THE BENEFITS OF LAUGHTER AND CRYING
Two of the most potent forms of emotional expression known to humanity are crying and laughing. They are so universal that they must play a fundamental biological and/or behavioral role. We’ll explore both those roles here, shedding much light on what it means to be human.
Let’s begin with crying. Not just any crying, but crying from joy, sobbing with relief, trembling with trepidation, weeping out of sorrow . . . in short, crying as a release for intense feelings. Did you know that the chemical content of such emotional tears differs from that of “reflex” tears produced, for example, when we’re slicing an onion? Emotional tears contain more manganese and proteins--including the stress hormones prolactin and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).
The result is often unmistakable. People feel better after they cry, and, not coincidentally, look better too. In one survey, 85% of women and 73% of men reported feeling less sad or angry after crying. A number of studies associate the ability to cry with improved health. Tears and laughter, one researcher asserts, “are two inherently natural medicines. We can reduce duress, let out negative feelings, and recharge. They . . . are the body’s own best resources.”
People differ quite a bit in their penchant for crying. Pioneering research done by Dr. William Frey, a biochemist in Minneapolis, shows that the frequency of crying in normal, healthy individuals ranges from zero to seven episodes per month for men and from zero to 29 episodes per month for women.
While fully half of the men surveyed said they never cry, only 6% of the women did. Contrary to what you might expect, Frey found that depressed persons don’t necessarily cry more than others and that women’s crying doesn’t necessarily correlate with their hormone levels. It is true that the tear glands of the sexes are structurally different, leading women to cry more profusely. And whereas men tend to tear up and cry quietly to themselves, women’s weeping is noisier and more visible.
Frey’s survey reveals that sadness accounts for 49% of people’s tears; happiness, 21%; anger, 10%; fear or anxiety, 9%; and sympathy, 7%. We can say with some assurance that crying originates in infancy, but by adulthood crying is more complicated and distinctive. Although crying may be done in front of other people, it is also done alone. One might ask: Is crying alone still a form of communication? I would answer yes. As author Tom Lutz observes, “Crying . . . occurs at times when we cannot put complex, overwhelming emotions into words. Tears can supplant articulation, which is why they offer release.”
When one cries to oneself, I would add, even more than a form of release it may be a way for the bodymind to convey a deeply felt message to ourselves. A person won’t be moved to cry, for instance, at a movie, play, or musical or narrative passage if that scene or passage doesn’t resonate deeply within. It simply may not connect with our experience, in which case weeping would be inauthentic. But a good cry will signal to whoever is around--and it may be only us--that something of importance is taking place.
However, a person can weep profusely and not feel better. Those who suffer from depression, for instance, can cry with no relief--and possibly feel worse for the effort. This is because depression is a form of inner immobilization, permitting little assuagement or relief. In contrast, sadness comes naturally to our bodymind and reflects a state of inner vitality in which feeling can flow.
There is another prism through which to view the purpose of crying: that of social communication, intimacy, and bonding. Psychologist Randolph Cornelius of Vassar College sees weeping in this sense as a search for resolution. People who are in need of being held, reassured, or having differences patched up will cry not only to express this need to others but also to try to gain some progress or resolution. If the resolution is not there, he says, they aren’t likely to feel better.
If we have reason to cry but cannot, the message our bodymind is sending will remain inside. That loss of emotional expression is not just unfortunate; it has very real health effects. It may also have longer-term psychic effects. Many ghosts are said to be moaning or weeping--plaintively searching, one might infer, for resolution. Whereas folk tales suggest that these are lost souls mourning for something they left behind in this world, I suspect the process has to do with biology. A person in whom the energy of feelings is stopped up--bodily as well as through issues unresolved between the neocortex and emotional brain--constitutes a likely trigger for anomalous occurrences. We know that crying involves the interaction of advanced parts of the brain with more elementary structures that control our basic physiology (e.g., the limbic system and brain stem). The inhibition of crying must be at least as complex.
A GOOD LAUGH
Laughter is also an incompletely understood subject though, like tears, a quintessential human trait. There are also some significant differences. Whereas crying mutates into different forms from its genesis in childhood--and takes place in more varied contexts--adult laughter is very close in form and function to its childhood antecedent. Also, the reasons we laugh are not as numerous as for when we cry. We can laugh out of a sense of kinship, friendship, frivolity, hilarity, or absurdity, but not out of any stronger feelings, such as fear, anger, love, or elation. Nor do we laugh out of any aesthetic sense; for example, upon hearing a powerful passage of music or being moved by the spirituality of a given place or experience. And while a good laugh is understood to be a valuable stress reliever, laughter per se is not nearly as “deep” as crying. It doesn’t put us in touch with our innermost selves.
