If you’re anything like me, tears will be shed in happiness, grief, laughter, pain. Dad used to tell me I was like one of those professional wailing women hired for funerals. To make sure that tears were shed by at least someone. If, for some reason, I did not burst into tears when someone was leaving, they would suddenly be worried that I had stopped caring for them! I am not quite so easily triggered any more. Although that may be disputed by some.
It’s all good. But the interesting thing is, that the chemistry of those tears is different depending on why you cry! I find that amazing. I read a very long time ago that studies had shown sad tears secreted stress hormones and that is why you feel better after a good cry.
The Wikipedia describes tears, or lacrimation, as a body fluid which often serves to clean and lubricate the eyes in response to an irritation.
Let’s briefly follow the anatomical journey of tears. The lacrimal gland secretes the fluid. It then flows through the main excretory duct into the space between the eyeball and the lids. Blinking spreads it across the surface of the eye also collecting in the lacrimal lake (don’t you just love that name!). From there it flows through the lacrimal cannuli at the inner corners of the eyelids into the lacrimal sac eventually dripping out of the nose.
Science divides tears into three different types – Both tears of grief and joy are psychic tears, triggered by extreme emotions, whether positive or negative. Basal tears are released continuously in tiny quantities (on average, 0.75 to 1.1 grams over a 24-hour period) to keep the cornea lubricated. Reflex tears are secreted in response to an irritant, like dust, onion vapors or tear gas.
But tears are so much more than a cleansing shower for the eyes. In a five year study of dried tears Fisher collected, examined and photographed more than 100 tears. They were collected from herself, volunteers and a newborn baby. All tears contain an assortment of oils, antibodies and enzymes suspended in salt water. But what Fisher discovered is that each type contains distinct molecules. So for example emotional tears contain protein-based hormones which include a painkilling neurotransmitter released by the body when it is under stress.
According to Fisher “Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger and as complex as a rite of passage,” she says. “It’s as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean.”
Give yourself permission to cry