Taxonomy of Tears

This is an incomplete taxonomy of types of crying, from most basic to most complex.

The betrayal hurt more than he thought was possible. The inside of his mind was in battle with itself, anguish overwhelming fear overwhelming raw pain. Christian ran to his room and slammed the door, locking it hastily. He collapsed on his bed, pulled a blanket over him, and began to cry. The tears wouldn’t stop. Christian hoped to god that none of his housemates would find out.

Cries of Pain can be about any type of pain, from intense loneliness to physical torture. These are often suppressed in social situations, and are more likely to occur in private. Physically, this manifests as clenching, curling up, and hiding.

This type of crying is not always synchronous with experience of the pain itself.

Lily watched as the tree collapsed further and further onto the roof. She began to cry at the loss. Life just threw one hurdle at them after another. Robb walked out to where she stood, wearing a fuzzy robe. He looked at her tear-stained face, then at the collapsed roof. He held her, and began to sob with her. They cried together, tears that transitioned to awkward, unstable laughter. They’d be alright. They had what was important.

Tears of Frustration are cathartic and not particularly sad. This looks like loud sobbing with some tears.

I’ve experienced this after missing a flight. I was sobbing my heart out, but didn’t feel bad or sad. Mostly, I felt relief from being able to cry like that instead of keep my frustration pent up.Sobbing loudly, some tears

Aeron shook his head in disbelief, unable to process the words Darcy just said to him. “You’re saying you felt scared about committing to me, so you kissed your ex?” Darcy began to sob, loud, raucous tears in the restaurant. “It’s my fault, I know, I’m such a failure.” Aeron knew this game already. “I’m not going to feel bad for you right now.”

The Pity Cry is characterized by the audience. Its main value in signalling, so this type of cry often manifests with loud, racking sobs and a blubbery look. The feeling of pity crying tends to be along the lines of “woe is me!” focusing on insecurity or an outside inconvenience.

The very fake “Waah!” is the untrained form of the pity cry.

Cathartic Tears are born of something unfortunate happening.

“Those tiny toes are just too precious for this world!” said Janine, her voice rising in pitch. “So smol. Too precious.” She began to sob, and Lisa sighed. “Get ahold of yourself, Janine. It’s just a kitten.”

Inspiration Crying manifests when something positively touching happens, like joy in mankind, someone getting married, or something very darling. This is less likely to contain tears, mostly face scrunching and sobs. This typically feels good, though sometimes is confusing. I’ve gotten this while watching Free Solo most recently (“Alex loves climbing so damn much, ahhh.”)

“I can’t even” is a very inspiration cry phrase. This is also called Tears of Joy.

Luna looked out the window, her whole body shaking. The world was beautiful outside, the leaves of the tree swaying to the blank faces of the people who walked by. Who carried so much pain. Pain and sadness was such a universal bond between herself and all of humankind. She felt for them and herself, deeply, until evening swept the light away. Luna wiped her tears and carried on.

Simple Tears for the grief of the world are more unusual. For me, this manifests as tears streaming out of my eyes nonstop without sobbing. This feels beautiful and pure, and isn’t sadness about anything. This can be triggered by intense internal relaxation or inner openness, sort of like a meditative state.

I’ve cried for hours about nothing in particular, and the feeling when I’m done is like I’ve been relieved of an immense burden.

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