The AtlanticThe Atlantic

The not-so-secret key to emotional balance

By Arthur C. Brooks

13 Apr 2023 · 3 min read

Crying can be a powerful tool to tame our feelings, Arthur C. Brooks writes in The Atlantic. It can bring balance, peace—and, just maybe, even a touch of the divine.

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A dear friend of mine whom I recently lost spent most of his life near the Severn River in Maryland. The Severn is technically a “tidal estuary”—a brackish inlet off the Chesapeake Bay, where salt water mixes with fresh. “It’s the most human river,” my friend once told me. “It has the precise salinity of human tears.”

Whether or not the Severn is one, a river of pure tears sounds like a scene out of a Greek tragedy. But to my friend, it was a mystical and beautiful juxtaposition—that a signature of sorrow would accompany the splendor of nature. Crying, too, is a contradiction. It can accompany the most profound grief or the deepest joy. It can be a response to anger and frustration or to poetry too lovely for words.

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