14
Nov

Why Do We Cry? – Glad You Asked S1 (E2)


( music playing )Joss:David, can you
just tell us your name
so we have that in?
David:
David Phillips.
And, David,
how often do you cry? – Um…
– It depends on the week. Um, actually,
on my way here I cried. Sometimes when you’re in your most vulnerable situations and Adele hits,
she really hits. So you know in
“Guardians of the Galaxy” when Groot makes a tree ball
around his friends and Rocket’s like,
“Groot, no!” The episode where
Ben and Leslie get married. And I picked up the phone and I realized
she’s not there anymore. I probably cry once
every six months,
if it’s a bad six months. In 2016, when I received
a video message of a moment that I probably
shouldn’t have missed. I remember these things because
for three years I kept a record of every time that I cried. This is your spreadsheet.( music playing )( sniffling ) So you guys all read
my spreadsheet. I’ve crunched the data
a little bit. So, the majority of these
were reactions to media, TV shows, movies,
podcasts, some articles, and about 37% were things
that were actually happening
in my personal life. So, as I’ve been looking
into this, one of the most interesting
facts I’ve come across is that a lot of people
consider tears to be
the only bodily fluid that doesn’t gross us out. Snot, earwax, spit. – All the other ones…
– All the other ones. …all gross. – All gross, but we–
– Yeah. We don’t have that
reaction to tears. Why’d you make
the spreadsheet? Um, when I cry, it feels like
I’ve become a different person. Because in my normal life,
I’m very calm and collected. I feel like I’m in control. And I think most of us
take for granted that crying is something
that humans do. But I’ve never felt
like I had a good grasp
on why we do it. I would weirdly find that crying during swim practice
was really therapeutic. So, I just cry
a little bit in my goggles and then I rest on the wall
during the interval, and then I just literally
would empty out the tears, put on my cap
and just keep swimming. Joss:I have enlisted
the help of Taili Wu,
a master stop motion animator,to help us explain the anatomy
of the lacrimal system,
which is what makes us cry.– It’s alive!
– ( laughs ) We’re gonna bring Alex in
and show him how it all works. All right. – Are you ready?
– Yeah. Jose:Okay,
so the main lacrimal gland
is here on the upper
outer part of the eye socket.That gland releases tears
that travel across the eye
washing any irritants away.And then when we blink,
liquid gets pushed
into two tiny holes
near the corner of the eye.
And if you look really close,
you can see them.
Okay. Can you see it? – Yes, I can now.
– You do? – It’s tiny. Right there.
– Yay! – Can you show me the other one?
– Yeah. – Can you see it?
– Yeah. – You can see the hole.
– I actually can see it. Oh, my God.So our tears drain
into our nose,
and that’s why the nose
starts running when you cry.
When the lacrimal gland
is producing so many tears,
that they can’t drain
fast enough,
they spill over
onto your cheeks.
– And that’s crying?
– That’s crying. Wow. So it’s just, like,
this overflow of excess tears. – Exactly.
– Wow. And we share this anatomy with a lot
of other land animals. It evolved way
before humans did. And I found a clip on YouTube
that I really want to show you. –( cat meows )
– Woman:Oh, Buddy.Man:Oh, Buddy.Did those onions get to you? Aww, Buddy. So this is what happens
if you cut onions by a cat, which is not a particularly
nice thing to do. But what’s unique about us is
that humans are the only animal that cries tears
of emotion. – Really?
– Yeah. So there’s some point
in our evolution that our lacrimal glands
became connected
to our emotions, and I really wanted to know
how that happened. So I called up
a Dutch psychologist
named Ad Vingerhoets. – Great name.
– Who is– yes. Who is considered the world’s
leading expert in crying. ( crying ) And would that be
why we have tears
when we yawn as well? Yeah, yeah. Okay, so the idea is that the babies would’ve been
screaming to get care, that vocal signal, and then it would’ve
come along with that, – these tears.
– Yes. ( baby crying ) I see. So, maybe there was
a survival advantage to a child
who produced more tears – as opposed to more
vocal crying.
– Yeah. Hmm. So what I’m getting
from this is, like, over time, crying became a way
for us to reach out for help. Now you’re saying
that tears are essentially a more subdued way of
expressing those same things. Exactly. Humans go through this
really long childhood where our brains
still have to develop, because we’ve
got these giant brains. They take 20, 25 years
to finish forming, and I think that’s why
this crying persists
into adulthood for humans, because we’re vulnerable
for longer than other species. – Hmm.
– I mean, kids are
in their parents’ house for 18 years at least. – Um, being–
– Or 25. Or 25.
