Crying is usually associated with feelings of loss, sadness, disappointment, or melancholy. Tears help us express our sadness, frustration, or fear … negative emotions in general. However, there are also situations when we cry with happiness, for example when we feel relief or excitement. Some people don’t get it, but when we cry tears of joy, at that moment we are likely to be overwhelmed by a flood of positive emotions.
Isn’t that too contradicting itself? How can a negative expression be related to a feeling of happiness? In our article today, we’re going to look at the answers multiple research papers have found on this curious phenomenon.
We cry when we receive messages that we have waited a long time for, when someone opens up to us, or when we are surprised. There are many times when a happy event can cause us to react in these contradicting ways.
However, crying is not the only outward expression. You may also want to pinch a cute child’s cheeks or gently bite the person you love. However, this can also happen the other way round. For example, at times you may smile or laugh nervously in the face of extreme sadness .
These reactions are automatic and have no obvious logic. However, understanding the relationship between positive emotions and negative expressions (and vice versa) is crucial to fully understanding why people cry with joy.
Why do people cry tears of joy?
Weep tears of joy to restore emotional balance
Oriana Aragón, a psychologist at Yale University, has done several studies on the subject. Under the name of dimorphic expressions, her studies examine the presence of emotional expressions that have nothing to do with the feeling a person is experiencing.
This is not about the coexistence of a positive emotional state with a negative one. We are referring to an emotion that, while purely positive, takes on a “negative” term to express itself. In the study carried out by Aragón, she presented some people with positive stimuli and then assessed their response.
The results showed that those who expressed themselves through negative reactions could more easily control the intensity of their emotions. In other words, she realized that crying tears of joy is a way to rebalance an overwhelming emotion. It is as if the negative expression counteracts the intensity of the positive emotion in order to create a balance.
This begs an interesting question. Why do people want to limit a feeling of abundance? Basically, feeling extremely happy could cause some people to go into shock. This, in turn, tarnishes their ability to make assertive decisions. Restoring emotional balance is necessary in order to continue to function properly.
Weeping tears of joy to communicate
In addition, tears of joy not only serve the purpose of maintaining internal homeostasis, but they are also an important source of communication. One study found that the response people get when they express their joy by smiling or crying differs significantly. In the first case, others usually attend the celebration. They share the person’s enthusiasm with the aim of prolonging their happiness.
However, in the face of tears of joy, people tend to react in one way. This response, in turn, helps the individual regulate and reduce the emotional intensity they are experiencing. In this case, they perceive their emotional abundance and act accordingly, which contributes to downward regulation.
People cry for joy and bite for love
So, thanks to all of this study and research, we can shed light on behaviors that seem inexplicable. Basically, when you experience a positive emotion at an extreme level, you are forced to react in reverse in order to balance your system.
This also explains why a person from time to time looks at their partner and feels the need to bite him. Such a deluge of love and gratitude could overwhelm anyone to the point where they react aggressively. In summary, this is the way many of us compensate for these emotional highs.
If you react aggressively or sadly to very positive experiences, don’t panic. This mechanism is completely normal and necessary. It is the same when you see someone cry for joy. Again, remember that the happiness this person experiences is so intense that it transcends the most natural expression of emotion.
Tears are not a symbol of weakness or drama. On the contrary, they are a direct expression of the person’s great ability to feel, as well as the emotions that the circumstances are causing in their body.