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Surprising Science

Use a Little Physical Pain to Keep from Crying

Crying, like blushing, is an uncontrollable emotional response. So, how can we keep from shedding tears during inconvenient times? A little physical pain. 

Tears are an effective tool for conveying emotions, but there are times when we’d rather not shed them. Crying during an argument, for example, may undermine an important point we’re trying to make. But just like blushing, it’s an uncontrollable, emotional psychological response. However, Melissa Dahl from NYMag reports on an interesting technique that could help buy time from an emotional outburst.

It’s important to note that no one has studied ways not to cry, though, there has been some research in the act of crying. So, there’s no sure-fire solution — just possible methods that may work for some. Dahl, for instance, tilts her head up to prevent gravity from doing its worst and letting those tears fall — a strategy, she says, “that has, at best, a middling success rate.”

Another technique is to pinch the bridge of your nose or the webbed portion of your skin between your thumb and pointer finger. Joanna Goddard from Glamour recommended this as a sure-fire way in her article back in 2008:

“It will magically stop you from crying every time.”

Several readers sounded off in the comments for the piece, saying that it worked wonders for them. The reasoning is sound, some physical pain could be enough to distract from the emotional pain in the moment. A scientist who studies emotional tears, Ad Vingerhoets from Tilburg University, wrote to Dahl providing yet another suggestion:

“I can imagine that, more generally, increasing muscle tension and moving may limit your crying response, because it seems that crying is in particular a passive and helpless reaction.”

Let us know what works for you, or if what we’ve posted is all bologna by sounding off in the comments below.

Read more about the science of crying at NYMag.

Photo Credit: Jannes Pockele/Flickr


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