Why crying is a good thing

December 18, 2009

“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 messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.”   –Washington Irving

Biochemist William Frey has spent 15 years studying tears and why we cry.  His team of scientists have found that, although tear production organs were once thought to be unimportant and no longer necessary for survival, tears actually have numerous critical functions.

Tears are an emotional response which only humans have, for only people are known to weep.  While all animals that live in air produce tears to lubricate their eyes, only human beings possess the extensive system that causes us to cry.

Tears are secreted by your lacrimals—tiny, sponge-like glands which rest above the eye against the eye socket. The average person blinks every two to ten seconds. With every blink, the eyelid carries this fluid over your eye’s surface.

One of the most obvious functions of tears is to lubricate your eyeball and eyelid, but they also prevent dehydration of your various mucous membranes, as anyone with ‘dry eye’ problems can attest to.  A severe lack of lubrication produces a condition requiring medication or therapy to save the victim’s eyesight.

Another important function of tears is that they bathe your eyes in lysozyme, one of the most effective antibacterial and antiviral agents known to man.  Amazingly, lysozyme inactivates 90 to 95 per cent of all bacteria in a mere five to 10 minutes. Without it,  eye infections would be much more common and serious.

One amazing discovery is that tear production may actually aid a person in dealing with emotional problems.  Scientific studies have found that after crying, most people do feel better,  and those that suppress their tears do feel worse.

Not unexpectedly, those who suffer from the inherited disease familial dysautonomia not only cannot cry tears, but also have a lesser ability to deal with stressful events in their lives.

In a recent study, tears caused by simple irritants were compared to those brought on by emotion.  Researchers found that stress-induced tears actually remove toxic substances from the body. Volunteers were led to cry first from watching sad movies, and then from freshly cut onions. The researchers found that the tears from the movies contained far more toxic biological byproducts. Weeping, they concluded, is an excretory process which removes toxic substances that normally build up during emotional stress.

The simple act of crying also reduces the body’s manganese level, a mineral which affects mood and is found in up to 30 times greater concentration in tears than in blood serum. They also found that emotional tears contain 24 per cent higher albumin protein concentration than tears caused by eye irritants.

The researchers concluded that chemicals built up by the body during stress were removed by tears, which actually lowered stress. These include the endorphin leucine-enkephalin, which helps to control pain, and prolactin, a hormone which regulates milk production in mammals.

They found that one of the most important of those compounds which removed tears was adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), one of the best indicators of stress.  Suppressing tears increases stress levels, and contributes to diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems and peptic ulcers.

Ashley Montagu concluded that weeping contributes not only to the health of the individual, but also to the group’s sense of community because ‘it tends to deepen involvement in the welfare of others’. Tears are an extremely effective method of communication, and can elicit sympathy much faster than any other means. They effectively relate that you are sincere about a certain concern, and anxious to deal with the problem.

What can we learn from all this? That the seemingly simple and common response of producing tears is enormously complex and, indeed, is an integral and necessary part of being human.  Without tears, life would be drastically different for humans—in the short run enormously uncomfortable, and in the long run our eyesight could be jeopardized.


Midlife Crisis Feels The Same For Everyone When You’re Stuck In The Middle of It

February 19, 2009

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”   -Winston Churchill

midlife-crisis-time-for-blogI saw an interview on CBS 60 Minutes last March with Al Gore.  Afterwards, I felt compelled to write a post about how traumatic Al’s journey was from almost becoming the president of the United States, to the decision to leave politics far behind and pursue his first love, climate change awareness.   I then proclaimed him to be the Midlife Crisis King!

Some would say he gained much by losing much, for example he was the recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Everywhere I look I see celebrities that have been through terrible midlife trauma but have come through much better for the experience.

Another example is Elton John.  After I learned how he went from being a messed-up pop music superstar to a powerful advocate for AIDS research, I wrote an essay called “Midlife  Redemption” which appears in my new book.

And then there’s Ellen Degeneres.  Remember the bad times she went through when her TV show was canceled in 1997 soon after she came out as a lesbian?  Then she had that very public break-up with Anne Heche.  It sure looks like her midlife crisis led to much better things for her.

I  know what you’re thinking…who cares!  Those people are so rich and famous they can certainly handle their bad times easier than me.  But my point is that midlife crises happen to everyone and are always a surprise.  They’re always hard to handle when they strike.

