I’m not a crybaby, although I’m a strong believer of crying if you know what I mean. Let me explain – Crying is healthy. It can be therapeutic and help one release pent-up emotions. Allegedly, humans are the only species that indulge in what’s called ‘emotional crying’ – that is, shedding tears in order to express emotions. But, ask any pet parent or animal lover, and they’ll tell you cats and dogs and several other species (elephants for sure) cry to express emotions. Crying is a self-soothing behaviour. We all know that people cry when they are sad, or happy (happy tears), and we think these two are the only “normal” types of crying. But, a lot of people cry when they’re mad about something! Most of us find this baffling, and the angry weepers are left wondering, ‘Why do I cry when I’m mad?’
Crying when angry is actually quite normal. In Why Only Humans Weep: Unravelling the Mysteries of Tears, Ad Vingerhoets suggests that humans cry when they are overwhelmed by emotion – whether that’s a negative or positive emotion. Now if you’re livid about something, that can be quite overwhelming. In this case, those angry tears are just an expression of how overwhelmed you are. Research also shows that tears can elicit sympathy from others. So, maybe crying when mad is just a way of getting some pity points? Don’t know about that, but here are three reasons why some people cry when they’re angry.
Your tear glands can’t tell the difference!
Tears are a physiological response to our emotions. If we are overwhelmed by our feelings, we cry. This association we have built that tears are sad or happy is simply a cultural interpretation. In Curious Behaviour: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccuping, and Beyond, a humorous encyclopedia of human behaviours we take for granted, Robert R. Provine explains that our tears glands aren’t that smart. They can’t tell which emotion we are overwhelmed by. Just that we can’t handle our feelings. So, whether it’s anger or sadness or joy, if it’s too much for you to put into words, your tear glands will come into action.
Anger is thought to be an expression of sadness
Many therapists believe that underneath anger, is deep sadness and hurt. This makes complete sense. If you’re pissed off because someone lied to you, or didn’t keep a promise, you’re certainly angry but also probably hurt. So, anger and hurt often do co-exist. Even when anger comes from a sense of entitlement, there is some rejection that has provoked it. And rejection always hurts. So for all we know, our tear glands might be smart enough to know before we do, that we’re actually feeling terribly sad deep down when we’re angry.
Women are not allowed to be angry or express their anger
We can’t deny there is a gender difference when it comes to angry tears. When men get angry, most of them either explode or implode. They either express their anger in aggressive ways like yelling or breaking things or worst – hitting someone. Or, they turn that anger inwards and binge-drink, over-work, numb their emotions with substances, or indulge in other risky behaviours. While both the angry young man and the seething, elusive man are culturally acceptable, women’s anger has no real holding space. Women are expected to be understanding and forgiving, polite and soft-spoken. Crying is not only okay for women, it is expected of them. In fact, research shows that women and children cry four to five times more often than men do. So, would it be too far-fetched to think that more women cry when angry than men because that’s an acceptable way of expressing their emotions?
How to stop crying when angry
Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you habitually angry cry, it will take some work to break the habit. There are no quick fixes, although some say pinching yourself might work. No, really. The physical pain and discomfort of pinching yourself is supposed to distract you from the emotions that are making you cry. Having said that, if you want to get better at dealing with and articulating your anger, start some long-term practices like:
- Journaling about your feelings.
- Talking it out, or even verbalising your anger to yourself would help. Learn to put it in words.
- Understand the root causes of your anger.
- Incorporate some relaxing practices like yoga and deep breathing in your daily routine.
- Seek therapy if you can’t wrap your head around your anger issues. It’s okay to not understand the depth of your emotions. That’s why we have professionals to help us through it.
I write. I read. I do yoga. I hula hoop. I love cats and dogs in equal measure. I'd say the same for wine. My zen motto: "Eat kale for the body, cake for the soul." Find me on IG: @prachigangwani87