Different Emotions Reveal Changes in Tears Under Microscope

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September 10, 2015 | 73,043 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher examined more than 100 dried human tears under a microscope
  • Tears of “laughing till I’m crying,” tears of grief, tears of change, onion tears, and others all appear remarkably different
  • While crying may initially make your mood worse, research suggests it leads to an eventual rebound and heightening of mood in time

By Dr. Mercola

Your body produces three different types of tears. There’s the basal variety, which are made as a form of lubrication and protection for your eyes. These are constantly secreted in tiny quantities (about one gram over a 24-hour period) and coat your eyes when you blink.1

You also produce reflex tears. These are another form of protection and are released in response to irritants, such as wind, dust, smoke, or cut onions. The third form of tears – emotional or “psychic” tears as they’re sometimes called – are arguably the most talked about and the most mysterious.

Your tears, no matter what the form, are a combination of salt water, oils, antibodies, and enzymes.2 Yet each looks vastly different when examined under a microscope.

Intriguing Photos Reveal ‘The Topography of Tears’

In a project called “Topography of Tears,” photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher used a microscope to examine what dried human tears look like close up. Over the course of several years, she examined more than 100 tears, from herself, volunteers, and even a newborn baby, under a microscope.

What resulted was a beautiful collection of strikingly different images, many resembling large-scale landscapes. Fisher described them as “aerial views of emotion terrain.”3 She continued in Smithsonian magazine:4

It’s amazing to me how the patterns of nature seem so similar, regardless of scale… You can look at patterns of erosion that are etched into earth over thousands of years, and somehow they look very similar to the branched crystalline patterns of a dried tear that took less than a moment to form.

… Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger, and as complex as a rite of passage… It’s as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean.”

As the saying goes, a picture is worth 1,000 words, so to see the photos for yourself, see Rose-Lynn Fisher’s website.5 What is perhaps most intriguing is the different forms tears take depending on the emotions behind them. Tears of “laughing till I’m crying,” tears of grief, tears of change, onion tears, and others all appear remarkably different.

Do Emotions Change the Structure of Our Tears?

This reminds me of the work of the late Dr. Masaru Emoto, a visionary researcher from Japan, who studied the impact of human consciousness on water and its crystalline order.

Water that was imprinted by love, gratitude, and appreciation responded by the development of complex beauty, and water that was mistreated by negative intentions became disordered and lost its magnificent patterning. Perhaps something similar occurs in our tears… it’s known, for instance, that tears contain unique substances depending on their cause.

Emotional tears, for instance, contain leucine-enkephalin, a natural painkiller your body releases in response to stress. There are, however, other explanations for why each dried tear takes on a unique appearance under a microscope. As reported in Smithsonian magazine:6

“… [B]ecause the structures seen under the microscope are largely crystallized salt, the circumstances under which the tear dries can lead to radically dissimilar shapes and formations, so two psychic tears with the exact same chemical makeup can look very different up close.

‘There are so many variables — there’s the chemistry, the viscosity, the setting, the evaporation rate, and the settings of the microscope,’ Fisher says.”

Crying Really Does Make You Feel Better… Eventually

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 Smithsonian November 19, 2013
  • 5 Rose-lynnfisher.com, The Topography of Tears
  • 7, 8 Motivation and Emotion August 23, 2015
  • 9 Journal of Research in Personality August 2011, Volume 45, Issue 4, Pages 385-392
  • 10, 12, 16, 17 American Psychological Association February 2014, Vol 45, No. 2
  • 11 Evolutionary Psychology 2009; 7(3): 363-370 [Free Full-Text PDF Report]
  • 13 Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2012 Jul-Aug;30(4):492-8.
  • 14 NYMag.com January 7, 2015
  • 15 Am J Phys Anthropol. 1969 Jan;30(1):85-8.
  • 18 Cross-Cultural ReRose-lynnfisher.com, The Topography of Tearssearch November 2011, vol. 45, no. 4, 399-431