I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about crying. Such an important, misunderstood, under-rated function. Crying, what a hot button for young and old, men and women. The word itself might make you want to stop reading this minute and go change the cat litter or get a jump on doing your taxes. Crying has that kind of power. Too bad it’s gotten such a bum rap when it’s just the activity that might stop you from abusing food.
A good amount of crying goes on in therapy. Some clients walk into my office and burst into tears and my work is to teach them to understand and modulate their feelings. Or they don’t cry at all or enough and my job is to help them understand why and let loose the tears. Either way, I end up explaining the benefits and necessity of crying. Like feelings, most people think of tears as there to annoy them, something to run away from. Not true. Even clients who cry a lot generally don’t feel comfortable and are ashamed to let tears flow in front of me because of how our culture makes fun of behaviors touchy-feely and people who cry. We believe folks must be emotionally strong which translates into not showing vulnerable feelings. What a lie, what a lie.
We learn the most about crying from our parents and adult relatives. Did yours cry? What did they say or do when you or a family member did? Was crying accepted as a natural human expression or was a crier humiliated, shamed, punished, sent to their room, or left alone with feelings? Were you called a cry-baby, told you were too big to cry, scolded or punished for your tears? When we cry, we feel vulnerable, like babies, because that’s the only way they can express pain and discomfort. The healthy, appropriate response to someone crying, especially a child, is comfort and soothing. If you didn’t get that, no wonder this behavior is difficult for you. Crying is as natural as laughing. If you were mistreated when you cried, you learned it was a bad thing to do and adapted by unconsciously or consciously agreeing and trying not to do it.
Well, I’m here to tell you, crying is a wonderful release that helps you move on from pain. After you’ve had a good cry, you feel cleansed and renewed (and relaxed and fatigued). Something loosens up and breaks free when you cry. Rather than feel ashamed of crying, feel proud that you can honor this most human and universal activity. It beats eating or obsessing about food any day of the week. The best thing about crying as an adult is that healthy people will give you the comfort you need, a corrective experience from what went on in childhood. Even when there’s no one around to comfort you, you can learn to build the nurturing skills to do it yourself.