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哭泣对我们的健康是否有好处?

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Is having a cry good for our health?
哭泣对我们的健康是否有好处?

Until recently, scientists and authors were at stark disagreement over the point of crying. In King Henry VI, Shakespeare wrote, "to weep is to make less the depth of grief", and the American writer Lemony Snicket said "unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit".

直到不久以前,科学家和作家们还对哭泣的效用各执一词。在剧本《亨利六世》里,莎士比亚写道,"流泪可以减轻痛苦",美国作家雷蒙·斯尼奇(Lemony Snicket)则说,"对于大多数人,哭泣都能帮助减轻压力,哪怕实际境况根本没发生变化"。

Charles Darwin, on the other hand, thought that the production of tears (the act of crying notwithstanding) was merely a useless side effect of the way that the muscles around the eye worked. For him, those muscles had to contract from time to time so that they didn’t overflow with blood; the expulsion of tears was simply an unintended consequence of that evolved physiological process. (He did acknowledge that crying could help young infants attract the attention of their parents, though.)

然而,查理·达尔文却认为,流泪(以及哭泣动作本身)只不过是眼睛周围的肌肉运动导致的一种无效副作用。他认为,这些肌肉必须不时收缩从而排空血液;流泪只不过是这一演化而成的生理过程中无意造成的后果而已。(然而,他同时也承认,哭泣可以帮助新生婴儿吸引父母的注意。)

We now know that crying – at least, the sort that adults do – is a complex physiological response to some kind of emotional stimulus. The most prominent feature is of course the shedding of tears, but it also includes changes in facial expressions and breathing patterns. "Sobbing," for example, refers to the rapid inhalation and exhalation that so often accompanies crying.

我们现在知道,哭泣——至少成人的哭泣——是在某些情绪刺激下产生的一种复杂的生理反应。哭泣导致的最明显反应是流泪,同时也伴随着面部表情和呼吸过程的变化。例如,抽泣是一种在哭泣的同时伴随的短促呼气和吸气现象。

From a scientific perspective, that means crying is different from the production of tears in response to a chemical irritant, like when you accidentally rub your eyes after eating spicy foods. Even the tears themselves are different. In 1981, Minnesota psychiatrist William H Frey II discovered that tears brought on by sad movies had more protein in them than those that flowed in response to some freshly chopped onions.

我们对人类为什么会哭泣依然知之甚少
从科学角度看,哭泣不同于化学刺激物引起的流泪,例如吃了辣椒后揉眼睛的反应。甚至二者产生的泪水都存在差别。1981年,明尼苏达州精神病学家威廉·H·福瑞二世(Minnesota psychiatrist William H Frey II)发现,与受到洋葱刺激后产生的泪水相比,观众们观看悲剧电影后流下的泪水中含有更多的蛋白质。

As anyone who has attended a side-splitting comedy act or listened to a groom read wedding vows to his bride, emotional tears aren't limited to feelings of melancholy. But while all of us are familiar with the feelings that are associated with crying, whether for joy or sorrow, there's not much that's known about why we do it as adults – but there are plenty of ideas.

无论是令人捧腹的滑稽脱口秀,还是婚礼上新郎对新娘宣读新婚誓词的时刻都会让人流泪,这说明眼泪并非悲哀和痛苦的专利。即便我们都熟悉与哭泣相伴的情绪——无论是喜悦还是悲伤——但是对于我们成年人为何会流泪的原因,尽管科学家们提出了众多假说,目前却仍然没有定论。

One idea is that adult crying isn't actually all that different from the sort that babies do, at least when it comes to its social nature. In other words, perhaps weeping is a literal cry for attention, a means of soliciting support and help from our friends when we need it the most. It's a way of communicating our inner emotional state at a time when we may not be able to fully articulate it.

有科学家认为,成年人的哭泣和儿童没什么区别,都是出于他们的社会本能。换句话说,哭泣可能是一种用来吸引别人注意的工具,一种用来在需要时获得朋友支持和帮助的方法,一种当我们无法完全清晰地表达内心情绪时与他人沟通的途径。

While this may explain some forms of crying, many researchers have found that adults often cry when they're completely alone. Another possibility that is that crying might serve as a means of "secondary appraisal," helping people to realise just how upset they are, a way of helping them understand their own feelings – it's a provocative idea, with at  least some evidence to support it, in some cases.

尽管这一说法能够解释哭泣的部分原因,但是有很多研究者却发现,成年人往往在一个人独处时哭泣。另一种可能是,哭泣可能是一种"二次评估"手段,帮助人们了解自己难过的程度以及当前情绪。这种较为激进的观点已经获得了某些证据的支持。

And then there's the notion of catharsis: crying provides for relief from emotionally stressful situations. The idea is consistent not only with the words of Shakespeare, but with the Roman poet Ovid, who wrote: "It is a relief to weep; grief is satisfied and carried off by tears." The Greek philosopher Aristotle also wrote that crying "cleanses the mind". In a 1986 study of popular US magazines and newspapers, one psychologist found that 94% of articles about crying suggested that it helped to relieve psychological tension.

从情感宣泄的角度看,哭泣可以帮助人们减轻情绪压力。这种说法与莎士比亚和古罗马诗人奥维德(Ovid)留下的名言遥相呼应,后者曾经写道:"哭泣是一种解脱;无论多大的悲痛都会随着眼泪流走。"古希腊哲学家亚里士多德写道,哭泣"使意识清醒"。一项发布于1986年,专门分析美国杂志和报纸的论文记载道,一名心理学家发现,在所有写到哭泣的文章中,有94%的文章表示哭泣有助于缓解心理压力。

Indeed, a 2008 study of nearly 4,300 young adults from 30 countries found that most reported improvements in both their mental and physical wellbeing after a bout of crying, but not all. Some reported no change after a crying session, and some even said that they felt worse afterwards.

2008年,对来自30个国家的4,300名年轻人所做的一项调查发现,多数人在哭泣后都出现了精神和身体健康状况改善的情况,但是也并非人人如此。有些人在哭泣后健康状况没有发生变化,有人甚至说感觉更糟。

The difference seems to lie in the social context: if a person felt embarrassed about crying in public, for example, they might feel less resolved than if they cried alone or with a single close friend. The study also found that when people tried to suppress or hide their crying, they also wound up feeling less relief afterwards.

答案可能要从社会角度找:例如,如果某人因为害怕尴尬而不敢在公共场所哭泣,就更有可能选择独自流泪或者在密友前哭泣。调查还发现,人们如果试图压制或者掩饰哭泣,他们就越不容易平复自己的悲伤情绪。

So the notion of having "a good cry" is not without merit, but it seems to necessitate the right kind of social support to be effective. Which means, in the end, that adults might just cry for much the same reason as human infants: to seek help from their friends and family.

这时,哭泣的价值就在于它能够争取到适当的社会支持。这意味着,归根到底,成人哭鼻子的原因和婴儿其实也没什么两样:同样是为了寻求来自亲友的帮助。
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