I think it’s an internal thing, rather than an ‘expression’ per se. Although, I’m not sure if I’m just trying to conveniently define expression to make a point.
Is expression about showing someone something, or about letting/getting something out?
For me, tears generally have a soothing effect. There’s a tension that builds up between my heart and the world around me. My chest fills and contracts and knots and warps until something has to give.
If I don’t cry, I end up feeling all the tension bound up in tight angry coils inside. As soon as I do, I can relax my shoulders and unfold into it.
Unfortunately I had to teach myself to cry again, after a long period of repression (I was a very cryful child). As I think about that, I realise that’s a story I tell myself that isn’t really true. I’ve always cried a lot. It’s just that I spent a lot of time knotting myself as it happened.
For years it was something I had to hide and conceal and fight. Or I felt it was.
Is this the conflict between the internal side of it and the external expression? Or just gender roles in action?
I’m not quite sure. All I know is that now I feel able to cry openly, I feel better about myself. It’s something I want to shout about. It’s something that relieves my tensions and lets something out.
But it doesn’t make it any less weird that some physiological reaction, complete with bodily fluid, is necessary to provide that feeling. It’s like the body has evolved to need this symbolic token of release, which is pretty weird.
But it’s true all over. The physicality of the body is tied in with emotions. Smiles make us happy. The release of laughter, a rapid, spasmodic expulsion of air, lifts our hearts.
For me, perhaps slightly more extreme than most, emotions and music lead me to bite and roar and occasionally moan. The body reacts to things to try and ‘get things out’. A feeling builds inside, and it needs to be expressed outwards. But this isn’t about communication (at least not for the most part). It’s more about pressure, and valves.
The body seems to have a whole stack of release systems, for different psychological needs and build ups. From yawns to dancing, there are things we can do with our bodies that ease inner feelings.
It demonstrates the link between the body and the mine beautifully but confusingly. What on earth has tap dancing got to do with feeling good about yourself? What on earth has salt water got to do with feeling sorry for someone?
If there’s no logic, it doesn’t matter. It’s the body playing the mind at it’s own game. If you play with illogical players, you don’t need to follow rules. You just need to play.
However that happened, it works, and to be honest, it feels good.
Illustration by Andy.