The Science of Tears

Since you’ve been gone, I’ve been doing a lot of crying.

And then I got to thinking about tears.

Apparently, there are three categories of tears. According to Wikipedia, these are:

1 – Basal tears. In healthy mammalian eyes, the cornea is continually kept wet and nourished by basal tears. They lubricate the eye, and help to keep it clear of dust.

2 – Reflex tears. The second type of tears results from irritation of the eye by foreign particles, or from the presence of irritant substances. It can also occur with bright light and hot or peppery stimuli to the tongue and mouth. It is also linked with vomiting, coughing and yawning. These reflex tears attempt to wash out irritants that may have come into contact with the eye.

3 – Psychic tears. The third category, in general, referred to as crying or weeping, is increased tearing due to strong emotional stress, pleasure, anger, suffering, mourning, or physical pain. Interestingly, these tears are also very closely linked to the limbic system, because this system is involved in the production of basic emotional drives, such as anger and fear. Or to put it plainly – survival. I’m no neuroscientist, but I think one reason we cry psychic tears when we are in emotional pain is that we feel like we are dying inside, and therefore, our limbic system kicks in and starts shouting that our survival is in doubt. It’s fascinating, isn’t it. Way beyond my ken, I’m afraid. But a very small corner of my understanding really does get basic principle of how the limbic system works. And mine has certainly had good reason to be in overdrive.

Tears are good for you. The first two categories of tears serve to help to maintain healthy eyes. Some people have trouble producing tears and end up having to buy them over the counter in small expensive bottles. I don’t seem to have that problem. In fact, I can produce so many, I could probably bottle them myself, stick a fancy label on them, and make a fortune. But maybe that project is for another day.

As for the third category, I wonder whether these tears are also designed to help to cleanse us from the pain we are experiencing, whether that be emotional or physical. Apparently, emotional tears contain hormones that act as a natural painkiller, which goes some way to explaining why people can feel better after a good cry.

I wish I could feel better. I’m not sure I’m getting enough of those feel better hormones. Oh yes, I think I have all sorts of other hormones in super abundance. Hormones I could really do with settling down and leaving me alone. But the ones that might help? I think they might be having some sort of holiday, because nothing’s helping. Nothing. There is only wretchedness. And while I can look to the future and see all sorts of things to keep me busy, make me smile and even offer short term happiness – everything is blanketed in a thick layer of grief. And tears.

Stay gold.