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What is it about crying, that brings out different reactions in men and women?
Why do women cry more easily and men rarely?
What about people who don’t cry?
As children we have all experienced bursts of tears during the various episodes of normal living. The impulse to deeply cry when hurt, both physically and emotionally, comes spontaneously through the body. So is crying a natural, adaptive process in humans, since shedding tears is unique only to human beings? (I didn’t know that – thought I’ve seen dogs tear up at times but I must be wrong!).
There are not too many theories concerning the psycho-physiological connection of crying but commonsense points that crying is our body’s response to the rapid emotional shift that happens after a stressful or emotionally charged episode.
So why do men rarely cry and in fact react adversely to seeing women cry?
Biological explanations say that testosterone may inhibit crying, while the hormone prolactin (seen in higher levels in women) may promote it. Yet I believe it’s not only “Nature” but “Nurture” too that determines the differences.
So right from an early age, sometimes as young as 2 years, boys and girls elicit different reactions in their caretakers and society at large, at exhibiting tears. The usual words that am sure most men can recall having heard in their childhood, are “Stop crying. You are a big boy now. Boys don’t cry..” and so it begins. Where in the evolution this harsh commandment arose, I have no clue. But probably with the obvious expectations on men to be strong and in charge of looking after women, who physiologically genuinely were less strong, might have a lot to do with it.
When parents do not accept this natural expression what occurs is that the child stops the energetic flow of feelings in an adaptation to please the parent and to be loved. On the physical level this energy of the feelings is held back by contracting the muscles of the chest, the diaphragm and the belly. Breathing stops and the jaws tighten to stop the expression of the emotion. When energy is reduced, movement, feeling and expression are also reduced. This translates to not just physical but constricted emotional expression later in adult life as well, in my view.
On a psychological level the child adapts and believes that if he won’t cry the parent will love him else not. And so the emotional conditioning starts and as the years pass, depending on each man’s personality and life experiences, their views on crying for both sexes has taken shape. The stoic male, finds the weak, easily bursting-into-tears woman too much to take. He is quick to call her a ‘drama queen’ – when she so much as shows one tear in front of him.
Is it because he himself cannot cry that he finds this show of expression on women’s part unpalatable?
While it is true that women’s crying habits can range from crying at the drop of a hat to being hard, stony firewalled units, research points that most women tend to cry more easily and often than men.
In therapy there is a mantra “If tears are flowing, something worthwhile is happening.” Either there’s been a meaningful breakthrough, or the client is finally allowing years of frozen emotions to break free…either way, it’s an extremely vulnerable position when it finally unfolds.
A bioenergetic therapist often opens these chronic muscle patterns, energy and spontaneous movement of feeling can take place and be expressed. The client can cry out those locked up tears of his history.
To conclude, in his defence, I believe men have seen the women in their lives cry generally a lot more and sometimes many women use tears as a manipulative technique to get some needs met (that can be a topic for another article). So I can understand where men are coming from in those cases. But to cast that blanket of “drama that women do” on each women they see showing tears is hardly fair!
After all, as Dr. William H. Frey II, neuroscientist/tear researcher PhD. says “Crying is not only a human response to sorrow and frustration, it’s a healthy one. Crying is a natural way to reduce emotional stress that, left unchecked, has negative physical affects on the body, including increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and other stress-related disorders.” and I have not even begun writing about the Reasons why crying is good for physical and mental health!
About ITP at Sofia University
Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings. The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.