I remember a conversation with someone a couple of years ago in which she told me she hadn’t cried for over 10 years. I was shocked at this disclosure and wondered how she had managed to hold in tears for such a long time. It is highly likely that in that time a person would have an experience that would cause a strong emotional response that would typically lead to a good sob.
Since this person I have met many others who tell me a similar thing and I have started to pay more attention to how people react if they cry in front of me and how people respond to others crying.
Often a natural response to someone crying is to comfort them and encourage them to stop either by helping them to see that things aren’t that bad or by offering positive words. The intention is good but the subconscious message is ‘it’s not ok to cry’, that crying is something we shouldn’t do. Imagine if we just sat with them while they cried, letting them know that their tears are ok and not something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of.
I believe the British stiff upper lip persona has a lot to answer for!! With this comes the belief that crying is a sign of weakness and that we shouldn’t show our emotions. As such I’ve come to notice a common response I see when someone cries in front of me is that they apologise and often try to quickly wipe the tears away as though they never happened. I am always curious about the perceived need to apologise and try to reassure them that it is ok to cry with me.
I have met people who have been punished for crying and as such have come to associate it with shame and fear. This is a learned response based on experience and as such can be unlearned by receiving a healthy and supportive response to their tears. I’d encourage everyone to be that supportive response.
Can you think of a time where you felt a need to cry but you stifled it? How did that feel? Unnatural, difficult, even impossible perhaps. The emotion is often still there, waiting to be felt and released. It can feel like you are carrying a heavy weight around that you just need to offload. You can only carry that load for so long though and it often comes out in other ways such as aggression, irritability, self-harm and substance use for example.
In contrast, have you ever let yourself have a good cry and noticed that you feel better afterwards? It may not have solved your problems but that load feels a little lighter. Well there is a science behind that lightening of the load.
How crying helps
It is my mission to normalise crying and encourage people to see it for what it is, a release of emotions and not something to be fearful or ashamed of. So the next time you feel the need to cry don’t fight that need allow yourself the right to feel and express your emotions. It’s healthy, it’s natural and it’s an effective coping strategy when life just gets too much.