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Greenacre, P. (1965). On the Development and Function of Tears. Psychoanal. St. Child, 20:209-219.

(1965). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 20:209-219

On the Development and Function of Tears

Phyllis Greenacre, M.D.

For the stimulus to present the considerations offered here, I am greatly indebted to L. Börje Löfgren. His most interesting paper "On Weeping" (1965) was the catalyst for me to bring together and reformulate thoughts of my own. The subject has preoccupied me in a peripheral fashion for nearly twenty years, since I observed and reported two patients whose weeping was extreme and dramatic (1945a).

While in ordinary parlance the words weeping and crying are used practically synonymously, Löfgren pointed out that crying may but does not always involve the production of tears, whereas in weeping they are the prominent feature. In crying, the wailing, moaning or some form of crying out occurs with or without tears, and in weeping the excessive lacrimation is generally associated with crying sounds, but these are not the salient characteristic. Facial changes (grimacing, dilatation of the veins of the face, and sometimes edema of the tissues) may occur, but are marked in weeping, especially when it is severe. Löfgren also thinks that weeping is always associated with mood change, and that lacrimation without mood change is generally on a purely physiological basis. The essential point here seems significant. But one must take into account the pathological weepers in whom the disturbance of mood is not subjectively felt or expressed in overt behavior other than tears. This may be true, for example, in cases of hysterical repression of depressed angry states as in the various forms of missed mourning.


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