A while ago I was watching Bruce Parry's TV programme, 'Tribe', in which he goes to live as one of the tribe in various locations. Towards the end of the last programme, in which he lives with the Penan tribe in a rapidly shrinking piece of rain forest in Borneo, I found myself weeping uncontrollably at the terrible plight they suffered. The land on which they live in harmonious symbiosis is being eroded by government sanctioned logging companies. These gentle, wonderful people may be forced to enter the 21st century against their will, just for a bit of commercial revenue.
Although truly moving and shocking, it wasn't the worst atrocity I became aware of this week - there are numerous tragic stories and many other catalysts that could produce a flood of tears if I let them. But I try not to because I have accepted the idea that it is somehow shameful to weep openly at will, whenever something moves me. In place of expression, I gulp down the tears and feel that familiar tightness in my throat. Even watching a sad film with my darling husband whom I have known for over a third of my life, I censor my feelings and don't weep as freely as I might were I alone.
I know I'm not the only one who does this.Although weeping can be seen as a sign of weakness or sentimentality, it is widely acknowledged that those who express and own their feelings are healthier, happier and even live longer. It has been suggested that weeping, sobbing and even better - wailing, all have a therapeutic value equal to that of meditation and yoga. Quelling the negative health aspects of stress, anger and anxiety - even raising immune function. I know that when I have the odd night to myself and allow the tears that well up to come out unhindered, I often feel relaxed and cleansed, sleep better and wake feeling refreshed.
Not that I cry constantly, nor am I depressed. Tears can be a simple expression of anxiety or even anger, a release that does not require explanation. Once tears have been allowed to come, there is often a stream of associated triggers that come to mind. Someone who died, feeling lonely, a memory of something that really hurt. It can feel disingenuous to cry about these things on the back of the original catalyst, but that is the beauty of letting it all out - tears don't need justifying and they are not a sign of failure or weakness, but a way of coping with the pressure that life exerts on your heart.
Maybe next time you find yourself welling up at the Andrex Puppy, you might try to let those tears out and not feel like a daft softy. Thinking instead about how much better you will feel when the dam has subsided and you can see clearly again. You could save yourself a packet on therapy in later years and even stave off a cold or two - but remember to stock up on the man sized tissues.
x x x