Whatever, no judgment. Joss:It was the sad,
helpless screams of infants
that likely linked emotions
to tears in our ancestors.
As adults, our emotions
are more complex,
but they still trigger
the same signal.
Um, I was walking
to get groceries one day and, um, I got a call
from my grandfather. He’s sort of like
another parent to me. I lived in his house
for a while growing up, and I started crying. I didn’t really let on, but I was like,
“Oh, wow. I really miss– I really miss you. I’m really touched that you’re thinking of me
and calling me, even if there’s not much
for us to say.” One of the things
we hear a lot is that people feel better
after they cry and that crying is cathartic. I’ve looked at some
of the research on this, and it seems like
even though a lot of people report that crying
makes them feel better, they haven’t been able
to find any sort of physiological mechanism
that would explain that. So, I am on my way
to meet with Dr. Meena Dasari. She is a clinical psychologist. And I sent her
my spreadsheet in advance, and I’m curious to see
what her analysis of it is. Thank you. All right. Do you think crying
is healthy? I think crying is healthy
when done in moderation– when it’s used as form
of emotional expression, but in conjunction
with other coping strategies. Crying as a release of emotion,
as a way of self-soothing, and then moving on
to different forms, I do think can be healthy. – He is so cute.
– He’s the sweetest. And they’re constantly
wearing tie-dye,
which is their thing. – All the time? Look at them.
– Yeah.My nephew was born in 2014and my niece was born in 2016. – And you can see those
in my spreadsheet,
– Absolutely. feeling like I was
really missing some of
those key moments– their births,
some of their birthdays. And then my sister would
send me videos of them. Woman:
Say “Happy birthday,
Auntie Jossy.” Happy birthday, Auntie Jossy. All:
♪ Happy birthday to you ♪ And those moments were
just like– oof!You know, like,
I should be there.
– Dasari:You longed
for that connection.

– I did. Well, I think that’s
what I was struck by when reading your entries is the big theme to me
seemed human connectedness. And there was sort of
two experiences. One was the expression
of that human connectedness, either love or affection,
um, but also the loss. My mother died
when I was 13 years old and my father didn’t
quite understand me, and– and I didn’t
understand him. And so,
I cried a lot of sad– there was a lot of sadness
in my life. “Oh, Father” by Madonna.♪ You didn’t mean to be cruel ♪I’m thinking of my mother basically through
the whole song. That last day
that I saw my mother alive
was Mother’s Day. You know, my inner child’s mind,
I just feel like… wounded,
and it’s always that part that makes me feel… like she’s wounded, too. Woman:
What happened? He’s sad. He’s sad? Yeah. Oh, no. That made me sad. He wants his mama. Oh. Girl:Say “mama.”So I showed that clip to the Dutch psychologist
Ad Vingerhoets, and he said that
it’s actually pretty rare for a child that young
to feel empathy
to the point of tears. But as we get older,
it becomes more common to cry not just for ourselves,
but because we see
others in pain. And especially for women. Across the board,
women and girls score higher on tests of empathy
than men and boys. And that might partly explain
why women cry more than men. In a survey of 37 countries
around the world, women consistently reported
crying more often than men. And for me, crying can feel
almost contagious. Each of these clips
is from my spreadsheet, and they show that there
was a consistent trigger that made me start to tear up. 70% of the time, it was when
I saw another person crying. And I just remember, like,
crossing the finish line and being so emotionally
vulnerable and so emotionally dead,
and then the plan was everyone’s just gonna meet me
back in my apartment. And so as I was walking, one of my–
one of my best friends, he came and– and found me. And again, I started crying
as soon as I saw him, because I was just– I was just
so glad that he was there and I was so glad, like, somehow
he knew that I needed him. You got me. It’s like if you cry,
I’m gonna cry. That’s amazing.I think the most mysterious
tears are the ones
that come when something
positive is happening.
So I wanted to see
if the team had the same
reaction that I did
to wholesome videos
from my spreadsheet.
Joss is having us watch some
videos that she sent to us. – Are you about to make me cry?
– That depends on you. So, here’s the file.
It’s a Dropbox link. I don’t really know
what to expect. I think she wants me to cry. I’m not going to cry. I’m really scared. Okay. ( cheering) Oh, my God. That’s only the second one?
That’s crazy. I have goosebumps. Look. ( gasps ) What is it?
Singapore or Thailand? That is too much water
for that plant. Joss:
The Thai commercial
where the guy is going arounddoing kind things for
everyone in his community,
it’s funny that
that was on my spreadsheet,
because when I started
researching this it turns out
that it’s a clipthat psychologists use to studythe emotion of being moved.There’s a study that askedpeople to track
when they started crying while they were watching
that video. And you can see that
around the two minute mark there’s this big jump
when people started crying. – Oh, I know what that is.
