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Tears are Not a Sign of Weakness – and Four Other Things You Didn’t Know About Crying

Tears are Not a Sign of Weakness – and Four Other Things You Didn’t Know About Crying

Tears. You cry them because you’re sad, happy, touched, or because you’re cutting onions. They are a self evident part of life, you probably never think about them. American photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher did, and her photos of tears under the microscope aren’t just beautiful, but also comforting. 

Rose-Lynn Fisher came up with the idea during a time when she cried a lot. In a short period of time, she had lost several loved ones. It was a time of sadness and change. After a day she spent crying almost continuously, she suddenly wondered what tears would look like under a microscope. Would a sad tear look different than a happy tear?

Hundreds of Tears

Well, it sure did. In the end, she photographed hundreds of tears. Not just happy tears and sad tears, but also tears of frustration, forgiveness, compassion. Birth tears, tears of mourning.

“Topography of tears”, is what Fisher called her book. It’s a beautiful title, because indeed it seems like you’re looking at a landscape from a plane. The emotions behind the tear are coagulated in ice, rivers, crystals.

Bottle of Tears

What it is that makes the photos so fascinating: They don’t just show beauty (tears consist of enzymes, hormones, protein – ah, the beauty of our anatomy), they also show something that’s intangible.

It made me think of the little glass “bottles of tears” I once saw in a museum in Cyprus. In Greek ancient history, the bottles were used by women when their wives went to battle. They collected their tears and gave it to their husband when he arrived back home, showing how much they missed him.


Looking at tears under a microscope, or collecting them in a bottle, helps to create some distance. The same way you let your thoughts pass by during meditation. It allows you to look at your feelings from a distance. Because the difficult thing about emotions, especially sadness, is that you can lose yourself so much it seems like it will never end.

You might not own a microscope, but a bottle for your tears is easy to come by. You can even use a plastic travelling bottle you use for shampoo. If you’re having an uncontrollable cry, you can collect your tears so you can see the size of your sadness. It makes emotion become visible and tangible. To me, that seems like a beautiful and comforting thing. All we need now is a measuring cup for love!

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Tears

There are three sorts of tears. Basic tears keep your eyes moist, reflex tears clean your eyes (for instance when you’re cutting onions) and emotional tears have a psychological cause.

Emotional tears are only seen in people, animals don’t cry. Emotional tears have a social function: They show other people something is going on, alerting them to comfort you.

Tears consist of enzymes, protein, minerals, hormones – substances your body produces in a reaction to stress. Crying can help you to get rid of these substances and restore the balance in your body, but it hasn’t really been researched. (However, most people know the effect of a good cry: The relieve).

Boys cry more than girls, but eventually, this changes: Women cry on average two to four times a month, men cry once every two months. This may be because women go through more emotional situations and watch more sad movies.

Scientists say people who cry easily, have a big dose of the hormone prolactin. This may explain the phenomenon of weepiness after giving birth: women who just gave birth, have a lot of prolactin in their blood.

(Source: Ad Vingerhoets, ‘Tranen. Waarom mensen huilen’, Uitgeverij Bert Bakker).

Text: Anne Wesseling – Photo: Cristian Newman

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