Laughter and tears.


Laughter and crying are biologically very similar, and while they seem like opposites, both are methods the body uses to relieve stress, and they involve similar movements of the same groups of muscles. Both can involve tears.

Stress isn’t necessarily bad–it can even be present in overwhelming positive emotions such as joy, gratitude, or love–or in that moment when something strikes us so funny we double over with peals of laughter. Sometimes very intense laughter can bring on tears and even lead to sobbing; the opposite can happen when a big breakthrough happens in therapy. The laughter comes because the patient feels an immense sense of relief.

I decided it would be interesting to categorize the various types of crying and then talk about laughter, because they really are so very different but similar in some ways, and both are good for us.



I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Crying is underrated in western society. In our culture, tears are still thought of as a sign of weakness and something that’s only okay for women to do, and even then only in certain situations. A man is only allowed to cry if he wins the lottery or his team won the Super Bowl or his dog died. And that’s a crying shame! (pun intended).

But being able to cry is the most effective way to get better if you’re in therapy trying to heal from a mental disorder or recover from psychological trauma such as PTSD. It can be liberating and feel great. Many people have problems crying though, but there are ways to make it easier.

There’s also the unfortunate stereotype that crying always means a person is sad. Not so. I don’t know the exact percentage, but I believe I read that 50% of emotional tears are caused by positive or ambivalent emotions, not negative ones.

Not all tears are the result of actual crying: Irritant tears are shed by animals as well as humans, and are a physiological response to an irritation of the eye, such as the tears we shed when slicing an onion. Even though tears are shed to rid the eye of the foreign object, there is nothing emotional about this form of “crying.”

From here on, the types of crying will be listed from the shallowest and least emotional type of crying to the deepest and most emotional. The farther we get up the scale, the more pleasurable and similar to genuine belly laughter crying becomes.

1. “Crocodile” tears/fake crying.
This category possibly shouldn’t even be on this list, because it’s not genuine and sometimes doesn’t even involve tears. There are two types of false crying, both common among narcissists and sometimes people with other Cluster B personality disorders such as BPD or HPD.

The first type does involve actual tears being shed, but the person is usually a good actor who is able to squeeze them out at will to manipulate, get pity, show fake “empathy” or other emotions meant to make them look good or less malignant than they are. During his trial and police investigation, the psychopathic murderer Scott Peterson was expert at making copious tears run down his face when questioned about his wife’s disappearance. But he still had an odd blank look and a hint of a smirk between questioning–and Peterson’s odd speech patterns and hesitations made it obvious he was lying.

The second type is more common since most people aren’t very good actors and cannot generate tears at will. This is the embarrassing fake sobbing some narcissists use to get pity or attention. Don’t fall for it if they hide their faces so you don’t see their bone-dry eyes.

2. Manipulative, childish crying.
Narcissists who cry do so for the same reason a baby does: to get what they want. Older children cry this way too, and it can involve loud sobbing and whining. Adult narcissists (especially the “needy” types) may not sob like a child, but if they don’t get their way expect a display of waterworks, especially if the narcissist is of the somatic type and is female. Some somatic female narcissists do try to make their crying displays as dramatic as possible, in order to manipulate their target and get their way. It works too, especially if the woman is attractive and seductive, and this type of narcissist usually is.

3. Crying from frustration, fear, or anger.
Many people cry when they become frustrated, frightened or angry, but the tears tend to be scant and watery, and any sobbing is minimal. Breathing tends to be very shallow.

None of these first three types of crying are cleansing or healing, and because the tears shed are mainly just salt water and don’t include oils and other substances that come from truly emotional tears, they aren’t as effective in releasing toxins from the body and the person will not feel better afterwards.

The next forms of crying are all healing and cleansing, and the tears associated with them are full of oils and hormone like substances that make them heavier and more likely to cling to the skin and leave more visible streaks after drying.

4. Bereavement/grief.
Most people, after suffering a devastating loss such as death of a family member or close friend, or being left by a long time partner or spouse, at some point, if not immediately, will cry. Crying arising from tragic loss is usually convulsive, cathartic, intense, and involves deep sobbing that causes spasms in both the diaphragm and stomach muscles, copious amounts of tears and a loosening of mucus from the sinuses. A person undergoing such convulsive crying may gag or even vomit. The crying is so intense it can be physically painful as well as emotionally excruciating, and it may go on for a long time. But the tears are healing and the crying is cathartic. If the painful emotions are held inside and not released, a person experiencing grief or loss will take much longer to get better, and may become very ill.