Revue de presse
"The authors have previously documented an apparent overlap between anomalous perceptions and various physical sensitivities. . .explains what the overlap might mean, i.e., how it sheds light on the development of the self and the foundational role of sentience in shaping our cognitions, memories, and dreams." (ASD International Association for the Study of Dreams, Sept 2009)
"This book is particularly valuable for anyone who is especially sensitive to the environment (light, noise, smell, chemicals), since it puts those experiences in a new context and helps us understand the benefits and side effects of being unusually sensitive." (Elaine Zablocki, Townsend Letter, The Examiner of Alternative Medicine, Oct 2009)
"The paranormal is looked at in a completely fresh and new way, as a natural component to more creative, sensitive ways of relating. . . . This book is a must for any counselor, therapist, or medical professional. For the rest of us, well, there are many surprises here." (P.M.H. Atwater, L.H.D, author of The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences and The New Children and Nea)
"Neurochemistry and new age thought blend in a fine research-based examination perfect for new age and science libraries alike." (The Midwest Book Review, Oct 2009)
"The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion makes remarkably good sense. Both the scientist and the student will learn immensely from it. If you really want to know how highly I think of the book, I read it twice." (The Amazing Kreskin, Dec 2009)
"The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion begins by looking at our assumptions and misassumptions about emotions. In particular, I was intrigued by the dialogue about sensitivities. . . . very interesting and well worth more examination." (Tami Brady, TCM Reviews, July 2010)
"It is very readable, very informative--and highly recommended." (Robert A. Charman, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, October 2010)
“. . . well written and is almost as encyclopedia of research on anomalous experiences, plus even more interesting science about trauma, emotions, electromagnetic energy, and the body/mind. You will learn a lot and enjoy it.” (The Highly Sensitive Person, December 2010)
“Jawer and Micozzi articulate one of the most profound understandings of consciousness since Descartes. The book brings Antonio Damasio’s ‘feeling brain’ into full embodiment. It is a monumental contribution to understanding ourselves as human beings.” (Allan Combs, Ph.D., author of The Radiance of Being)
“This book is a comprehensive collection of opinions, anecdotes, and scientific studies; the authors weave these into the supporting structure of their theory. The book is a comfortable, easy read; it is well-organized and referenced from beginning to end. It is appropriate for both professionals and academics in the fields of neuroscience and cognitive science, yet at the same time does not exclude a much larger audience.” (The Journal of Mind and Behavior (Volume 31, Numbers 3 and 4), March 2011)
"An insightful exploration of the powerful capacities of the mind-body connection, and its inherent link with perception." (Andrew Weil, M.D., author of Spontaneous Healing and Natural Health, Natural Medicine)
“The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion is truly connective, bridging the disciplines of biology, neurology, immunology, psychology, and spirituality. This is a book for the 21st century that will open and enlarge our minds, hearts, and spirits.” (Miriam Greenspan, author of Healing Through the Dark Emotions)
“The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion is brilliant . . . comprehensive . . . holistic.” (Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., editor of Advances in Parapsychological Research and coeditor of The Variet)
“The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion is a landmark book that presents a picture of consciousness that is far more majestic than anything conceived in conventional neuroscience. Based in solid science, this bold effort will challenge anyone who reads it with an open mind. Highly recommended.” (Larry Dossey, M.D., author of Recovering the Soul and Reinventing Medicine)
“The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion presents a unique and arresting view of such topics as mind, body, memory, illness, perception, and emotion. The authors show us an altogether novel way of understanding who we are and what we’re about. There’s more to being human than we ever imagined, and this book is an excellent roadmap for anyone who wants to take that journey.” (Eric Leskowitz, M.D., department of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School)
“I agree completely with the thesis in The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion from what I have observed in the many case reports we receive from the general public; from a monthly paranormal experience group at our center; and from my experience as a clinical psychologist.” (Sally Feather, Ph.D., director of research, Rhine Research Center)
“Jawer and Micozzi have come up with important findings that could open up a whole new field of research.” (Carlos Alvarado, Ph.D., assistant professor of research in Psychiatric Medicine, University of Virgi)
“Jawer and Micozzi have collected a unique body of data on environmental sensitivity, which has great relevance to human health and psychology. They put together this data with original ideas on emotion very persuasively in The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion. I highly recommend this well-written and accessible book.” (Ernest Hartmann, M.D., author of Dreams and Nightmares and Boundaries in the Mind, professor of psyc)
"This is another book that I found to be valuable in a variety of ways. Primarily, it opened my eyes to the wide variety of experiments that have been done with regard to emotions and their influences both within and without the individual. It also showed possible areas of exploration regarding poltergeists and some other phenomena. . . . well worth the time and effort to read." (Michael Gleason, Witchgrove.com, July 2009)
"Recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil, this book should be on every scholar's library shelf. If you're interested in holistic medicine and the mind-body connection, this is a book you simply must read, fascinating page to fascinating page, story to story, and cover to cover. Events and experiences you have heard about or experienced may actually begin to make sense." (Lynette Fleming, BasilandSpice.com, Sept 2009)