How sweet it is to cry and water heaven with our tears, romantic poets are wont to say. Such poets venerate tears as “the heart’s own dew” or “summer showers to the soul.”
Yet the sources of our tears are as varied as the mixtures of water, salts, antibodies, and antibacterial enzymes of which they are composed. The rivulets upon our cheeks have their emotional sources in genuine happiness and joy but also in regret, sorrow, guilt, shame, and self-pity.
Tears can be used to deceive others—but also to deceive ourselves. Used as a psychological defense, tears can cover up the lies—or at least the fibs—we tell ourselves. It’s worth looking into this “slight-of-mind” because we become smarter and more insightful every time we catch a glimpse of how our defenses work.
Of course, it’s usually better to cry than to dam up emotions. Crying can be appropriate and healthy, especially when it’s experienced as a deep positive connection with one’s self or others. Tears can also be authentic responses to truth, beauty, kindness, and wonder.
Still, tears can also be slippery accomplices in our unconscious readiness to go on suffering over some unresolved issue. I provide an example below of a woman being deceived by her tears. [Read more…]