Tears: why only humans have them

Tears: why only humans have them

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Whether we like it or not, the truth is that some people have a much easier time to cry and express their feelings than others, these tears being strongly linked to emotional or emotional situations. Why are human beings the only ones who cry thanks to our emotions?


  • 1 Why do we cry?
  • 2 Why are tears of happiness then?
  • 3 The liberating function of crying

Why do we cry?

According to the Professor of Clinical Psychology Ad Vingerhoets, Dutch by birth and specialized in the field of emotions and stress, the reason why we cry humans is due to evolutionary issues and of our own development.

To understand it better, young children have no other way of expressing themselves and exposing their needs other than crying notoriously. In truth, it is their way of unfolding in their environment, when they are still very helpless beings. At first they will express themselves more by shouting, changing this behavior as they evolve.

Thus, in the beginning, the baby may expose his discomfort in a more noticeable way through more disconsolate cries and cries. As it grows and develops and can begin to move through space to get things, it is possible that these screams give way to another type of crying.

And they are not the only ones who use tears to get what they want. Well, in the adulthood, humans cry to express our helplessness and provoke a reaction of empathy in others.

So it happens that when we see another person cry in front of us, our first natural reaction is to comfort him, and with that we could also be selfishly fulfilling another of our goals: try to stop crying and make him feel better.

Although a priori this reaction may appear totally altruistic and in large part it may be so, the truth is that being empathic with the suffering of others we are also trying not to suffer ourselves, since it is not a very pleasant situation to witness.

But what happens to all those tears that no longer come from pure and hard sadness, but instead contain other reasons? Well, the investigations and Ad Vingerhoets himself declare that tears of happiness do not exist, against popular belief.

Why are tears of happiness then?

When a person breaks down crying supposedly of happiness or joy, that biological and emotional reaction does not come exactly from the stimulus that has caused him happiness.

In truth, there is another very powerful reason to cry in those cases. And if we ask elite athletes we may give the answer much sooner than we think and we may be surprised.

Many might believe that when someone just received a great prize or great news, they could start crying with emotion. But actually, is crying for all the previous difficulties which you have had to face before living this great and glorious moment.

This is where we can remember that artist who after collecting an award remembers all the difficulties and negatives he has had to face, or that athlete on the podium he remembers while receiving his medal all hours of training and effort since childhood.

And it is not necessary to go to those extremes or celebrities or known personalities, but we can apply it to more everyday experiences. For example, when after months or years of not seeing a person you really appreciate, you suddenly meet again.

Without a doubt, they could be very happy and beautiful moments for both of you, but the origin of your tears would go back to all that time that you have not been able to enjoy together and to the previous memories, these being the triggers of emotional shock and crying.

The liberating function of crying

It has also been said throughout history that tears have a liberating and healing effect, which would allow us to release stress hormones, causing almost immediate relief in us at the start of crying and a few minutes later. But what is true in this?

However, Ad Vingerhoets stated that after a study carried out in collaboration with colleagues from around the world, only half of the people said they had felt better after crying. Of the remaining 50%, 40% said they felt the same, and the other 10% said they felt even worse.

After these findings, it could be determined that what really makes humans feel better after crying is to comfort us, and not so much to release our tears. Although to tell the truth, this would vary greatly from one person to another.

Well, although in all cultures and parts of the world humans cry, we could perceive great differences between human beings of the same family or group, depending on their personalities, contexts and circumstances.