This beautiful phrase came to me through Millie Kagan, my wise cotherapist for over 20 years. I have been consistently impressed, throughout my career, with the power and importance of tears, and I have come to believe that crying does, indeed, salve the soul. As a psychotherapist, I know that I am hitting paydirt once a patient begins to cry. Tears indicate that I am getting behind the frontline defenses and becoming emotionally intimate with the patient. If violence toward self or others has been a distinct possibility, I know that I can relax somewhat once the tears begin to flow.
In general, I find that women cry much more easily and more often than men. Scientific studies have shown that men cry less because of biological makeup and because of societal training, leaving them vulnerable to greater stress, more violence to self and others, and earlier death. Women’s tear glands are different in their cellular structure from men’s, and women have more tiny tear ducts in their eyelids. But even though women seem to have the clear advantage here, I find that women often devalue their tears as useless and a sign of weakness. Both sexes say things like; “I hope I can get through this without crying;” “I have no reason to cry;” and “Tears won’t solve anything.” William Frey, a pioneer in this field and the author of Crying: The Mystery of Tears, has found that tears contain a unique combination of chemicals that promote a feeling of wellbeing and pain relief, and that tears absorbed into the nasal cavity carry endorphins to the brain.
Your soul will broaden and deepen if you’ll let yourself cry whenever you feel the urge. Don’t worry about the stimulus, a movie or TV commercial, a song, the funeral of a stranger. Trust the soul. It knows the deeper connection. It knows where to apply the salve.