In some cultures, such crying is formalized into a social event after the death of a family member, with special times set aside for family members to engage in grieving together and this can go on for weeks. This is probably a very healthy thing. In our society, group grieving is primarily reserved for funerals, and the bereaved are expected to get on with business as usual in a fairly short time, after all the casseroles have been eaten or have gone bad.

5. Cathartic crying in psychotherapy.
Most if not all psychodynamic therapies consider the moment the patient breaks down and cries in the therapist’s office a breakthrough for the patient. Because painful emotions from the past are being released, this type of crying can be as intense and convulsive as the crying of a bereaved person. A good therapist will not judge, and if a limited touch waiver has been signed in advance, it may be beneficial for the therapist to hold or stroke the patient in a nonsexual way during their breakdown. There may be more than one breakdown, with each one bringing the patient closer to healing. Laughter may sometimes follow a session of crying as the patient realizes a huge emotional burden has been lifted.

6. Shock/surprise crying.
These are not true tears of joy, but the kind of tears you shed if you find out you won the lottery, your team won the Super Bowl, or you were just presented with a great honor or gift. They are tears of surprise and shock as much as they are of happiness. They can tie in with tears of gratitude–for example, a movie actor who just won an Academy award may thank her supporters profusely as she chokes back sobs and tears stream down her cheeks. This type of crying isn’t particularly intense, but it does come on very suddenly and the tears can be copious. It’s short lived though. Smiling or even laughing usually accompanies the tears.

7. Crying from the heart.


This type of crying is never seen in narcissists, because it involves an opening of the heart that connects people to each other and narcissists cannot connect on any level. Tears from the heart exist on the spectrum of love–and involve positive, pro-social emotions like empathy, overwhelming joy, spiritual or religious experience, feelings of connectedness with humanity, the arts, or nature; or overwhelming love. These are all emotions narcissists are incapable of feeling.

The emotions felt can be overwhelming even if very pleasant. Crying serves two purposes here. First, it helps the body release the excess stress that comes with an overload of such euphoric feelings. It’s also nature’s way of connecting us with each other and tears tend to generate even deeper feelings of love among those who cry together. A good example of this is a couple so overwhelmed by their love for each other that they find themselves in tears during lovemaking, and this opens their hearts to each other even more.



There aren’t as many types of laughter (giggling and polite laughter don’t really count), but the best kind is the belly laugh–the kind of deep and convulsive laughter that explodes almost uncontrollably when we see or hear something we think is hilarious.

Belly laughter, though it doesn’t usually involve tears (but it can), can be just as cathartic and cleansing as a good long cry. Different types of things make different people laugh, and it’s hard to say what exactly will strike just the right part of your funny bone to send you into uncontrollable, convulsive, rolling on the floor shrieks of laughter.

The process of laughter is physiologically almost identical to crying–both involve gasping intakes of air, convulsive movements of the diaphragm or stomach muscles (hence the term “belly laugh”), and animal-like vocalizations similar to sobbing. But we can all tell the difference. A person enjoying a good belly laugh will never be mistaken for someone who is crying, even if there are tears.


Laughter usually involves a form of surprise. We laugh when we see something unexpected in a situation that doesn’t call for it or where its placement is ludicrous. A baby will laugh when her dad makes funny faces, because it’s unexpected. If you’re told something is funny, it probably won’t be as funny to you as if you discovered it on your own. It’s also the reason why a good joke can be ruined by bad timing or getting to the punch line too soon (or the punch line being spoiled by someone else). The surprise factor must be there for a joke to be funny.

Narcissists can laugh, but as with their crying, it’s usually shallow, exaggerated for effect (narcissists may be laughing louder than anyone in the room, but their eyes will remain flat and their laughter joyless and forced sounding).

As for what makes them laugh, narcissists are likely to find the misfortunes of others funny, or enjoy belittling forms of humor such as jokes that negatively stereotype an ethnic or other group, mean sarcasm, insults, or embarrassing practical jokes. Few narcissists have any sense of the absurd or any kind of subtle or sophisticated humor, and of course they can never laugh at themselves. They really have almost no sense of humor, unless it’s at someone else’s expense. If a narcissist’s mean “joke” at your expense offends you, you may be accused of being “too sensitive” or having no sense of humor, even though it is really they who are challenged in the humor department.

