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哭泣對我們的健康是否有好處?

Is having a cry good for our health?
哭泣對我們的健康是否有好處?

Until recently, scientists and authors were at stark disagreement over the point of crying. In King Henry VI, Shakespeare wrote, "to weep is to make less the depth of grief", and the American writer Lemony Snicket said "unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit".

直到不久以前,科學家和作家們還對哭泣的效用各執一詞。在劇本《亨利六世》里,莎士比亞寫道,"流淚可以減輕痛苦",美國作家雷蒙·斯尼奇(Lemony Snicket)則說,"對于大多數人,哭泣都能幫助減輕壓力,哪怕實際境況根本沒發生變化"。

Charles Darwin, on the other hand, thought that the production of tears (the act of crying notwithstanding) was merely a useless side effect of the way that the muscles around the eye worked. For him, those muscles had to contract from time to time so that they didn’t overflow with blood; the expulsion of tears was simply an unintended consequence of that evolved physiological process. (He did acknowledge that crying could help young infants attract the attention of their parents, though.)

然而,查理·達爾文卻認為,流淚(以及哭泣動作本身)只不過是眼睛周圍的肌肉運動導致的一種無效副作用。他認為,這些肌肉必須不時收縮從而排空血液;流淚只不過是這一演化而成的生理過程中無意造成的后果而已。(然而,他同時也承認,哭泣可以幫助新生嬰兒吸引父母的注意。)

We now know that crying – at least, the sort that adults do – is a complex physiological response to some kind of emotional stimulus. The most prominent feature is of course the shedding of tears, but it also includes changes in facial expressions and breathing patterns. "Sobbing," for example, refers to the rapid inhalation and exhalation that so often accompanies crying.

我們現在知道,哭泣——至少成人的哭泣——是在某些情緒刺激下產生的一種復雜的生理反應??奁鼘е碌淖蠲黠@反應是流淚,同時也伴隨著面部表情和呼吸過程的變化。例如,抽泣是一種在哭泣的同時伴隨的短促呼氣和吸氣現象。

From a scientific perspective, that means crying is different from the production of tears in response to a chemical irritant, like when you accidentally rub your eyes after eating spicy foods. Even the tears themselves are different. In 1981, Minnesota psychiatrist William H Frey II discovered that tears brought on by sad movies had more protein in them than those that flowed in response to some freshly chopped onions.

我們對人類為什么會哭泣依然知之甚少
從科學角度看,哭泣不同于化學刺激物引起的流淚,例如吃了辣椒后揉眼睛的反應。甚至二者產生的淚水都存在差別。1981年,明尼蘇達州精神病學家威廉·H·福瑞二世(Minnesota psychiatrist William H Frey II)發現,與受到洋蔥刺激后產生的淚水相比,觀眾們觀看悲劇電影后流下的淚水中含有更多的蛋白質。

As anyone who has attended a side-splitting comedy act or listened to a groom read wedding vows to his bride, emotional tears aren't limited to feelings of melancholy. But while all of us are familiar with the feelings that are associated with crying, whether for joy or sorrow, there's not much that's known about why we do it as adults – but there are plenty of ideas.

無論是令人捧腹的滑稽脫口秀,還是婚禮上新郎對新娘宣讀新婚誓詞的時刻都會讓人流淚,這說明眼淚并非悲哀和痛苦的專利。即便我們都熟悉與哭泣相伴的情緒——無論是喜悅還是悲傷——但是對于我們成年人為何會流淚的原因,盡管科學家們提出了眾多假說,目前卻仍然沒有定論。

One idea is that adult crying isn't actually all that different from the sort that babies do, at least when it comes to its social nature. In other words, perhaps weeping is a literal cry for attention, a means of soliciting support and help from our friends when we need it the most. It's a way of communicating our inner emotional state at a time when we may not be able to fully articulate it.

有科學家認為,成年人的哭泣和兒童沒什么區別,都是出于他們的社會本能。換句話說,哭泣可能是一種用來吸引別人注意的工具,一種用來在需要時獲得朋友支持和幫助的方法,一種當我們無法完全清晰地表達內心情緒時與他人溝通的途徑。

While this may explain some forms of crying, many researchers have found that adults often cry when they're completely alone. Another possibility that is that crying might serve as a means of "secondary appraisal," helping people to realise just how upset they are, a way of helping them understand their own feelings – it's a provocative idea, with at  least some evidence to support it, in some cases.

盡管這一說法能夠解釋哭泣的部分原因,但是有很多研究者卻發現,成年人往往在一個人獨處時哭泣。另一種可能是,哭泣可能是一種"二次評估"手段,幫助人們了解自己難過的程度以及當前情緒。這種較為激進的觀點已經獲得了某些證據的支持。

And then there's the notion of catharsis: crying provides for relief from emotionally stressful situations. The idea is consistent not only with the words of Shakespeare, but with the Roman poet Ovid, who wrote: "It is a relief to weep; grief is satisfied and carried off by tears." The Greek philosopher Aristotle also wrote that crying "cleanses the mind". In a 1986 study of popular US magazines and newspapers, one psychologist found that 94% of articles about crying suggested that it helped to relieve psychological tension.

從情感宣泄的角度看,哭泣可以幫助人們減輕情緒壓力。這種說法與莎士比亞和古羅馬詩人奧維德(Ovid)留下的名言遙相呼應,后者曾經寫道:"哭泣是一種解脫;無論多大的悲痛都會隨著眼淚流走。"古希臘哲學家亞里士多德寫道,哭泣"使意識清醒"。一項發布于1986年,專門分析美國雜志和報紙的論文記載道,一名心理學家發現,在所有寫到哭泣的文章中,有94%的文章表示哭泣有助于緩解心理壓力。

Indeed, a 2008 study of nearly 4,300 young adults from 30 countries found that most reported improvements in both their mental and physical wellbeing after a bout of crying, but not all. Some reported no change after a crying session, and some even said that they felt worse afterwards.

2008年,對來自30個國家的4,300名年輕人所做的一項調查發現,多數人在哭泣后都出現了精神和身體健康狀況改善的情況,但是也并非人人如此。有些人在哭泣后健康狀況沒有發生變化,有人甚至說感覺更糟。

The difference seems to lie in the social context: if a person felt embarrassed about crying in public, for example, they might feel less resolved than if they cried alone or with a single close friend. The study also found that when people tried to suppress or hide their crying, they also wound up feeling less relief afterwards.

答案可能要從社會角度找:例如,如果某人因為害怕尷尬而不敢在公共場所哭泣,就更有可能選擇獨自流淚或者在密友前哭泣。調查還發現,人們如果試圖壓制或者掩飾哭泣,他們就越不容易平復自己的悲傷情緒。

So the notion of having "a good cry" is not without merit, but it seems to necessitate the right kind of social support to be effective. Which means, in the end, that adults might just cry for much the same reason as human infants: to seek help from their friends and family.

這時,哭泣的價值就在于它能夠爭取到適當的社會支持。這意味著,歸根到底,成人哭鼻子的原因和嬰兒其實也沒什么兩樣:同樣是為了尋求來自親友的幫助。
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