April 15, 2013 | Chinese Medicine, Healing, Healthy Living | 4 Comments
“But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.”
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid
When we think of Spring, we think: juice cleanses, gut detox (trying out the new probiotics on the market, or colonics, anyone?), decluttering the closet, donating things to Goodwill. All excellent things to do as we harken in the sunbeams, promise of newness and warmth towards our goals and infusing our dreams with new energy! But, as we cleanse, it is good to reclaim the power of tending to our emotional garden, as well – detoxing our emotions by releasing stress hormones and toxins through our tears. According to one of my favorite practitioners, Dr. Judith Orloff, who combines Western medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality to achieve physical and emotional healing, she cites the numerous health benefits of tears in a Psychology Today article, “Protectively they lubricate your eyes, remove irritants, reduce stress hormones, and they contain antibodies that fight pathogenic microbes. Our bodies produce three kinds of tears: reflex, continuous, and emotional. Each kind has different healing roles… Emotional tears have special health benefits. Biochemist and “tear expert” Dr. William Frey at the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis discovered that reflex tears are 98% water, whereas emotional tears also contain stress hormones which get excreted from the body through crying. After studying the composition of tears, Dr. Frey found that emotional tears shed these hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress. Additional studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer and “feel-good” hormones.”
Why the hullaballoo over tears? Because tears and crying gets a bad rap. When we hear the word, “tears” or “crying”, many in our society equal that to weakness, not being strong enough, not being able to take what life dishes out. At least, that’s what I thought growing up! My family has many strengths, and one of them is the ability of being able to sometimes separate moods and emotions from the linear thought processes of the scientific mind. Sometimes it was mega helpful, perhaps it’s ingrained in my bloodline, the result of many years of battling conquistadors and colonizers with such conviction, to keep it cool when tragedy strikes to focus on defending only when necessary. But, because my bloodline is a blending of many cultures (Filipino, Spanish, Irish, and Chinese, to be exact), there is also the dramatic Hispanic side my family may possess, as well. Not necessarily Telenovela-worthy (well, ok, maybe at rare moments), but suffice to say that in my growth to be the person I am today, many a tear has been shed. Tears and crying outbursts were not the most popular thing in my family, and because I could pick up on others’ thoughts and intentions even back then, I made sure to keep my tears under wraps.
However, when I entered adulthood, I started liberating myself from many self-induced realities that did not serve me, and holding back on what I was feeling in a given moment was one of them! I explored it all – the exhilaration, the sadness, the rage, the fear, the dread, the jubilation, the love. And, as we all do, we revisit all of these things from time to time. But, what’s important to remember is that we don’t need to hold things in (which creates dis-ease), or devalue any deep pain we may be experiencing at the time, in a feeble attempt to be “acceptable” or “play nice”. Who does it serve when you devalue yourself? Absolutely no one!
And, so when I first began to allow myself to feel my tears, I allowed myself to feel all of it, from the tips of my toes, to the top of my head, and all of the emotions that related to my tears and why they flowed. I embraced it like a long lost friend, I wailed and relished every moment. It was liberating! Not only did it release stress hormones and toxins (and, I believe, the essence and source of my pain), but I felt like I’d let a monster out of a cage. And, then, finding, that, in fact, it wasn’t a monster in a cage, it was just a neglected part of myself that was in need of validating. And she was just as beautiful as the rest of my essence.
I will never forget the story a teacher at acupuncture school told me. She described herself as a woman who was previously not very in touch with her feelings, who always pushed down her pain, so that it would never be revealed. (What is up with women feeling the need to push down their feelings?) Needless to say, she never cried in front of anyone up until that point. But, one day, she allowed herself to cry, and found it the most liberating feeling! In fact, she was so excited about the release the crying gave her, she was crying freely everywhere she went! By this time, the class started giggling, but we all felt our hearts warm up to her, and admired her bravery for sharing her story of what some folks may consider a taboo act, the act of revealing feelings.
Why were we talking about crying and tears at acupuncture school? Most likely because we were studying the five elements of Chinese Medicine. Turns out that Tears are the secretion of the element of Wood, and Wood happens to be the element of Spring!
So, if you feel emotions rise to the surface, don’t fight them. Acknowledge them, acknowledge your body’s need (because feelings rising to the surface are the body’s way of making you aware of your needs, and if you can get really good at noticing what your body’s telling you, you will notice the signs that are rumbling before they rise to the surface!) Just allow your emotions to be. Allow yourself to be. And if you have finally come clean with yourself about a very deep seated issue, tears of joy, or pain, or simply out of acknowledging what you’ve been through, may arise. Embrace your ability to feel and be present with yourself. It validates your human experience.
And even if the problem persists, crying makes us feel better. I’ve always told myself that I am a stronger woman today because I allow myself to feel all of my emotions, and I allow tears to come. Ironically, I know that crying has made me more resilient and has strengthened me. Does this hold true for you, as well? Embrace the healing power of tears this Spring!
With Spring detox blessings,
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