Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Thing About Crying

For when you feel troubled but can't pin down the source. More of my videos here.

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?


baby hopes said...

I cry quite often. Most of the time I have to cry in privacy, especially lately, as there is nobody who will comfort me, not even my husband. When I was a child I was often scorned for crying as if it was bad or unacceptable. Crying, or laughing, or raging, are totally normal discharge responses to trauma, whether it is a car accident or falling over and scraping your knee. When the stress isn't discharged our bodies hold on to the memory and that can manifest as illness or behavioural problems later on in life.

Anonymous said...

i'm ok with crying, just not in front of anyone.

Sula said...

Great post, as usual. I do not cry often but, as it turns out, I had a doozy of a cry last weekend. Like your kitty, it was over some very old stuff that needed to be released. It was powerful and helped me, just like the child you described, move on.

Thank you for your thoughtful posts and vlog.

Sonya said...

Crying is something I need to do more of but it's difficult to find that quiet space just for me. I don't like crying in front of anyone (even though I know it is healthy).

Anonymous said...

I cry when I need to. I cry when I'm happy, sad or mad. Pretty similar to what a child does. In public? Sure. At work? I've been known to.

When my snarky coworker told me off hand, "well you should never get pregnant if smells bother you," I just had to let him have it. (10 m/c's, the latest one this week.) Later he came to find me at the end of the day while I was working at the microscope, I was weeping. (I was on pregnancy #6).

I told him when he spoke like that it was all I could do not to hate him. I was well aware of the smell/pregnancy issue, and oh by the way, didn't feel like telling why we don't have kids (to his set of unplanned twins) but the 6 pregnancies did give me a feeling for at least some of the signs of pregnancy.

He was stunned. Then he told me his news. He was recovering from one cancer, had another. Hence he couldn't stand smells either.

Fast forward. Now one of my best friends we cry together. He's on his third round of cancer. This week for yet another lost pregnancy and for finding out he will be receiving palliative care.

Sometimes it's a relief to be honest in our feelings and not feel ashamed or embarrassed to show it. We were able to share tears of joy together too. Not nearly enough, but we're hoping for miracles.

baby hopes said...

Anonymous, I just read your comment, I'm so sorry that you have endured so many losses. I've had four and that was terrible... but ten? I'm lost for words. Please visit one of my blogs and leave a comment with your email address (I won't post the comment). It would be good to talk to someone who has suffered recurrent miscarriages.

Anonymous said...

Crying feels really good to me when I'm alone but in nature, especially in front of moving water (like a creek, river or stream). When I cry in front of that moving energy, I come away feeling healed and soothed.

But you've given me so great food for thought. I don't often try to stop my son from crying, but I usually do interfere by soothing. I'll do less of it.

I HATE crying in front of people, and especially, especially at work. That feels like utter betrayal of my body and mind if that happens, and I beat a hasty retreat.

motherof5boys1girl said...

i agree with you so much!! there is nothing more cleansing than a good cry. my husband is the best husband in the world, but unfortunately he was raised by a very cold and unfeeling woman who didnt tolerate any showing of emotion, so he will just look baffled when i cry and then tell him that it is healthy and good for you.
i have mainly male children and i have always made sure that they know that it is ok to shed some tears and that it does not make you less of a "man".

LittleOddMe said...

I can't help it, I'm a cry-er. I cry daily, usually several times. I rarely try to hold it back, not even in front of work clients. lol. People do think I'm weird sometimes, but mostly they respect it. It always passes quickly, though sometimes it does have to go through stages of cry - stop - cry - stop. People get used to me being that way. Tough if they don't. :P