“Other people’s crying makes us uncomfortable. It’s an unavoidable result of our capacity for empathy. We can’t help feeling the pain of tears; but for that very reason, we often resent them. It can be an unwanted intimacy, the emotional equivalent of a groping hand. Most people’s gut reaction is to do whatever it takes to make the tears stop.” From Aeon: Is there anything wrong with men who cry?
While the essay is mostly about how it used to be totally okay for men to cry, and how things have changed so much since then, I wanted to quote this paragraph because I’ve never seen a better explanation of how the crying of others can sometimes make us feel. Why do we hate to see crying in public? Because it’s basically a sign that someone needs help, and we don’t like it when people in close proximity to ourselves need help, do we? Either because we fear our helping would somehow diminish us (“I have so little already, if I share we’ll both need help”), or because we feel we can do nothing in the face of alarm and emergency (“This situation is distressing, and I can neither escape it or make it stop”), or because the need itself disgusts us (“Ugh, I’m fine, these other people are fine, what’s wrong with you that you can’t be fine with the rest of us?”).