Al Gore suffered a terrible depression after the loss of the presidency to you know who.  For months he was uncertain what to do next.  He said in his CBS interview that “when you lose a lot you also learn a lot” about yourself and your potential to go on to greater things.

I attended a talk last Monday night at the Startup Junkie Underground in Denver.  Joel Comm told his story of internet marketing success from adsense books to a new one on Twitter Power.

Two things stuck with me from this talk.  One was his advice to “Fail Fast” if you’re going to fail at all, so you can quickly get to the endeavor that will lead to your eventual success.  This is so true.  Give up quickly when you decide the new enterprise isn’t really what you want to be doing in the long run.  I did that with my dating service.  I could quickly see it wasn’t me.

Joel also mentioned his realization one day of how the organizational chart looks for the true entrepreneur.  CEO: me, VP: me, janitor: me.  It’s like I’ve said a thousand time:

I love working for myself, but my boss can be such an slave driver sometimes!

Recent Book Reviews

February 18, 2009

I have been so touched by a few reviews I have received recently of my new book Midlife Magic.  I actually sold a copy to the woman at my bank when I went in to open my business account.  She has a great name: Laura Lee just like me!  So I asked her yesterday what she thought of it.

She said she loves to savor it during her “quality time” on her breaks from work.  Her main comment was: “Laura, you are very REAL in your book.  No mincing words for you!”  Loved it!

Then Brigit, a wonderful new Australian friend I made through this blog wrote:

“I’ve loved your book. ‘Hang on, it all changes,’ is a truth we so often forget when we are going through our tough times, and sometimes we need to be reminded of it.

Your book lives by my bedside. I can open it at any page at the end of a day, and go to sleep feeling positive.”

Brigit also took the time to write a more complete review on her own blog today.  Go see her cool blog: HotMiddlescence.com Brigit just lost one of her jobs so she definitely feels our pain!

I enjoyed her final comment:   “Midlife Magic has bits of magic on every page!

Finding true love

February 10, 2009

I saw “He’s just not that into you” the movie yesterday.  I read the book in 2004 when it first came out.  I saw no similarities between the book and the movie.  In fact, they seemed completely unrelated.

The book was a snarky, smart ass advice book directed at young women who keep falling for all the WRONG MEN, and won’t give up on them even when they start to get abused.  It was a wake up call to all women to get a little self-respect and stop falling in love with total jerks.  It was also very funny at times.  Greg Behrendt certainly has a way with humor.

The movie was entertaining, but certainly not the book in any form.  No snarkiness.  The tone was more compassion for all of us who have been fools for love in our past.  I thought it was like an advertisement for my own philosophy of love: You get what you are.

Funny how especially in youth, we think we will attract the most beautiful, together mate when we ourselves are completely messed up.  We have no self-love or respect, we treat others badly, we simply haven’t gained the level of maturity which makes us good company.  But we still think a miracle will happen and the nicest, kindest person will choose to spend their life with us.

The other mistake we make with young love is we judge the book by the cover almost completely.  The way our lover looks is so much more important because we want to make others jealous.  Slowly we learn that a jerk is a jerk no matter how he/she looks, and they can break our hearts much more easily.

Expecting twenty-somethings to do love well is like expecting students untrained in math to ace their SATs.  It ain’t going to happen!  We all have to stumble around making difficult, painful mistakes until we mature and learn to know ourselves better.  When you know yourself and finally become honest about your own flaws, true love becomes much more possible.

That is why I found midlife love so refreshing!  When I met Mike I quickly saw that there would be no more nonsense in this relationship.  We each knew far too well our own flaws and had acknowledged our deep need to be close with another who could accept us unconditionally.  We had spent most of our adult years alone and consciously chose to make the gigantic effort to welcome another trusting soul into our lives.

This relationship has developed into so much more than I expected at the beginning of it.  I’m so glad I fought all the necessary battles within myself to get to this point in life.  The reward is so much worth all the times I searched for love and could not find it.

Finding the courage to properly mourn

January 6, 2009

Oprah revealed the fascinating story behind her recent weight gain yesterday.  It seems she may know now what a midlife crisis is after all.

That’s part of the problem with us human beings.  We find it far too easy to deny we have a problem, especially an emotional one.

