Disclaimer: This is not a piece about the happy kind of tears. Far from it. Also, all artwork below is mine – please don’t use without my permission.
Crying, in all interpretations of the word, is an inherently human action. A baby’s first cry is the first breath of a healthy child; contemporary cinematography use close-up tears as an emotive tool; and the heartbroken wail of a man or a woman is something that grips you when you hear it, or when you see the face that personifies that wail.
Maybe too many tears in popular media have made those lucky enough not to have encountered true sorrow immune to this display of emotion, such that even if you are gripped by the expression of a heartbroken wail, your own ensuing response to it (perhaps a few reciprocal tears or sobs of your own) is shallow and artificially induced. But then these people are pulled into the big wide world; and something may be there to show them what the world is truly like.
Tears are cathartic, undoubtedly. It numbs your feelings, for a while, in yielding to despair. Perhaps in your tear-streaked haze you’ll become strangely calmly entranced by the smallest visual patterns; the repetition of a small action or gesture, or you may suddenly find that you’ve been staring at nothing for long time while the mind behind the busy tear ducts has been grinding away. The numbness slows you down, forces you to not think about the masses of worries and stresses and hassles and abuses and pressures that never seem to leave you; in tears, they temporarily leave you in their pencilled-out, definite form and just register as an abstract blob in the clouds.
But in some situations, the tears are only a temporary respite, and eventually becomes something you can’t help but keep returning to over and over again. Because the situation won’t have gone away, or resolved itself after a few tears, as it might have done when you were a child and your parents were either desperate to appease you and conceded, or had known how to discipline children and just left you to cry yourself out.
From my brief stint at psychology during the IB, I learnt that emotions are a complicated process, whether you take a cognitive, biological or other approach to it. But leaving the debate to those actually qualified to argue it, I am left to contemplate the way in which crying quite physically feels like the abstract emotion you’re going through.
Throat – constricted. There’s a funny lump in the roof of your mouth, as well as just above your larynx. Your chest feels a little tight, but you’re not sure how much of that is in your mind. You almost aren’t fully aware, or sensitive of your tactile abilities – if anything, you are at your least sensitive. If you try to hold it in, and somebody notices or does something that tips your topsy-turvy emotional scale back the wrong way up, it makes it almost unbearable to hold in. Sobbing sets in and your lungs feel as if it were being jerked by the strings of a heavy-handed puppetmaster; but it’s such a relief to have somebody else, anybody, even if it’s just another part of you, take control of a part of your life for the moment.
Then the statements come in, the statements that are so good at triggering round after round of sobs; statements like you’re not good enough, you’re a selfish git for crying when others suffer far worse, you’re weak, you’re stupid, you should be grateful for the things you have rather than wasting other people’s time and space. And the worst thing is, you actually care about what these statements mean.
But lately, I’ve become worried that crying, because of how cathartic it is and how strong a reaction it gets from other people, is going to become a drug that can be depended on. If that is the case, then what makes the person who cries any better than somebody who is willing to guilt-trip others? What happens when you reach the stage where crying is adopted as social manipulation, or seen as such?
At that point, I’ll be deprived of even the right to cry.