Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Recently someone I know told me that she couldn't wear her contact lenses anymore as following years of contact lens wearing, her eyes had dried out. She is suffering from a condition known, unsurprisingly, as Dry Eyed Syndrome. This she tells me requires her to put drops into her eyes regularly to prevent damage to the corneas. I was only partly listening by then though as I get a bit queasy over eye matters.

Although the condition was explained to me in a light-hearted way (I have to wear these speccys now) it got me thinking -- how could you register your sadness on being told about this condition if you can't cry? Tears will want to flow as an early response to bad news such as " you've lost the ability to cry". How psychologically affecting is it to your emotional health if your biological state conflicts with your emotional feelings and disallows the releasing of tears from your eyes in a demonstrative visible emotional expression?

It is true that emotions can be controlled better by some than by others. Some people prefer to show restraint, societal expectations being enough of a disincentive for some to hold back, lest they be regarded as vulnerable or weak. But no matter how stoic the person, I believe that with most people, if the tears don't flow immediately, they are deferred, not dismissed. They're sent back into a transit holding area from which they will be released at a later, safer time.

But how do our bodies deal with the emotional impulse without its most visible biological product? We cry when something touches our emotions; any of the following can bring it out in me: sadness, worry, rage, frustration, happiness, wonder, pity, beauty. I could go on. I will. Pain, sympathy, pride, disappointment. All of these have made me cry at some time or other. And if I feel like it, I don’t resist it. I don't wail, or blub uncontrollably, or even make it obvious. In fact I have a sophisticated masking system of nose blowing, spectacles polishing and timely exits. But it seems to me that if an emotional and physiological need is not satisfied, some kind of inner trauma may occur through the non-release of an emotional imperative. A clumpy analogy would be the radiator that ceases to function properly until the pent-up air pressure is allowed to escape which releases the blockage in the mechanism. Perhaps that inner trauma is revealed as stress - a true killer. Perhaps crying helps keep stress at bay.

Typically, something is seen, heard, or otherwise perceived that generates a need for an emotional response. A sequence of events starting with the source of the emotion to the receiving senses, to the brain, to the heart, to the brain, to the eyes - and out. It's as if the body can only take so much emotion before it's compelled to release it through whichever physical outlet seems appropriate. Perhaps the nervous wee, excited perspiration and the galloping "whatsits" are all closer relations to the tears of a weeper than we might think. Maybe the body can't host too many of the hormonal chemicals created by the excess emotion and it has to transform it into bodily fluids and send it out any which way.

I guess that if you can't emit emotional tears and you want to, your body will compensate in some way and make good the inability. And keep you psychologically and emotionally even. The perils of psychological distress maybe for those not who can't let it, out but for those who won't let it out. So I'm hoping my friend will be fine.

Wow what a ramble! Oh well: often random always rambling. It does exactly what it says on the tin.


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