Is Having A Good Cry Still Good For You?

Damn, but the boys of science just did it to us again…! This time their touted tools — hypothesizing, testing, synthesizing — just crashed another comforting common belief. That crying-it-out is good for you. You’d think they did enough by dismissing Santa, the parting of the Red Sea, and the Lockerbie Monster. But now some researchers at the University of South Florida report “having a good cry” isn’t all that good for you after all.

I mean, do all researchers first have to get a degree in Grinch?

We are advised that science is the route to knowledge, and that dismissing silly old-wives-tales is the map we must take. At this point I can’t resist wondering why so many widowed old wives live into their 90s, while most scientists I read about don’t? But I digress.

Researcher Jonathan Rottenberg tested 100 Dutch women, recording 1004 outburst of tears over a controlled time-span. Conclusion? The tears failed to improve the moods of 61%, only 30% said the felt better, and 9% actually said their tears made them feel worse. The good professor concludes: “The biological purpose of crying isn’t to release sorrow, but to elicit social support. It’s the sympathy not the tears that make people feel better.”

But then there was no comment on why people cry in private where there is no one from whom to elicit sympathy. Nor was there much made of the alternative premise that humans are more them biology. Nor was there anything said about the world’s great religious and literary works which frequently position crying as pleading to the gods.

I remember Grandma frequently went to her room “to have a good cry.” Now I’m not a trained researcher, but all I know is that afterwords she often hustled off to her kitchen to bake a great gooey batch of toll-house cookies. Professor Rottenberg — I suspect Grams was one of your 9%. And another thing. I suspect your 9% may be low-balling the benefits of tears, because consider how many billions of tollhouse cookies have been happily baked by sentimental grandmas over the years.

Then again, maybe you never had a grandma like mine…

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