The Freedom of Expression

Embracing Our Full Range of Emotions

by Ginny Hunneke

Do you snort when you laugh? Do you feel embarrassed and self-conscious when you do? Well, I don’t, but my friend does. (Most people love it when she snorts!)

I cry. A lot.

I cry when I’m in pain, when I’m sad, when I’m frustrated and overwhelmed, AND when I experience joy. While some people snort when they laugh hysterically, I’m the one that cries. (Most people are uncomfortable when I cry, whereas they are not when my friend snorts.)

Tears tend to be awkward expressions of intense emotion for some of us who frequent the company of the emotionally reserved. It’s a rare moment when I feel comfortable and free to let them flow. All too often, I hear comments like, “Toughen up!” and “Oh, don’t cry!” or “Stop that: You’ll make me cry, too!” (No one ever says, “Don’t snort!”)

Unlike snorts, tears make others uncomfortable. And all too often, others will blame the person crying for their discomfort. Trust me, I’m not crying at you. I’m having an authentic, emotional response, that’s all—it’s not about you. Honestly, stemming the flow of tears is not possible. I’ve tried. (I’ve watched my friend try to stifle a snort, too. That’s equally futile!)

Which brings me to the fact that many of us tearful types don’t have the emotional freedom to express our full range of feelings. It one thing to restrict one’s freedoms when they impinge on another’s rights, but I’m talking about a few drops —more or less—of saline that fall from the corners of my eyes. (No more dangerous than a snort.)

Here’s an idea:

Let’s celebrate Independence Day by feeling free to indulge in the most lachrymose displays of joy!

Get your tissues ready…

Let’s weep openly when the Star Spangled Banner is sung pitch perfect. Let’s allow our eyelids to pool with moisture as we are dazzled by a resplendent display of fireworks. Let’s share misty, dewy-eyed hugs with old friends and family reunited in celebration.

And why not let the snorts rip at the silliest jokes?!


The experience and expression of joy require authenticity.

Allowing tears to flow freely is absolutely necessary for authentic expression. It is also a vital component of emotional health.

Studies reveal that emotional tears contain different compounds than other kinds of tears such as basal or reflex tears. Emotional tears include natural painkillers, which might explain why 88% of those who cry feel better when they allow the tears to flow. (I’m not aware of any studies of the impact of snorting on stress, but there are numerous ones documenting the benefits of laughter.)

Those of us that cry easily are in the minority. Our freedom to display our tears without shame is our lonely battle against ignorance (unless we can recruit those who snort to be our allies).

Here is our battle cry:

We must fight for our right to cry by educating those who are uncomfortable with our bloodshot, watery eyes. We must summon great strength in the throes of high emotion and share bravely:

“Please (sob) don’t (sniffle) be put off (blows nose) by the river of tears (sob, sob) streaming down my face (wipe, sniffle). This is a necessary release (sniffle) of the stress hormone (sob) prolactin. I will feel better (wipe) and be healthier for allowing my tears to flow (sigh, deep breath), and my tears won’t hurt you.”

If this confession fails to alleviate the emotionally repressed stress of those around you, you can always suggest they have a good cry themselves. (Because we know it will make them feel better!)

Which emotions do you hold back?

Where and when do you feel freer to express them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. (Don’t worry, I have my tissues handy!)

Happy Tears

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