Why Crying Equals Thriving

The science of crying reveals tears are one of the most honest forms of communication.

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If you are a Harry Potter fan, the deaths of Fred Weasley, Nymphadora Tonks, and Remus Lupin during the Battle of Hogwarts might do it. If you’re more of a traditionalist, maybe it’s Beth’s demise in Little Women. If your lachrymal glands don’t respond to the written word, surely they do to the scene in The Green Mile where a terrified John Coffey, in the prison’s death chamber, tearfully begs the warden not to lower the executioner’s hood over his head…because, he explains piteously, he’s afraid of the dark.

Or if you’re unmoved by flights of fictional fancy, maybe it’s the moment when the bride takes her first steps down the aisle, or the choir launches into a hymn that speaks to your heart…or you stand beside the grave of someone who loved you more than anyone in the whole world ever has or will.

You cry. Even when you’re not in danger, you’re not pleading for help, you’re not in physical pain—all situations where crying serves what scientists suspect is its primary purpose: signaling the need for comfort or rescue. That crying serves that function is a little puzzling, since this biological signaling device appears to be reserved only…