The crying club: Shed the tears, don't hold back!
Crying may not be a sign of weakness but a good way to express your emotions
If you ask people randomly about the clubs they know, you will hear the names of football clubs, yoga clubs, dance clubs and so on. I doubt if anyone would mention a “crying club” because they probably never think it exists.
The thing is, it does exist. In 2013, the first-ever crying club in Tokyo, Japan was founded by businessman Hiroki Terei. Four years later, Kamlesh Masalawala, a laughter therapist, also established a “Healthy Crying Club” in Surat, India.
Crying clubs are places where people express their emotion of sadness, anger, frustration, agony, and even happiness by crying emotionally. However, why on earth do we need crying clubs?
The stereotype of crying
Crying is a complex physiological response to an emotional stimulus. It always comes with the shedding of tears but can also include sobbing, i.e., changes in breathing pattern and facial expression. Generally, people might cry when they feel sad, scared, stressed, pained, or happy.
In our modern world, crying publicly is often associated with children who need attention. Some societies have gender-stereotyped crying in a way that it is perceived appropriate for women to cry publicly but inappropriate for men because they would be considered weak or “not man enough”.
Therefore, many adults prefer to hold back their tears and cry indoors in the absence of anyone to avoid judgement and perception of weakness. To change such stereotypes and enable people to express their emotions freely, crying clubs have been established in Japan and India.
From divorce ceremonies to the first crying club
The crying club in Tokyo was founded to provide a non-judgemental place where people can express their emotions by crying to feel happier afterwards. People who visit the crying club participate in the rui-katsu (literally “tear activity”) session for stress relief. Tear-jerking movies and sad songs are often played in the club to induce crying. For example, participants saw a documentary about the aftermath of the big 2011 Earthquake in East Japan, which featured people who were severely injured and displaced from their homes.
Businessman Hiroki Terei got the idea to offer crying sessions after he had been organizing non-official divorce ceremonies successfully since 2009. Terai said, “there should be a positive way to end a marriage and move on by making a vow to restart their lives in front of loved ones”. Wedding rings are smashed at the end of the divorce ceremony as a symbol for the relationship being legally and emotionally over. The newly divorced couples shake hands and then celebrate the beginning of their newfound life with families and friends. According to Terai, “after these ceremonies, men often cried and felt relieved”. For this reason, he decided to start a club dedicated to crying only.
The “Healthy Crying Club” in India
The “Healthy Crying Club” in Surat, India was founded on the common notion that “doctors declare a baby healthy only after it cries”. Babies’ first cry is the strongest reassuring sign that they are well and can breathe. In fact, research suggests that non-crying infants at birth should always be monitored for apnea.
The club founder Kamlesh Masalawala believes people would have a healthy body, mind, and soul when they cry and let go of their emotional burdens. In an interview, he said,
“As we grow older, we form walls that prevent us from expressing ourselves clearly. And, for the same reason, children are emotionally and physically more healthy when compared to adults, as they can cry without a whim”.
Cry when you feel good or bad
About crying, the renowned American writer Lemony Snicket mentioned,
“Unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit”.
The tears we shed differ from each other and are classified into three types, namely basal, reflex and emotional (or psychic) tears. Basal tears are constantly produced in the eye to lubricate, keep the eye moist and protect it from debris. Reflex tears are shed when our eye meets irritants like smoke, dust, tear gas or onion fumes. Emotional tears are produced due to emotions like sadness, happiness or other passionate feelings.
From these three types, emotional tears contain by far the highest concentration of stress hormones. This suggests that crying and shedding those emotional tears, rather than holding them back, might alleviate some built-up emotional stress.
As we all know, people do not only cry when they are sad, depressed or stressed but also when they are happy, likewise known as tears of joy. For example, those are tears of joy when people cry after they win a lottery jackpot or see a loved one again after a long time. Researchers from Yale University found the reason for this seemingly paradoxical reaction: Crying emotionally may restore emotional balance after strong positive situations. This is important because a normal emotional state is related to quality relationships, cooperation with people, mental and physical health.
Many purposes of crying
Indeed, crying is rather useful in different ways. It can be self-soothing, a form of emotion regulation. Then, crying is a way of communication which is not only used by infants to get their mothers' attention but also by adults who explicitly convey their helplessness. Crying also forges a bond between people. For example, it helps when couples hug each other and cry emotionally after a misunderstanding between them. Finally, we should not forget that crying is the very first thing we do on earth.
In conclusion, crying is not a sign of weakness. According to William Shakespeare, “to weep is to make less grief”. Shed those emotional tears as you want, don’t hold them back! It is a good way for humans to express our emotional distress.
Do you mind showing your tears in public? What do you think about crying clubs?