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  • ( music playing )

  • Joss: David, can you just tell us your name so we have that in?

  • David: David Phillips.

  • And, David, how often do you cry?

  • - Um... - It depends on the week.

  • Um, actually, on my way here I cried.

  • Sometimes when you're in

  • your most vulnerable situations

  • and Adele hits, she really hits.

  • So you know in "Guardians of the Galaxy"

  • when Groot makes a tree ball around his friends

  • and Rocket's like, "Groot, no!"

  • The episode where Ben and Leslie get married.

  • And I picked up the phone

  • and I realized she's not there anymore.

  • I probably cry once every six months, if it's a bad six months.

  • In 2016, when I received a video message of a moment

  • that I probably shouldn't have missed.

  • I remember these things because for three years I kept a record

  • of every time that I cried.

  • This is your spreadsheet.

  • ( music playing )

  • ( sniffling )

  • So you guys all read my spreadsheet.

  • I've crunched the data a little bit.

  • So, the majority of these were reactions to media,

  • TV shows, movies, podcasts, some articles,

  • and about 37% were things that were actually happening in my personal life.

  • So, as I've been looking into this,

  • one of the most interesting facts I've come across is

  • that a lot of people consider tears to be the only bodily fluid

  • that doesn't gross us out.

  • Snot, earwax, spit.

  • - All the other ones... - All the other ones.

  • ...all gross.

  • - All gross, but we-- - Yeah.

  • We don't have that reaction to tears.

  • Why'd you make the spreadsheet?

  • Um, when I cry, it feels like I've become a different person.

  • Because in my normal life, I'm very calm and collected.

  • I feel like I'm in control.

  • And I think most of us take for granted

  • that crying is something that humans do.

  • But I've never felt like I had a good grasp on why we do it.

  • I would weirdly find

  • that crying during swim practice was really therapeutic.

  • So, I just cry a little bit in my goggles

  • and then I rest on the wall during the interval,

  • and then I just literally would empty out the tears,

  • put on my cap and just keep swimming.

  • Joss: I have enlisted the help of Taili Wu,

  • a master stop motion animator,

  • to help us explain the anatomy of the lacrimal system,

  • which is what makes us cry.

  • - It's alive! - ( laughs )

  • We're gonna bring Alex in and show him how it all works.

  • All right.

  • - Are you ready? - Yeah.

  • Jose: Okay, so the main lacrimal gland is here on the upper

  • outer part of the eye socket.

  • That gland releases tears that travel across the eye

  • washing any irritants away.

  • And then when we blink, liquid gets pushed

  • into two tiny holes near the corner of the eye.

  • And if you look really close, you can see them.

  • Okay. Can you see it?

  • - Yes, I can now. - You do?

  • - It's tiny. Right there. - Yay!

  • - Can you show me the other one? - Yeah.

  • - Can you see it? - Yeah.

  • - You can see the hole. - I actually can see it.

  • Oh, my God.

  • So our tears drain into our nose,

  • and that's why the nose starts running when you cry.

  • When the lacrimal gland is producing so many tears,

  • that they can't drain fast enough,

  • they spill over onto your cheeks.

  • - And that's crying? - That's crying.

  • Wow. So it's just, like, this overflow of excess tears.

  • - Exactly. - Wow.

  • And we share this anatomy

  • with a lot of other land animals.

  • It evolved way before humans did.

  • And I found a clip on YouTube that I really want to show you.

  • - ( cat meows ) - Woman: Oh, Buddy.

  • Man: Oh, Buddy.

  • Did those onions get to you?

  • Aww, Buddy.

  • So this is what happens if you cut onions by a cat,

  • which is not a particularly nice thing to do.

  • But what's unique about us is that humans are the only animal

  • that cries tears of emotion.

  • - Really? - Yeah.

  • So there's some point in our evolution

  • that our lacrimal glands became connected to our emotions,

  • and I really wanted to know how that happened.

  • So I called up a Dutch psychologist named Ad Vingerhoets.

  • - Great name. - Who is-- yes.

  • Who is considered the world's leading expert in crying.

  • ( crying )

  • And would that be why we have tears when we yawn as well?

  • Yeah, yeah.

  • Okay, so the idea is that

  • the babies would've been screaming to get care,

  • that vocal signal,

  • and then it would've come along with that,

  • - these tears. - Yes.

  • ( baby crying )

  • I see. So, maybe there was a survival advantage

  • to a child who produced more tears

  • - as opposed to more vocal crying. - Yeah.

  • Hmm.

  • So what I'm getting from this is, like,

  • over time, crying became a way for us to reach out for help.

  • Now you're saying that tears are essentially

  • a more subdued way of expressing those same things.

  • Exactly.

  • Humans go through this really long childhood

  • where our brains still have to develop,

  • because we've got these giant brains.

  • They take 20, 25 years to finish forming,

  • and I think that's why this crying persists into adulthood for humans,

  • because we're vulnerable for longer than other species.

  • - Hmm. - I mean, kids are in their parents' house

  • for 18 years at least.

  • - Um, being-- - Or 25.

  • Or 25. Whatever, no judgment.

  • Joss: It was the sad, helpless screams of infants

  • that likely linked emotions to tears in our ancestors.

  • As adults, our emotions are more complex,

  • but they still trigger the same signal.

  • Um, I was walking to get groceries one day

  • and, um, I got a call from my grandfather.

  • He's sort of like another parent to me.

  • I lived in his house for a while growing up,

  • and I started crying.

  • I didn't really let on,

  • but I was like, "Oh, wow. I really miss--

  • I really miss you.

  • I'm really touched

  • that you're thinking of me and calling me,

  • even if there's not much for us to say."

  • One of the things we hear a lot

  • is that people feel better after they cry

  • and that crying is cathartic.

  • I've looked at some of the research on this,

  • and it seems like even though a lot of people

  • report that crying makes them feel better,

  • they haven't been able to find any sort

  • of physiological mechanism that would explain that.

  • So, I am on my way to meet with Dr. Meena Dasari.

  • She is a clinical psychologist.

  • And I sent her my spreadsheet in advance,

  • and I'm curious to see what her analysis of it is.

  • Thank you.

  • All right.

  • Do you think crying is healthy?

  • I think crying is healthy when done in moderation--

  • when it's used as form of emotional expression,

  • but in conjunction with other coping strategies.

  • Crying as a release of emotion, as a way of self-soothing,

  • and then moving on to different forms,

  • I do think can be healthy.

  • - He is so cute. - He's the sweetest.

  • And they're constantly wearing tie-dye, which is their thing.

  • - All the time? Look at them. - Yeah.

  • My nephew was born in 2014

  • and my niece was born in 2016.

  • - And you can see those in my spreadsheet, - Absolutely.

  • feeling like I was really missing some of those key moments--

  • their births, some of their birthdays.

  • And then my sister would send me videos of them.

  • Woman: Say "Happy birthday, Auntie Jossy."

  • Happy birthday, Auntie Jossy.

  • All: ♪ Happy birthday to you