Quotes of Wisdom 29 Grief & Joy - Crying & Pseudobulbar Affect

posted Mar 17, 2018, 9:59 AM by Bonnie McKeegan, LCSW

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love."  ~Washington Irving

As human beings, it is in our nature to cry.  "Emotional tears" (Hoyt; Science How Stuff Works; How Crying Works) are a built-in pressure release system for strong feelings such as sadness, anger, anxiety and even deep regret. Of course, crying can be an expression of deep feelings of joy or love as well. Being overcome by just about any emotion can cause the tears to flow.  If we allow it.

Kids are naturals and good at crying until taught differently by messages learned from family, friends, role-models, and caregivers, not to mention the many negative messages they absorb through media about crying.

 By the time we are adults, the negative messaging may have become deeply internalized and the message "don't cry" can have significant negative consequences. For men and women alike.

For some of us, all too often we stifle our emotional tears and find ways to avoid crying when the release is exactly what we need. Rather than cry, we may cope with our strong emotions and grief through unhealthy behaviors such as overeating or use of mood-altering substances. Denial is powerful.

In grief specifically, the release that comes from crying allows for healing.

Crying is not necessarily always about strong emotions.  

If you know someone who has frequent crying periods it might wise to pay close attention and talk to them about it. It could be a sign of a medical condition such as depression or Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA).  A person who has had a stroke may weep very easily or alternately laugh "inappropriately" due to PBA. They may be talking about their favorite superhero movie and break into tears.  It may seem like an "overreaction" or the person is being "dramatic" when actually it's a medical condition related to a neurological issue. 

Here's some info and links with information about PBA (Pseudobulbar Affect):

From www.pbainfo.org:

"PBA is a condition that causes uncontrollable crying and/or laughing that happens suddenly and frequently. It can happen in people with a brain injury or certain neurologic conditions.

A person having a PBA crying spell may cry when they don’t feel sad or when they only feel a little bit sad. Someone having a PBA laughing spell may laugh when they don’t feel amused or when they only feel a little bit amused."

From WebMD (PBA):

"An injury or disease that affects your brain can lead to pseudobulbar affect. About half the people who've had a stroke get it. Other brain conditions commonly linked to PBA include:

Another source of info (no endorsement of a pharmaceutical is intended):  https://www.psycom.net/pseudobulbar-affect/  This site says 28% of those who've had a stroke have PBA.  It also says 48% of people with traumatic brain injury have PBA.  It's quite likely most of us know someone with PBA.

Living with this condition can be humiliating or embarrassing and the individual may avoid social situations.  They may frequently apologize for their crying or say they can't help it.

A note: "uncontrollable crying" doesn't necessarily mean huge loud dramatic crying. It means the person has no control. The tears just roll no matter how hard they try to control them. They've lost the ability most of us have, to at least some degree, to control, stop, or avoid tears.

No matter the cause of someone's tears, compassion and empathy are critical; for those around us and for ourselves. Subtle signs that we are not comfortable with someone's tears, such as handing them a tissue (which may just seem like the polite thing to do) signals the person we cannot handle their pain or loss of control. 

The message is, "please stop crying. Please stop feeling bad because I can't handle it." This type of signal will quickly shut down the very natural and normal need to cry. It is more helpful and healthy for everyone to learn to deal with and accept your own discomfort; that indeed is healing in itself.

Most of us would benefit from the emotional connection that is created with another human being who is able to allow us to cry freely in their presence, and what a gift that can be.  The closeness of sharing a deeply human experience can be healing in itself.

Crying passes, eventually. It's like every other mood experience, it flows through us then changes. When the person is done crying, they are simply done.  Give the gift of relief to yourself and to those around you. 

Allow for healing through tears.

Yes, I cried this week.  Big big.

*featured photo by yours truly: Bottle Tree created by my mom Farmer's Almanac history of Bottle Trees

*Quotes of Wisdom – a Friday at 9am (Pacific Time Zone) series offering Wisdom, Feel Good, Inspirational and Thought-provoking Quotes. Sometimes with links and most likely, with too many thoughts of my own included.

As always, thank you for visiting! Feel free to like, comment, share, follow my journey over on www.bonniemckeeganauthor.wordpress.com as your heart and mind desire. Namaste