Crying – Is It a Game? Or Is It for Real?

As if there weren’t enough forces in our country and our world trying to get us to not feel . . .

Ourselves, utilizing our own defenses to keep from feeling pain from long, long ago, as well as pain from today or even experiencing anything today that might trigger the ancient pain.

Other people, who do the same thing to themselves, demeaning, ridiculing, attacking, abandoning us when we do feel. Our families, employers-employees-coworkers. Our doctors, lawyers, teachers, agents, coaches, spiritual representatives.

Alcohol, street drugs, and pharmaceutical drugs and the companies and people who manufacture and sell them.  (If we were supported to feel our feelings and had built the capacity to do that, we wouldn’t believe we needed mind altering drugs to numb us against those feelings.)The military that wants its members to be strong and unemotional to the point of giving them propranalol to harden their defenses against the feelings that get stirred up in them by the horrors of war.  (If they weren’t hardened against the feelings, they would feel the horror and perhaps we’d finally find an alternative to war!)

Politicians, who appeal to the very emotions, like fear, that we try to bury and hold at bay and then use those feelings they have stirred up to their own advantage. (If we were not afraid of feeling our feelings, and if we were taught to discern which ones are here and now feelings and which are feelings from our childhood that have been triggered by something or someone in the current time . . . we wouldn’t be so needlessly vulnerable to politicians, or anyone using our own vulnerability against us.) Scientific studies that can be skewed to prove anything.

And the media . . . in so many different ways.

Last week, on a well known television show, a show I often appreciate, they did a story on tears.

In the story, under the guise of humor, under the guise of “science,” with a demeaning story title – The Crying Game – and under the guise of scientific backup – they did a story on “male aversion to female tears.”
A study in Israel asserts that the impact on men exposed to the imperceptible scent of women’s tears is that the exposure lowers men’s testosterone levels and causes the parts of their brain that register sexual arousal to be less active. In short, the study found that imperceptible signals given off by our bodies are perceived unconsciously by others  . . . something proven time and again. Perhaps if we truly knew ourselves and our natures, we would understand that upon witnessing the woman he loves crying,  and unconsciously perceiving the natural chemical signals she’s giving off, not only a man’s feeling self, but also his physical self receives the signal that she needs him to care, comfort, and communicate with her, not to be sexual with her, and responds accordingly.

Rather than emphasizing the actual findings of the study . . .  the media report of this study instead chose to make a conclusion not even remotely asserted by the study: that a women’s tears “annoy” men.
Thank goodness for a famous sex therapist, who talked with the reporter and told him that when his wife cries, she (the sex therapist) wanted him to ask ‘what’s the matter?’ And ‘can I help?’ and not to worry if his penis was erect! She didn’t want men to draw the wrong conclusion, using the study to prove that there’s science backing up why men are annoyed when their wives cry.

But the damage had already been done . . . The supposed lightness and humor with which the story was told was easy, ‘comfort’ food for those men who don’t take responsibility for themselves and their own feelings:  that the reason they’re annoyed is not from a drop in testosterone, but rather because of their discomfort with their own vulnerable feelings, or that some wound from long ago is triggered when their wife cries.
And it was easy food for those women who are “trained” to please their husbands and so will try to keep from crying in the future . . . or who will use their husbands’ so-called “natural annoyance” as an excuse to keep defending against their own painful feelings.

And not only did the show degrade women’s tears, but at the very end, it degraded men’s tears, too, asking ‘What impact does it have on women when men cry?’ and saying it’s particularly relevant with our ‘weepy’ new Speaker of the House.

Look at this just one example of what we do to each other and ourselves …. Degrading women’s tears and degrading men’s tears. Degrading our vulnerability! Our real vulnerability . . . something I, as a depth psychotherapist, spend many hours, many weeks, many years working to help people rediscover and reclaim!

Look around us ….

People numbing themselves, unable to feel, unable to connect with themselves behind their walls and beneath their masks.