– What do you think it was? It’s the little girl
in her uniform. – It’s gotta be the little girl.
– It’s gotta be the little girl. – Yeah, that’s the moment.
– That’s the moment!That’s when
the character realizes
that the girl he’s been
donating money to…
…has begun to go to school.( music playing )And this finding comes
from a research group
that studies an emotion
that they call “kama muta,” which is a Sanskrit word
for “moved by love.” So, if you’ve ever
seen something that made you sort of
reflexively put your hand
on your chest or get chills or goosebumps or tears, they say
those are all symptoms of this distinct emotion
of being moved by love. So, their findings suggest that you’re likely
to experience this emotion when there’s
a sudden intensification of a communal relationship, when people feel themselves
suddenly closer to each other. And I think of it as kind
of like surprise intimacy. So we think that surprise is really important aspect
of that emotion,because if you just have
this relationship
and there’s
this really tiny change,
which is just happening
over several days, for example,
maybe you would feel
a bit happier,
but it wouldn’t be
this intense feeling
that you would have
just in the moment.
What? Are you serious? Are you serious? – Woman:
What does that say, babe?
– ( crying ) – What is that?
– ( crying ) Oh, God. When people say positive tears,
tears of joy, that always seemed a little bit
not right to me. It just seems like there’s
something more going on there than just joy or happiness.Yeah, we agree that it oftenis occurring together
with sadness,
and that’s basically also
the beauty of it, I guess,
because you often
have this contrast.
So, imagine,
the typical situation
would be if you reunite
unexpectedly with–
with a loved one you haven’t
seen for many years.
So there had to be
this kind of loss,
this background
that it would occur against.
( screaming )
Oh, my God! Would you consider yourself
someone who cries less often
than most people? I wouldn’t know. Like, I’m not sure
how frequently people cry. – But I would say–
– I could tell you that. Okay, please do. So, studies suggest
that in Western countries women cry on average
two to four times a month. – Wow.
– And men cry about once
every couple of months. Yeah, I would cry
about three times a year. – Oh, wow. Okay.
– Yeah. – But they’re–
they’re good ones.
– They’re good ones. Well, the good news
is that there is a study
about non-criers. And it found
that non-criers don’t differ from criers
in their well-being. They don’t seem to have
more depression or anxiety. So this notion
that crying is necessary
for mental health, that it’s a necessary release,
that doesn’t seem to be true. The director
of the debate team I was on in college
passed away. And all the alums came back
for a funeral, and everybody was crying
and I noticed that I was not. And it was the first funeral
I’d been to, and I realized that
that was different. And I felt like
I had to take measures to signal to others that
I was still affected by it because I wasn’t showing
the most obvious marker.( music playing )Joss:There was this survey
back in the late ’90s
that asked a bunch of countries
around the world
how often the people there cry.And what they expected
to find was that the countries that had
lower standard of living, the countries where they rated
themselves with lower well-being and the countries
with higher depression rates would be the ones
that cried more. But that’s not what they found. The dark blue countries
are the countries that reported
crying the most frequently. And the light green
are the ones that reported
crying the least. So you see here, we have
three countries in Africa. We have Nepal. These are countries where
the researchers would’ve assumed that the people there
would have objectively more reasons for crying. But what they found
was that it was the happier, wealthier countries
that cried more. And the variables
that correlated
with crying frequency were things like
the level of civil rights, the level of democracy,
extroversion, and individualism. And so what the studies suggest
is that crying, at least on
the international level, isn’t about how much distress
a population feels. Rather it’s about how much
that population feels they have the freedom
of emotional expression. I think there’s a special
comfort in crying publicly. It’s nice to be around
other people and know crying
is a part of your day just like your commute
or your lunch break. It’s just, oh, it’s cry time. It’s cry o’clock.( music playing )Crying evolved
as a signal to othersthat we need their help
in order to survive.
But for adults, crying can be
a message to ourselves,
if we pay attention. I think about him
a lot these days. He’s getting older,
I’m getting older, and, you know, time is not
stopping for anybody. It’s a matter of going through
life’s atrocities for me and– and yet I came out
on the bright side. Your tears are a signal
that you’re seeing something
important to you,and the memories and valuesthat start pouring out
of your eyes?
They can be surprising. There are a lot of things
that push my buttons. But what’s actually coming out could’ve been
building up for years. Dr. Vingerhoets had
a neat way of putting it. He said, “Apparently…”( music playing )Hello! Hi, guys!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

100 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *