. Towards the end of the last programme, in which he lives with the Penan tribe in a rapidly shrinking piece of rain forest in Borneo, I found myself weeping uncontrollably at the terrible situation these people find themselves in. It really is awful, the land on which they live symbiotically, is being eroded by government sanctioned logging companies. They are a gentle, wonderful people and they may be forced to enter the 21st century against their will, just for a bit of commercial revenue.

However, although it was truly moving and shocking, there are many such incidences in our modern world and many other catalysts that could produce a flood of tears if I let them. But I try not to. I have accepted the idea that it is somehow shameful to weep openly at will, whenever something moves me. So instead I gulp down the tears and feel that familiar tightness in my throat. Even when I watch a sad film with my husband whom I have known for over a third of my life, I still censor myself and don't weep as freely as I might were I alone.

Although weeping is often seen as a sign of weakness or sentimentality, it is widely acknowledged that those who express and own their feelings are healthier, happier and even live longer. It has been suggested that weeping, sobbing and even better, wailing, have a therapeutic value equal to that of meditation and yoga. Quelling the negative health aspects of stress, anger and anxiety - even raising immune function. I know that when I have the odd night to myself and allow the tears that well up to come out unhindered, I often feel relaxed and cleansed, sleep better and wake feeling refreshed.

Not that I cry constantly, nor am I depressed. Tears can be simply an expression of anxiety or even anger, a release that does not require explanation. Once the tears have been allowed to come, there is often a stream of associated triggers that come to mind. Someone who died, feeling lonely, a memory of something that you no longer have. It can feel disingenuous to cry about these things on the back of the original catalyst, but that is the beauty of letting it all out - it all feels the same and doesn't need justifying. Maybe next time you find yourself welling up at the Andrex Puppy, you might let those tears out and not feel like a daft softy. You could save yourself a packet on therapy in later years and even stave off a cold or two - but remember to stock up on the man sized tissues.