If You Want to be Happy and You Know It, Then Cry
By Dr. Aviva Boxer, OMD
The formula for a blockbuster film always includes a sad moment that produces tears. There is a reason for this, and it is not what you think.
Ever notice how close you feel about a date after seeing a movie that makes you cry? That is because scientists (1) have proven that when people watch emotional scenes together they sync up. Their brains meld and prompt feelings of closeness and community. Ironically, heart-wrenching films create a ‘feel good’ effect on you and the person you are with. You see this bonding in people who fight wars together, people who tackle an adversity together, or people who fight a disease together. It is why many people feel a close relationship with their therapist, their doctor or their clergy. The other party shares in the overflow of Oxytocin produced bonded feelings when they are unearthed and discharged from hidden fears.
The brain releases the hormone Oxytocin. It is the bonding hormone, the hormone released when Mothers are breastfeeding their child or Oxytocin is released when making love. Oxytocin allows us to care about others. It breeds compassion and empathy. Also, the release of tears produces Oxytocin. So crying babies also are releasing Oxytocin to bond with Mother and family. So, going to movies to see sad movies will bring a couple closer together.
In a squabble with a loved one? Go to see a sad movie together. Feeling lonesome, go see a sad movie.There is a reason that big blockbuster films have included sadness in the formula. It is not just to bring the audience members closer together. It is also for the audience to bond to the movie itself. It is especially bonding when the movie goes full circle from sad to happy and back again. It reinforces bonding. It is also no accident that the movies often use Mothers dying as a way to quickly create the Oxytocin bond in both children and adults. Think Bambi, Old Yeller, The Lion King as just a few who made the feeling of sadness pop up to remind us of the bond with our own Mother. Then, once Oxytocin drops the movie bonds both you and your Mother to the movie so that the movie will sell.
When a family member is dying and the family surrounds the loved one, they all share in the tears and the Oxytocin drop, thus bonding a family that has been at odds with each other in the past. It knits a family to cry together.
Belly Laugh laughter can do something similar as well. That is why a blockbuster movie will give a double dose of Oxytocin both with tears and laughter to bond you to the movie and hopefully bond your loyalty to the movie, perhaps considering it a classic favorite movie.
There is field of called Neurocinematic research where the neurological effect of movies on the brain is studied. They have found that our brains process information on basic plot and story line. We use both hemispheres of the brain by using our emotions to process the plot as well; the logical side and the emoting side.
In ancient times without the help of Neurocinematic researchers, it must have been observed that crying stimulated community, empathy and compassion. Many funerals hired ‘weepers’ whose job was to weep loudly enough to encourage the weeping of the mourners. Being a weeper was an honorable and respected job. In modern day, others have hired ‘laughers’ at wakes, as well, to stimulate the compassion, empathy and healing that happens when people laugh together.
The symbol of the actor is the mask of comedy and tragedy, laughter and tears. But what is really being masked is the feelings of community, empathy and compassionate bonding that feeling both sad and happy encourage from the storytelling of a good actor.
At a funeral, we can learn from the cinema and use the emotional release of sadness and happiness in a eulogy as a way to bond a community, engender sympathy, empathy and compassion. We can eulogize the departed with memories of happiness and sadness through our stories and images. By doing so we can bond the legacy to the mourners so that the deceased lives in the hearts and lives of the living.
Both of the sites listed below will put a smile on your face even if your heart is weighed down in grief and sadness. These websites will entertain, enlarge your perspective, and help you to fill the void of loss with peace and contentment.
DrAvivaBoxer.com is the online authority specializing in education, products and services that go beyond grief to the pinnacle moment of passing. Our sister site, HappyHereafter.com is an online salon focusing on the art and science of celebrating end of life.
Sources for this article: (1) Intersubject Synchronization of Cortical Activity during Natural vision, Hasson U, Nir Y. , Levy I, et al. Dept. of Neurobiology, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, 76100, Israel. Science. 2004 Photo credit: Footlooseity
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