Why Do I Cry? SCIENCE. Science Is The Culprit.

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Why do I cry?

I blame science. Seriously. Along with being the bane of my school years, it turns out that science has followed me into my adult age to continue making me weep. Not in the same way though. These days, I can look at a scientific problem and hold back the tears and fears. I merely pass it to my husband like I do with sea urchin, broken stuff and difficult toddler questions.

The science that gets me welling up nowadays is my parasympathetic nervous system. Say wut?

1. You feel an emotion.

2. Your amygdala registers this and sends a signal to your hypothalmus.

3. Your hypothalmus activates your autonomic nervous system and off you go.

Simple, right? *COUGH*

Everyone cries. Pain, sadness, happiness and a whole host of other reasons. Almost everyone is a sad crier (unless you’re a psycopath). Some of us are also happy criers, like moi. See something that is cause for celebration? I cry. Something touching and sweet? I cry. Something related to babies, parents and animals? If it’s all three together, I don’t cry, I bawl.

Unfortunately, the scientific bits in your brain can’t tell if you are happy or sad.

The sad tears:

One theory blames this emotional weeping on something called perceived helplessness. We look at a shelter dog, listen to Sarah McLachlan singing a sad song, and perceive utter helplessness on behalf of that poor hound.

(Cue sobs.)

Same with wildlife programmes:

“RUN BABY GISELLE, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! OUTRUN THAT MURDEROUS CHEETAH KILLER!” you (I) scream at the telly, your adrenalin pumping, heartrate almost through the roof. This quickly turns into “NO. NO. NOOOOO! OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE IT THE BABY IS DEAD! IT’S FUCKING DEAD! OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!”

(Cue uncontrollable sobbing at the sadness and perceived painful and pointless death.)

Cut to programme showing how the baby cheetahs will only survive if their exhausted mother can catch a baby giselle for supper…no giselle, dead baby cheetahs.


When mama cheetah takes down the now not so cute baby giselle, you sigh loudly in relief and guess what, cry happy tears that the babies will no long perish within the next four minutes of telly time.


The happy tears:

Your bestie gets wed. She sees her dress and cries. You cry too. Why? Who knows, you just do.

Your sister graduates. You cry. Out of pride, of course.

Your baby says a full sentence that isn’t utter bollocks. You bawl. Why?! It’s not about perceived helplessness in this case, though. So, what is it? You are so happy, that your parasympathetic nervous system, along with your amygdala and hypothalmus all kick in and you find yourself sobbing, pig-eyed and snotty but there’s nothing sad about anything.


[If you’ve imbibed a few drinkies, this can suddenly veer from emotional happiness to doom, interspersed with I FUCKING LOVE YOU I DO moments.]

Moving on.

At the end of the day, you’re not a cry baby. It’s okay to shed tears of happiness and sadness. You’re neither a wimp nor a freak. The freaks are those who see death and destruction and not shed a little tear. (Yes, I’m still talking about wildlife programmes.)


Featured Image Credit: Flickr / Savannah van der Niet

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An ex spy from the UK, Elaine currently lives in Washington DC with her husband and toddler. Having to verbally hold in her British snark, she finds an outlet through writing. You can find her on Twitter @damesparkula and Instagram @delcerroyau and @twosisterstwocountries.

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