Expressing and receiving gratitude emphasises the communal bonds between the one who thanks and the one who is thanked. It’s power is even enhanced when one sees other people joining in. Three wonderful examples from this week:
First, Joe Biden tears up when Obama surprises him with the Medal of Freedom. He even has turn around and hide his first upwelling of tears.
Next, Michelle Obama tears up when expressing gratitude at an event celebrating school counselors. Also, look at all the women around her with tears in their eyes.
Finally, Obama tears up when he thanks his wife in his farewell speech – but actually, it seems he tears up mainly because of seeing the standing ovations by the crowd.
Of course, we are not tearing up all the time when we express gratitude. For the tears of kama muta to appear, you need a stark contrast. What probably contributes is the contrast to what that these three anticipate is going to happen next in the White House.