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What Do Tears Mean?

Jay Efran On Working Effectively With Clients When They Cry


There are all kinds of tears—tears of joy, grief, empathy, stress, and relief—to name just a few.

Your important work, according to Jay Efran, is to understand what to do when a client cries and to recognize when the best thing to do is nothing.

To help you know how to respond to a client’s tears, Jay,  professor of psychology, has developed a two-stage theory of tears. It’s built on an understanding of the physiology and psychobiology of tears, and on recognizing the connection between tears and parasympathetic recovery.

This is a real practice-changer!

This clip is taken from our popular Webcast Series–The Healing Power of Emotion: New Perspectives, New Approaches. The series features Susan Johnson, Joan KlagsbrunJay EfranRick HansonRon Potter-Efronand Diana Fosha–clinical innovators who will help you master a variety of new approaches and methods to transform your work with your most challenging cases. Learn more about this very limited time re-release.

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7 Responses to What Do Tears Mean?

  1. This interesting but it seems like relief what about tears caused by emotional pain where the problem is not resolved?

  2. I do believe in what Jay Efran says about tears, and yes, Heid, tears do appear as well with pain in different settings. One case does not exclude the other. No conflict therefore in my understanding. And thanks, many thanks to Jay for this illuminating new understanding of tears…
    Salomon.

  3. I realize that the answer to my question might be found in the extended version of this interview. Notwithstanding, I can recall from my own childhood getting lost in the woods where I was crying long before anyone found me. How can this be accounted for in this phase 1/2 model?

  4. Hanusia says:

    Daniel – perhaps there was a period of searching, thinking, problem-solving and then, with no results, the system shifted into reaction mode rather than active problem-solving ?

    Could be the there is more to the 2-stage theory, when we factor in perceived ability to solve problems, our perceptions of the situation (“Oh, this is something I can solve.” vs “I’m stupid, I always get in trouble.”) and other variables.

    An interesting way to look at it, in any case.

  5. Carolyn says:

    Interesting theory but like Hanusia I think that it is likely more complicated. Attachment theory I believe suggests that tears are not just a recalibration of the body but a process to provoke support and comfort.
    Carolyn

  6. denise warfield says:

    i think the kind of crying he is trying to describe here is when a child is disciplined for not eating their goulash, they cry and then to help other adults not feel bad about this crying, the parent says come here if you think something so silly is bad. he is using humor to help the parents feel the crying does not need any more salt, it’s just normal. so now you know Jay Efron’s take on it.

  7. penelope says:

    Wow, amazing that somebody puts time and research into a theory and then people offer off the cuff counter theories. Denise, the example he gives is being lost not refusing to eat goulash and then being punished.

    The point is that crying is being postulated as a parasympathetic response, following sympathetic. If we are interested in this theory maybe we can apply it and see if it is confirmed by experience.

    I have to say, as a student, I am highly disappointed in the “discussion” here.

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