The New York Times has a great short article on the science of crying, covering recent studies that have investigated the common idea that it is a useful way of releasing pent-up emotion.
The idea that crying is cathartic has been researched more than I realised with numerous large scale studies tackling in what situations people cry, as well what impact it has on our emotional state.
Now, some researchers say that the common psychological wisdom about crying ‚Äî crying as a healthy catharsis ‚Äî is incomplete and misleading. Having a ‚Äúgood cry‚Äù can and usually does allow people to recover some mental balance after a loss. But not always and not for everyone, argues a review article in the current issue of the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science. Placing such high expectation on a tearful breakdown most likely sets some people up for emotional confusion afterward…
In a study published in the December issue of The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, Dr. Rottenberg, along with Lauren M. Bylsma of the University of South Florida and Ad Vingerhoets of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, asked 5,096 people in 35 countries to detail the circumstances of their most recent crying episode. About 70 percent said that others‚Äô reactions to their breakdown were positive, comforting. But about 16 percent cited nasty or angry reactions that, no surprise, generally made them feel worse.
The science of crying was also covered in a recent BPS Research Digest post that discussed another one of Rottenberg’s studies that focused entirely on females.
Link to NYT piece ‘The Muddled Tracks of All Those Tears’.