What usually ends up happening when we deny our emotional problems for too long?  They turn into physical problems which are much more difficult to ignore or deny.  We then may turn our focus to solving the physical manifestation of our emotional problem, and still deny the anger, frustration or depression underneath.  Aren’t we amazing beings!

One of the most enduring lessons I learned from the excellent counselor I saw for  a few years in my thirties, was how important it is to allow time and space to have our feelings; truly grieve our losses and feel the many joys life offers.

But, I can hear you  saying: “I don’t have time for that! I have a million things to do today.”

Well guess what?  It all catches up with you sooner or later.  Denial does not get rid of any of your problems.  It just delays and intensifies them over time.  And in the meantime it eats away at your physical health in very serious ways like heart disease, GERD, and cancers.

When you deny your true feelings about yourself and the life you are choosing to live right now, you are like a ticking time bomb, just waiting for some overwhelming, inciting disturbance to blow your fuse and lead to true chaos in your life.

These overwhelming occurences seem to crop up in our middle years, things like serious injury or illness, divorce, job loss, empty nest, etc.  This is our body telling us:  “OK, cut it out now!  Quit trying to deny you are human and have feelings and needs just like everybody else!”

That is why courage is essential in this stage of life.  We must have the courage to face our feelings, feel them at the deepest levels, and listen to their lessons.

When I am dealing with personal grief, I take days off from work to allow myself to feel everything that’s going on with me.  My ability to fake being a happy, well-adjusted human being is gone.  It is time to be honest with myself and others.

That is why I sometimes think those of us who finally breakdown and have a crisis are the lucky ones.  We cannot go on denying.  We are forced by circumstances to stop our life for a while and fix the problem.

Five things we cannot change

December 29, 2008

five-things-we-cannot-change-for-blogI want to share with you some interesting thoughts from one of my favorite writers!

David Richo wrote the best book I’ve ever read on being with others called:  How to be an adult in relationships. Now he’s written: The five things you cannot change…and the happiness we find by embracing them.

This book starts from the guiding premise that we control very little of what happens to us in life.  One of our major difficulties is discovering how “reality refuses to bow to our commands…all our lives include unexpected twists, unwanted endings, and challenges of every puzzle kind.”

David Richo works as a psychotherapist and has found the same five struggles arise again and again with his clients.  These he calls the five unavoidable givens:

  1. Everything changes and ends.
  2. Things do not always go according to plan.
  3. Life is not always fair.
  4. Pain is part of life.
  5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

Each of these givens suggest questions about our destiny:

Are we here to get our way or to dance with the flow of life?  Are we here to make sure everything goes according to our plans or to trust the surprises and synchronicities that lead us to new vistas?  Are we here to make sure we get a fair deal or are we here to be upright and loving?  Are we here to avoid pain or to deal with it, grow from it, and learn to be compassionate through it?  Are we here to be loyally loved by everyone or to love with all our might?”

The idea that struck me the strongest in his introduction was the most important given of all: Anything can happen to anyone of us at anytime. Most of us spend a lifetime dancing around this most obvious truth.  We imagine that very good or very bad luck is supposed to happen to other people but never to us.

But when we embrace the fact that anything can happen to us at anytime, we begin to let go of our ego’s privileged view of itself as entitled to special treatment, that some rescuer will come through just for us and grant us exemption from life’s hard knocks.

If  we finally accept that we are the same as everyone else in these basic uncertainties, we become humble and feel a consoling sense of belonging, no matter how difficult life may become.

I think David’s ideas have everything to do with midlife crisis.  For many of us this crisis in the middle of life is our opportunity to feel human and fallible and just like everyone else.  Circumstances change, life becomes confusing, and we must finally accept how out of control our life can be at times, and how fundamentally unsuperior we are in this world of troubled souls.

When I consider the truth: “Things don’t always go according to plan,” I see that my life would be much worse if they had!  I was married to the wrong man and pursuing a career I no longer enjoyed.  If things had gone according to plan, I would not have gotten a divorce, lost my job, and consequently found a life so much more suited to my needs and dreams.

I can highly recommend this thought-provoking book!

Midlife Magic: Becoming The Person You Are Inside!

December 15, 2008


In case you missed my BIG NEWS:

My first book is out on AMAZON

and also available for sale through my website!

Please consider buying a copy!

“We read to know we are not alone.”  C.S. Lewis