Without our feelings, and without allowing them and exploring them, we become automatons. And then we raise our children from those robotic modes. And we criticize and demean them for their feelings  . . . for crying as babies, for expressing hurt and fear and even anger. And we never help them build their capacity to feel.  So they grow up, not treasuring their real vulnerability, in fact afraid of it. So they grow up unnecessarily vulnerable to all the forces trying to get us not to feel.
Here’s the vicious cycle!

What have we done to our world?

How are we going to save our world?
By healing and safely feeling so we can rediscover and reclaim our true needed vulnerability.

© Copyright 2011 by Judith Barr, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Elvin Daniel B

    January 14th, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    Its amazing how we humans are built…Every little and seemingly insignificant thing also plays a role in shaping our feelings and everything…And our response to such things is also decided by that…We surely are complex machines :)

  • Meg

    January 14th, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    And since when has it become such a bad thing for a man to cry? You would think that a man had never cried in public before, but it was such a big deal when the enw speaker of the house was seen crying during an interview. Come on! Crying is a natural way to express emotion, and why should anyone feel ashamed of that? Or be made to feel ashamed of that for that matter?

  • CB

    January 14th, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    Crying is more than just sadness.It is a semi-voluntary expression of a person that happens only when emotions are touched deeply.

  • Judith Barr

    January 15th, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Thank you for your responses to Crying-Is It A Game? Or Is It for Real?

    We are, indeed, complex beings. And tears are an inherent expression of our feelings – right from the moment we are born. In fact, babies express themselves almost exclusively through crying, with a different sound, tone, quality to each different expression: a cry to say, “I’m hungry”; a cry to say, “I’m wet”; a cry to say, “I’m scared”; one to say, “I’m angry”; one to say, “I’m hurt” and more. As we grow, crying and tears continue to be an expression of what we feel and what we need.

    That the media would distort the meaning of a scientific study, misusing the study to prove (falsely) that someone is right to be annoyed by someone else’s safe expression of feeling . . . is a sad reflection of our society today.

    Those of us who know the importance and value of tears . . . in humans in general . . . are helping to change this harmful distortion in our society.
    I hope you will pass this on to others, asking them to join us.

    Thank you and many blessings,

  • Justine

    January 16th, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    I’m disappointed to hear that the show made light of this study, when the opportunity was there for some serious discussion. That sounds like an intern threw the show together on their coffee break! Very sad indeed that they took that approach.

  • Darren

    January 16th, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    It’s all about the ratings, remember? Shows don’t like the truth getting in the way of a more attention grabbing perspective. Personally I thought the real story was more interesting than their take on it anyway. They missed their opportunity there.

  • Monica C.

    January 17th, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Thanks for bringing this injustice to light, Judith. I think our lack of sensitivity and keenness to display vulnerability has a lot to do with why we live in a fear-filled, drug-addled world culture. There’s nothing wrong with showing you’re human and not a robot!

  • Liza

    January 17th, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    We should be celebrating our tears, not attempting to suppress them and the feelings that bring them about. What a terribly distorted message they are sending there. I fear men everywhere will be nodding in approval of it.

  • Erin

    January 18th, 2011 at 5:41 AM

    You know there are some people who use crying as a tool just to get what they want. That drives me crazy.

  • Judith Barr

    January 23rd, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    Thank you all for your responses. I’m glad to know my post moved you.

    When it comes to tears, in my experience, mostly people’s tears are genuine. And some people have worked really deeply to allow themselves to be that vulnerable, to let themselves cry.

    If someone uses tears to get what s/he wants . . . the root of that is often that s/he was not responded to when needing something as a child and thought s/he had to find a way to get herself/himself responded to. Of course this carries over into adult life: A child makes an early decision like “I have to cry in order to be heard,” or “I have to find some way to get my needs met – no matter what!” That decision stays within the child, even when s/he grows up . . . until s/he becomes aware of it and heals it. And even if s/he isn’t aware of it as an adult, using tears to get what you want is, indeed, an abuse of power.

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