In mid-90’s, One Friday evening, I and my family were watching a regional movie in DD. It was an old dramatic depressing movie about a young family man wrought with all kind of troubles, narrating his life journey from 6 to 60 years of his age. In my teens, that is the movie which made me cry like a baby to the extent that my dad had to turn off the TV. That’s the first time I guess, I related to a fictional character and wept out loud.
If I watch the same movie now, it will seem dramatic and looks far beyond reality. But that doesn’t mean I stopped shedding for movies. Whether at home or in a theater, I just can’t seem to hold back the waterworks when watching powerful, poignant or emotive films. But movies are designed to impact us on an emotional level and they frequently succeed in this endeavor. It is just not tear jerking movies , I have a big list – good happy endings, great achievement after a bad struggle, heart breaking books, articles or music has influenced my mind so strongly for hours.
Is there anything more emotionally wrecking than the look of a grief-stricken baby lion, tears flooding down his furry cheeks, as he paws at the lolling head of his recently deceased father? (Mupasa’s death in Lion King). Sometimes, I can’t believe myself for emotionally getting attached to an animated character but as long as I remember, I have cried for many movies like I have just chopped a dozen onions. My tear gates had opened while watching movies in the flight too, the sniffing and snorting in the most inappropriate places but totally undisturbed, who cares about the fellow passenger? He might have thought, I had a breakdown. I can understand crying when someone goes through a painful medical procedure, or even when we watch an injured person, but at a movie, knowing the actors are paid for what they are doing?
But, If all these episodes make you think I am a cry baby , you are wrong – I have had my share of hard times in life and I always carry a positive attitude.
Apparently I’m not alone when it comes to this whatsoever feeling or sudden explosion of Oxytocin. Many don’t admit it, may be because we are conditioned to believe crying is a sign of weakness. Especially men, who grow up hearing stereotypical expectations of masculinity that “Boys don’t cry”. Although this view is thankfully changing, it is still hard to shake off entrenched cultural values that we have all absorbed. Is that why men avoid watching chick flicks?
But, smashing the popular myth that people who cry while watching films are weak, new studies and psychologists claim that it may be a good practice as crying increases our threshold for pain and helps in social bonding. Our affinity for emotionally packed dramatic fiction could be because of the boost in the production of feel good chemicals including endorphins, a natural pain killer. Similarly oxytocin surges out with emotive flicks, a potent hormone which helps us connect with other humans and compels us to be more empathetic, loving and unselfish individuals.
Readers may answer this question to themselves or in the comment section.
Well, if you answered that question, without fear of tears, or embarrassment about crying then take pride in your tears as you are an empathetic, sociable and generous person, no doubt. In simple terms, you know how it feels when you put yourself in another person’s shoes.
Empathy is a powerful nonverbal communication skill that is often misunderstood and underused. It lays a solid foundation for emotional intelligence, a common term used in leadership competency. Empathetic people are emotionally strong and are more open-minded and understanding individuals, naturally compassionate in interactions with others.
Psychological study based on physical responses of people who are deeply moved, claims this ‘emotions of uplift’ as Elevation. But this act of empathizing cannot be taught, may be facilitated, can be interrupted and blocked. It cannot be forced to occur.
“Powerful moments of elevation sometimes seem to push a mental reset button, wiping out feelings of cynicism and replacing them with feelings of hope, love, optimism and sense of moral inspiration“
—–Psychologist Jonathan Haidt who coined the term elevation
So what does this elevation do? Is this different from happiness. Certainly yes. Happiness can cause people to be more self-focused or internal pursuits (eg. watching AFV), but elevation appeared to turn attention outward to other people. Actually watching an altruistic act increases a person’s motivation to act prosocial. Some study reveals the best way of encouraging philanthropic behavior may be to lead by example. Because seeing a person or action that is greater than oneself results in greater faith in the goodness of people and the world; it may also cause those who experience the emotion to view life as more meaningful.
Empathy is the feeling that makes us human and differentiates from robots. And elevation is the emotion caused when we see people giving up themselves, even if only for a moment, to care about others.
Though I wasn’t seeking an explanation for welling up of a few tears in my eyes, it does trigger a feeling of uplift: Yes, there is a good person, doing a good thing inside. And when the movie is over, I prefer to remain silent and stay in a kind of reverie.
My weekend movie nights, varies from a rom-com to action packed sequences and thrillers. But sometimes I also need classic drama to kindle my emotions. This does not mean wallowing in misery, it is getting lost in a story that captures human experiences with right dose of highs and lows.
Few movies which makes me cry every time I watch it.
- A beautiful Mind (2001) – Exceptional love story, family tensions & peril, effective acting, meticulously crafted effort, feel good ending which will bring tears no doubt.
“Perhaps it is a good to have a beautiful mind, but an even greater gift is to discover a beautiful heart” Professor Nash
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – Compelling drama, a very moving film, perfectly written and brilliant acting. What I experienced is the welling up of a few tears in my eyes, a certain tightness in my throat, and a feeling of hope: Yes,
“Remember Red, Hope is a good thing, may be the best of things, and no good things ever dies”——— Andy Dufresne
3. The Green Mile (1999) – This movie goes with a simple theory: don’t judge a person by looks. Despite his physical strength, the big giant guy is a naïve, soft, kind and possess supernatural gift. If you don’t come out of this movie with a lump in the throat and seriously puff eyes, then you have no heart.
4. Marley & Me (2008) – It is a cheerful family movie about a young couple who is starting a new life. It is very beautiful to see the pet of the family growing older with the characters. I flood so much for this movie even though I am not a pet-lover.
5. Father of the Bride (1991) – Wonderful and charming comedy which spins around a nuptial fantasy, over protective dad and his struggle to let the girl fly out of the nest. This is definitely a happy comedy movie – but it is a golden rule of the wedding, when dads cry, I cry.
6. “When breathe becomes air by Dr. Paul Kalanithi”, non-fictional auto biography of a neuro surgeon and his fight against lung cancer. It was posthumously published and is not book which is just poignant, touching and painful – it is full of love, insight, courage and humility.
“I would have to learn to live in a different way, seeing death as an imposing itinerant visitor but knowing that even if I am dying, until I actually die, I’m still living ” —– Dr. Paul Kalanidhi
7. Kannathil Muthamittal (2002) – Indian Tamil language movie based on a short story by Sujatha Rangarajan. It is about a 9 year old adopted girl going in search of her birth mom. It dives deep into mother daughter relationship and captures emotions of birth mom, adopted mom and the little girl, very new for Tamil movie watchers.
8. Children of Heaven (1997) – An Iranian family drama about sibling bond and day to day life struggles. In spite of countless hardships, brothers struggles to buy a pair of shoes for his sister. A very touching movie causing a feeling of spreading warmth in the chest and a lump in the throat.
9.The Pianist (2002) – Biographical war drama of a Polish Jew, a musician. His survival during the holocaust is the story. It is the pianists witness to what he saw and what happened to him.
10. Temple Grandin (2010) – An inspirational TV movie about an autistic woman who became a scientist. This is an excellent biopic and every autistic family knows about Temple Grandin and her success . The following quote speaks it all.
“I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream”– Temple Grandin
If I had to produce a film, I would consciously look for Elevation, to make a deep appeal–remembering that it seems to come not through messages or happy endings or sad ones, but in moments when characters we believe in could be even an animated lion king or Nemo —achieve something good.
So next time you watch a movie, and you feel that salty discharge emanating from eyes , acting as a catharsis reducing your inbuilt stress, boosting our moods and cleansing our eyelids, don’t be embarrassed , but embrace it.