Should men cry? Yes, and much more often

Crying has many benefits - both physical and psychological.

As a nation collectively rallied behind the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) after it lost contact with Vikram just minutes before the scheduled iconic moon landing, a video of PM Narendra Modi hugging an emotional and crying ISRO chief K Sivan went viral.

While many sympathised with the chairman for the disappointment he felt after all the years of hard work he and his team had put in, there were others who criticised him for crying, calling it unprofessional. Political analyst Gaurav Pandhi tweeted that he had not expected “A man of his stature crying like a baby because of shortfalls looks idiotic to me,” and that crying at the workplace is unprofessional.

Spending years toiling over a project that you are passionate about, seeing it till the final stage, and losing communication just a couple of kms from its target, is enough to make the toughest break down. So, what is wrong with the ISRO chief crying?

The whole incident brings to the fore an issue on which more conversations are needed - that of whether it is ok for grown up men to cry. Crying is one of the most natural things we do. We came into the world crying and have spent the first five-six years of our lives crying significantly.

However, as we grow up, crying, especially when it comes to boys and men, is looked down upon as a weakness. It is not just that men do not want to cry, but there is also is a physical reason why they cry less. According to experts, men have lower levels of prolactin, the hormone associated with breastfeeding, which is also found in emotional tears.

There are also many psychological reasons why men cry less. Unfortunately, we have been raised in a society where boys, as young as five, are told that it is a shame to cry and that crying is for girls. Men who cry are often seen as less strong, mentally and physically. Hence, as they grow up, young adult men suppress their emotions, because they are too embarrassed to cry or simply because they are incapable of crying.

However, nothing can be further from the truth than that. In fact, a man crying is a sign that he is sure and comfortable with himself and his emotions. It also shows that he is ready to face problems, rather than bottling up emotions and blowing up later.

Beyond that, there are also psychological and medical reasons why crying is important and beneficial:

A stress reliever: A study published in the Frontiers in Psychology magazine in 2014, has shown how crying helps to self-soothe, and is a way in which people can regulate their emotions, calm down and, ultimately reduce their stress. Crying has also been proven to be a mood enhancer – the process of releases oxytocin and endorphins which are feel-good chemicals that help relieve pain and give a sense of calm. Further, the deep breaths you take while crying, also helps to lift your spirit and cool you down.

Prevents anger and frustration from building up: When you cry, you let out all the pent up emotions in a much healthier way, which can otherwise turn into anger and frustration – two dangerous emotions.

Sets an example: For a child to see their father or any other adult man crying, it is an indication that it is ok to cry and that one does not need to be stoic and control their emotions all the time. It tells them that it is ok to confront different feelings rather than suppress them, which, in the long run, helps people deal with emotions better.

Balances intense emotions: Crying need not always be about sadness – you can also cry when you are very happy or scared. Shedding tears of joy is a way of removing all those toxins from your body, and of reducing stress. Crying helps bring about an emotional equilibrium in your body.

Good for the eyes: A purely medical benefit of crying is that it helps clean the eyes. When we get some dust in our eyes, we blink in reflex and shed a few tears – this helps clear the smoke and dust from our eyes. Tears also contain a special enzyme called lysozyme which kills bacteria, especially during episodes of continuous, emotional crying.

While crying has numerous health benefits and tears are a normal way of expressing emotions, do consult a professional if you find yourself crying excessively, or if it routinely disturbs your daily activities.