For the rest of us, it’s always a great thing to have a sense of the absurd as adults, because that sense of humor can get us through all the rough times. That’s why I keep a page of narcissist jokes, because when we can laugh at something that is threatening to us, some of its power over us is taken away and we can see the absurdity of what scares or upsets us.


15 thoughts on “Laughter and tears.

  1. I did a lot of crying today. Our precious Red Heeler Australian Cattle Dog, Lady, died in my arms. She was our fur baby for a little over eight years. I’m so grateful we had her.. but so sad.

    Don’t know why I’m telling you this, except… ouch. It hurts. She wasn’t sick that we knew of. She seemed OK, just slowing down due to old age. Then suddenly this morning she was breathing wrong and I knew she was dying, I held her and told her how much I love her and what a good girl she is. She did not seem to be in pain or fear, so that is good. When she died, I sobbed, loudly. Now I am just empty and numb.

    Everybody dies. This is the reality. Life is a terrible and wonderful gift.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alaina, Big Hugs! I’m so sory to hear about Lady’s illness and her passing.
      At least she got to go over the rainbow bridge while being held in your arms–with the person she loved.
      Pets become as important as friends and family members and don’t let anyone tell you they don’t. They ARE friends and family members.

      I remember when our dog, Daisy, died 2 days before Christmas in 2012. We knew it was coming. Like Lady, she had been slowing down to to arthritis and she slept often. She was almost 14 years old. She was having trouble managing her back legs.. On that day, when I let her out to do her business, she just stopped suddenly and couldn’t move her back legs anymore. We noticed she was panting heavily and her stomach muscles were seizing or something. She looked up sadly. We brought her back inside and put her on ablanket on the couch and sat around her. There was no reason to call the vet. She was already fading. We all sat around and petted her to help her make the transition. She closed her eyes and her breathing just stopped. My daughter and I cried a lot but I was so glad she died in warm comfortable surroundings with those people she loved gathered around her.
      It’s hard to lose a pet.

      Liked by 1 person

        • The amazing thing is, yesterday, Lady seemed to die twice. The first time as I was holding her while she was breathing so fast, suddenly she arched her back and stopped breathing. She was completely still. Then I began sobbing, wailing, very loudly. I sobbed and said her name over and over. After about two minutes of no breathing and me sobbing the entire time, she began to twitch. Then she came back. She was breathing again, and moving around.

          I called my husband (he was over two hours away at the nearest VA hospital to see his doctor). I told him what was happening. I had him on speaker and he told Lady “I love you, girl. Daddy is coming home.” As soon as he said that, she stopped breathing again. I kept holding her and telling her I love her for a long time, because, I thought, maybe she can hear me. Maybe she heard me wailing and crying her name the first time she died, and that is why she made the effort to come back.

          Lady was an only dog untill last year, when we found a nearly starved poodle puppy on the highway, covered with ticks. He was so little we thought he was a Toy Poodle, but he has grown to be a small Standard. He was here beside me while Lady died, kissing her face. He is a gift from God. His presence is helping us with our grief. He is constantly either on my lap or my husband’s. Oh but this really hurts.

          I had to dig Lady’s grave because my husband has had two heart attacks and gets out of breath if he over exerts. I got down to caleche (don’t know if I’m spelling it right, it isn’t rock exactly, but something white that is almost as hard as cement that we have a lot of here in New Mexico). So today we are going to rent a jackhammer and I will dig the rest of the grave with that, if I can manage it! Our neighbor, who is my husband’s best guy friend, built a pine coffin for our Lady. She is in that now on the back porch. I still can’t believe she is gone.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Humans and animals have a strong connection and our connection to our pets can be as strong as the ones we have with other people. It’s very hard and sad to lose a pet, but we keep adopting them even though we know they’re likely to pass on before we do (at least until we get to a certain age lol)
          Cry as much as you need to, it will help you heal. You’re suffering bereavement and as long as you don’t hold it inside (which can lead to longterm depression), you’re doing just fine.

          Oh and if any asshole says something like, “oh, it’s just an animal, get over it” let me know and I will personally go to their house and have a few words with them, lol. If I guy I will string them up by their balls. Anyone who says such a thing is probably a narc and not worth the time of day.

