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Children are experts at it. Have you ever watched them? They feel the shock of some small distress and immediately tears fly. This is assuming they haven't already been taught that crying is bad.
We're all given that message at some point. Generally, boys get it earliest and most relentlessly. Crying is perceived as a sign of weakness. Men are not supposed to be weak. It's a major silver lining to sexism that, as the "weaker sex," we women are allowed our tears. But even so, we could all use a lot more support and encouragement to express our emotions. I think our lives would go better. We'd have closer relationships. We'd feel less ashamed of ourselves, less afraid, less worried, less frustrated, less addicted, less alone. Less sad!
Here's the thing about crying: It's not actually a sign of weakness, nor is it bad. It's actually good for us, a natural healing mechanism. Watch a child do it sometime, if you can. Or if you have kids of your own, try an experiment. When a child can rush into the arms of a relaxed, trusted adult and just cry cry cry until good and done, without that adult making any attempts to interrupt or end the tears (including soothing noises and rhythmic jostling) eventually that child's attention will just naturally emerge from the distressing event and he or she will bounce back with energy and vigor into the day. It will likely take longer than you expect. There might be several stops and starts before the tears are truly done. But it will happen, like the sun emerging after a passing storm, without residue of bad mood, or neediness, or overblown fear of whatever brought the tears on in the first place.
Some suggest we should choose laughter over tears. I like that idea. Laughter is good for us too. But it isn't always an option. Sometimes you have to pass through the tears before you can get to laughter.
When was the last time you had a good cry?