MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “empathy”

Empathising difference

All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, wrote Leo Tolstoy in the beginning of Anna Karenina in 1878.

Misery has many forms. And this is true for all people.

We don’t realise how insignificant or trivial our problems are until we hear what someone else is facing.

But what we often fail to acknowledge is that we don’t understand what other people are going through no matter how much they (try to) explain. It’s usually because we don’t really want to empathise. We’re better off worrying about our own microcosm-shattering problems: where to go out, what to do to pass the day, who to call for an outing, what to watch on TV, where to go on holiday. We quarrel among ourselves because we can’t coordinate to have fun, yet other people are facing evictions, money problems, job security; actual issues of survival.

It puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it?

Well, it should.

There is a truth in that in order to survive you need to be thick-skinned. You need to be somewhat insensitive, allowing things to slide, and refusing to be affected by them. If you’re too perceptive and impacted by everything, you’re the only one to lose.

Because no one really cares if you’re struggling – with work, with family, with pretty much anything. If you can’t follow suit in the fun and the expenditure, you’ll soon be cut off. And no one really cares what or how you work. It’s simple: if we don’t understand what you do, we’ll consider it as not very important, so you can always ‘leave it for later’ – but certainly not for the weekend or a holiday, or for when we already have plans.

We have a tendency to only view life through our own lenses. We obstinately refuse to walk in someone else’s shoes, or even make the slightest of efforts to share their perspective of reality.

And it’s a shame. Because united we could achieve so much. Instead, we ravage each other as if we’re trying to free up space in this world we’re destroying.

Instead of lifting each other up, we’re surreptitiously trying to tear each other down.

What starts the waterworks

https://www.google.gr/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiQgt7ly7XaAhUGMewKHd9oCq4QjRx6BAgAEAU&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdowhatlightsyouup.com%2Fgo-ahead-and-cry%2F&psig=AOvVaw1xo_TxfeVgsIFS-Yukag8-&ust=1523651732943075It is a small drop that forms at the corner of your eyelid. One that soon blurs your vision and causes your eyes to well up, releasing droplets to slide down your cheek. Then another comes and you are suddenly found in a state of distress, be it emotional or reflexive. But what is it that causes these waterworks to start? And why is it that some of us cry so much more often and easier than others?

There are reportedly three kinds of tears. According to this very interesting article our body produces basal, reflex and psychic tears. “Your basal tears are what I like to call the ‘worker tears’ and they keep your cornea (the transparent front of your eye) nourished and lubricated so your eyes don’t dry out. Then there are your reflex tears which that help you to wash out any irritations to your eyes from foreign particles or vapours (onion, being the classic example)”. Finally, there are the most popular type of tears: the “psychic, or ‘crying’ tears. These are the tears produced in response to that strong emotion you may experience from stress, pleasure, anger, sadness and suffering to indeed, physical pain. Psychic tears even contain a natural painkiller, called leucine enkephalin – perhaps, part of the reason why you might feel better after a good cry!”

When we cry, we don’t just become dehydrated and – literally – drained. There are more things that happen at the same time: your heart rate increases, you sweat, your breathing slows and you may even get a lump in your throat – known as the globus sensation. This is all believed to occur as a result of your sympathetic nervous system (your ‘fight or flight’ system) activating in response to your emotional situation. This is also why we are left so tired after a good cry. Yet we somehow feel relieved.

According to this enlightening article, “many psychologists believe that in addition to giving us an outlet for a rapid build-up of a powerful emotions, crying is a social signal to others that we’re in distress”. It is also considered an outlet for shedding stress. In fact, it is believed that emotional tears contain more protein particularly linked to higher stress levels, which is thought to make them thicker and more noticeable as they streak down the cheeks. It is a call for support and empathy and a way of releasing stress-related chemicals from the body.

We cry mostly when we’re sad. In this way, it acts as a signal to others that we are in distress and it is a call to induce sympathy and attention. This may explain why the waterworks appear more often in children and women.  According to a 1980s PhD study by biochemist William H. Frey, on average, women cry 5.3 times a month, while men cry 1.3 times in that same time period.  There may be a biological reason behind this, as the hormone prolactin – found at higher levels in women – is thought to promote crying.

We cry when we feel that we are overwhelmed with emotions that are too difficult to handle. And suddenly thoughts invade our head that make us feel even worse, such as that things aren’t going our way, that we don’t have time to be or do the things we want, or that others are better off than we are. A whirlwind of reflections and feelings ensues entrapping us into a vicious circle that simply accentuates the waterworks.

But we also cry when we’re happy. It is a way of demonstrating how we feel – that we are so overjoyed, we sometimes can’t believe it. That powerful string of – positive, this time – emotions is what causes the tears to run. It is a good thing. But this too causes us to feel exhausted after a while.

It is believed that crying depends on a person’s level of sensitivity. We don’t all think the same way, nor do we feel the same. People react to different circumstances differently. That is what makes them unique. They should not be judged for it, but rather appreciated for their own way of responding to whatever life throws at them. Crying is not a sign of weakness after all; it is merely a sign of emotions and the fact that a person’s heart is beating faster at times.

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