When in doubt, bawl about it.

Written by Franz Iacono

When in doubt, bawl about it.

Crying is no longer considered a supreme sign of weakness, but a key social skill for empathising and building personal relationships. But you must be a pro at it.

There is nothing that can’t be solved by a good ol’ bawl. The once-cornerstone of female stratagems (another of which was fainting, now obsolete since men are no longer trained to catch you as you fall), is nowadays a free-for-all with no gender discriminations, even outside the boundaries of the strictly sentimental field.


A genuine cathartic weep is a quantum of self-solace with an unparalleled cost-benefit ratio. Through tears, we can purify our bodies of massive doses of corticotrophin and prolactin (stress-inducing hormones) and manganese, which is to be found in high concentrations in the brains of people suffering from depression. Obviously, it is tears of sorrow we are talking about, not those which are generated naturally by the presence of foreign bodies in the eye or because of allergic reactions.


And therein lies the rub: not everybody is able to cry on command. For those who suffer from Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease which causes dryness of the lacrimal ducts, crying is almost impossible. But there are also those who simply can’t, for the time being, express their feelings, with the result of appearing selfish and arid.


This naturally goes for private weeping only, the kind you have in secret and possibly out of sight. (There is a whole phenomenology of this behaviour: private crying is preferentially done between 19:00 and 22:00; men do it on average 7 times a year, women 47; many even feel the urge when at the workplace, and go sob in the office loos). But what about crying in public?


Until recently, blatant blubbering was considered a no-go, under penalty of being degraded to the sissy status. A behaviour punishable by public shaming, and the Japanese politician Ryutaro Nonomura crying his eyes out on live TV serves as an eternal memento for those who sniffle easily (the video of this memorable scene is to date one of the most viewed on the web).


However, an opposition front to these ancestral reactions has now formed. Especially in a society as rigid as Japan’s, where crying is almost obsolete because it is considered “dishonourable”, crying is becoming a declaration of freedom, a feature rather ascribable to Western psychological standards. No surprise the new craze rui-katsu was born in Japan: it consists of collective blubbing in front of a tear-jerking film, if necessary with the help of some onions and hot chili peppers.


Mastering the art of crying is also good training for accomplishing the act in the correct moment, like when it is needed to create empathy, or to build or strengthen personal relationships. Or even to improve one’s public status: Barack Obama’s consensus shot sky-high on the few occasions he was visibly moved in public, such as that time Aretha Franklin sang (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman at the Kennedy Center Honors, or when he was commemorating the child-victims of the Sandy Hook Newton school shooting.


Psychologists even go as far as saying that one can trust a man who is able to cry in public, because he has the strength to let his emotions shine through and, by virtue of this, he demonstrates an enviable emotional health. Keep it in mind, for the time you decide to make your political debut.

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