We’ve been trained to fight our tears. Oddly, our society considers crying to be a sign of weakness in men, emotional instability in women, and something we should never do in public. Hit songs tell us that big girls don’t cry, and boys grow up learning that real men don’t do it either.
This becomes a problem when we suppress the urge to weep- even if the body begs us to let the tears free-flow. We engage in an internal battle of mind and ego versus natural urge. The mind may win if we can fight the tears, but it’s not worth the damage done to the body.
From an Ayurvedic standpoint, quelling your tears can cause serious problems, both physically and psychosomatically. Crying is one of the thirteen non restrainable natural urges that Ayurveda says never to repress, along with defecating, urinating, passing gas, vomiting, burping, sighing, yawning, coughing, ejaculating, hunger, thirst, and sleep.
These are our most natural bodily functions that beg to be expressed. Any restraint is harmful to the body, and considered a possible cause of disease- tears included. Holding them in even just a few times can result in headaches, eye pain, neck stiffness, and dizziness. Repeated and ongoing suppression can lead to even bigger problems like heart disease and anorexia, and swelling of the eyelids, colds, and sinusitis.
That being said, the natural urges- including crying- shouldn’t be forced, either. Doing so can also create imbalance in the body. Excessive, strong sadness and grief are emotions that Ayurveda says need to be controlled, as they can lead to depression. Like everything in life, it’s important to find the balance between extremes.
But the occasional good cry can feel oddly satisfying. It might be a little draining and result in red and puffy eyes, but this comes with the sensation of a real release. This expression of emotion feels strangely good because it’s a completely natural urge- and nothing to be ashamed of.
The Ayurvedic concept of veda-vigharan, which is the suppression of natural urges, is a challenging one to prove, but I recently came across a study that made the attempt.
Both healthy and unhealthy volunteers were asked to drink 1.5 liters of water and voluntarily hold in their urine. After their maximum withholding time, blood samples, blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration rate were taken to measure the stress this caused to the body.
They noted significant biochemical changes, along with increased blood pressure, pulse rate, and respiration rate. Urine retention was undeniably shown to produce stress on the body. The discomfort was so great in some patients that the study actually had to be stopped on ethical grounds.
The study concluded that the suppression of natural urges is definitely harmful. Diseases caused by such suppression were hypothesized to develop in two phases. The first occurs on the psychic level and has a transient quality, and the second ultimately results in irreversible changes within the tissues and organs.
It would be hard to prove the disease path of repression of tears, but we can suppose that it follows a similar progression. Regardless of proof, Ayurveda’s wisdom has withstood the test of time for thousands of years, and so many of its same teachings are only now being ‘discovered’ by modern medicine. Perhaps one day science will recognize what Ayurveda’s been saying all along. Hopefully society will change it’s attitude about crying. In the meantime, I personally don’t find pride and ego worth risking any harm to the body. I love a good cry.
Here’s an easy-to-follow rule regarding tears: don’t fight them. The next time you feel the urge to cry, ignore any societal pressure to be a ‘big girl’ or a ‘real man’ and let it out. Remember that crying is a natural urge never to be suppressed.
Shukla, Madhu, C. M. Tiwari, S. N. Tripathi, and B. N. Upadhya. “Evaluation of the Role of Vega-Vidharan (Suppression of Natural Urges) in the Aetiology of Psychosomatic Diseases.” Anc Sci Life Oct-Dec (1981): 83-93. NCBI. Web. 15 Dec 2013.