          Enjoy your lovely memories of Lady. I am sure she knows how much you loved her. I know Daisy remembers me and knows she was loved too, and knowing that can bring some comfort.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. What do you call the kind of crying that is triggered by seeing someone else (even a complete stranger) cry? A lot of times that’s all it takes to make me start tearing up. It happens when I see people crying on the news, or in movies, or just about anywhere. I’ve had it happen at the funerals of people I didn’t even like — I see one of their loved ones crying, and then I start to cry too. I’ve had friends who thought I was crazy because I get so weepy over things that they think shouldn’t concern me at all… but I’ve been this way all my life, so it’s probably not going to change.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure but for an empath, emotions are contagious. That includes crying, picking up the mood of others around, and laughing. I guess it’s not a lot different than those “empathy” yawns when you see someone else yawn. (now I’m yawning–just thinking about yawnng make me yawn).
      I envy people who cry easily — I’m an empath but tears are hard for me. I’m getting better though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had the same experience as a child — I was always being bullied and taunted and labeled a crybaby because I cried easily. God knows I would have stopped it if I could have, but it wasn’t something I could control. I also had an unfortunate knack for getting into trouble when I was a little kid, mostly because I had a knack for being misunderstood. A lot of the time when I got in trouble — especially at school — it wasn’t even because I’d done something wrong, but because I had been misunderstood. This would frustrate me to the point where I couldn’t do anything but cry. When you’re just a little kid, and the adults in your life seem bound and determined to misinterpret everything you say or do to put the worst possible spin on it — when in reality you’re doing your level best to please, or at least appease, said adults — you end up getting a persecution complex.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I spent 3 years with a Narc. I have been home for a little over 2 months. He was very ill when I left. He had Hep C and Chirrosis of the liver. I did all I could to make his life comfortable and easy. I on th other hand was limited in what I could do or say. I spent more time in the garage do puzzel books. This kept my mind focused on what I was doing and not on how I was treated by this man. I allowed him to make a mouse out of me.
    When we met I had a good job, a nice car, and a home. I have only my home left. He took my self respect, my laughter, my confidence. All I have left is a bunch of self loathing, sadness because I cant find a counselor or a therapist that knows how to treat NVS (Narcissistic Victums syndrome).
    This Narc. Thought that drugging my food and drinks with Ketamine which induses amneisia so that he and anyone elses he wanted to do anything they wanted and they did. My body from head to toe is covered with a thin layer of latex or silicone used by special effects artist . then he made a pattern with different faces and covered me with it, he made sure that when he put them on me that they face in a direction so thaat when I look at them they are laughing at me. Believe it or not he dies Oct. 3 and I still have all the same things on me and happening to me. He had friends of his that played me the whole time I was there including requiring me to be buddies with his ex of 20 years. She hurt me the worst when she trold me thsat she was helping him hurty me 6 weeks befor I left. Since I got home my trailer has been btroke into and and I am still be drugged and painted like a canvas basted like a pig and rolled over the the next person to do what ever h e told them to do before he died.My home has been ramsacked and everything in my trailer right down to the toilet paper has been creased , drawn on or painted with permanent colors I have layers of fake fat in places I really should not have. My breast and my vagina have been colored with the latex or silicone. ( Even on the inside of my vagina.) My tounge is scarred up with smilies, my dentures have been covered and sanded with a dremel they barley fit now. $24700.00 in teeth, 1200.00$ in glasses, and I supported him.
    I live in Anderson Ca. I need a therapist really bad, Please Help if you can.
    Shannon M.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Shannon,
      I really don’t know what to say. Your story is shocking and also very disturbing. I guess it’s good he’s not around anymore (I don’t know if that’s appropriate to say but at least you’re safe from him) but what about his friends? Are they in your trailer with you? If they are, you need to call the police ASAP and get a restraining order. How many of them are there?
      It sounds to me like your ex wasn’t *merely* a narc (that’s bad enough) but also was a psychopath with a strong sadistic impulse. I hope he is where he belongs right now for what he did to you. 😉
      But you need to take care of yourself. Get the police involved, if his friends are still harassing you and tormenting you, and move if you possibly can, preferably to another state or at least another county. Change your name, dye your hair, make yourself un-idenfiable. That does sound extreme but you are in an extreme situation which will take extreme measures.
      Look into a good trauma/PTSD therapist because no doubt, you have PTSD from this horrible experience. There is help out there! If you don’t have insurance go to your social services agency and tell them your situation. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed. This is your life at stake. Do whatever you need to to do to take care of yourself!
      I’ll say a prayer and email me if you’d like, although I am not a mental health or legal professional I can at least try to offer encouragement. Good luck. You can get through this!


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