18 January 2016

Cry baby

During the news coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris last November, one television reporter broke down while presenting from a memorial site. Some denounced this behaviour as unprofessional, but many expressed support and understanding for the reporter concerned.

I'm definitely in the latter camp. While news reporters clearly can't become tearful over every story they cover, we shouldn't condemn the occasional emotional lapse. It's not a sign of either unprofessionalism or weakness - whether you are a man or a woman - just that they're human beings. 

More recently, of course, we've also seen President Obama cry while talking about gun control. 

I probably sympathise with them both, because I cry at the drop of a hat and have done since childhood.

On Sunday afternoons, I'd often watch a 'weepie' film with my mum and younger sister. Mum would always be first to cave, with me quick to follow, and my sister finally following suit. 'I was all right until you two started,' she'd grumble. Dad would then peer over the top of his newspaper and say, in his dry way, 'Are you all enjoying this?' 'Yes!' Mum would sob back at him.

I was once howling my way through an episode of a television drama in which First World War deserters were being put before a firing squad, when Dad asked me 'What are you crying for, it's only a story?' 'I know,' I said, 'but it used to happen!'

The problem is that my imagination and empathy conspire to put me right at the centre of whatever I'm watching or hearing, whether truth or fiction, and really feel it.

Image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
People say crying is good for you, but I get a headache after only a few minutes and, for hours afterwards, look as if I've been punched in the face. Then again, I do know how to have a proper cry: think Juliet Stevenson's character in Truly Madly Deeply, snot and all!

From my research, it seems that some of us fall into the category of 'Highly sensitive person', and those of us who are anxious or neurotic by nature are also quicker to tears. Others shouldn't judge us for that, but nor should we judge as uncaring those who are made of stronger stuff.

In fact, in spite of my frequent waterworks, I'm actually a really strong person, who - like the Duracell Bunny - just keeps going.

There is, of course, a 'release' element to crying - it's believed to release stress hormones from the body - and always bottling things up can be detrimental to your physical health. This quote, from British psychiatrist Henry Maudsley, puts it beautifully: 'The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.'

Now, where are the tissues? Just in case...

4 comments:

ruthdehaas said...

I cry a lot at films/TV too... even if I've seen the thing in question loads of times before. Eg Galaxy Quest which I watched again this weekend in honour of the late great Alan Rickman and cried like a fountain.

ocdtalk said...

Interesting post, Helen. I cry easily too, and can't even bring myself to watch any movies unless they are totally happy ones! I've never seen crying as a sign of weakness, but more as a sign of feeling! And, in my opinion, that's a good thing.

Helen Barbour said...

Ruth, I went to see Titanic twice at the cinema and on the second occasion started crying as soon as the opening music started! I took my mum that time, so you can imagine what we both looked like by the end of it...it was a complete sob-fest.

Helen Barbour said...

ocdtalk, I've got caught out by films before, eg 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' - the title should have given me a clue, but because Steve Carell was in it, I thought it would be funny all the way through. In fact, I was howling at the end!