People Should Cry More
People should cry more. Yes, you read that correctly. People really should cry more. I mean a really good, ugly-faced, loud, and wailing cry. Or maybe just a quiet streaming of tears silently into a pillow. Or a good cleansing cry in the shower (so the water washes the tears away). Or maybe an angry “Why, f*cking, why?!” expressive cry. Sometimes a good cry is just needed. Key word is “needed.” And I mean truly needed. We NEED to have this periodic healthy release of emotions.
Unfortunately, so often these feelings and emotions are ignored or pushed back down (to only fester), which is the case more often than not.
The bottom line is this: As human beings, we make tears for a reason. We have this amazing capability of “crying” for a reason. We are equipped with this very intricate lacrimal system, which has a purpose. A system whose purpose is: emotional cleansing. It’s no coincidence that tears are made up mostly of water and that water is a cleansing agent. This isn’t an accident. We are meticulously and intricately made. There are no accidents in nature.
The purpose of crying is this: Just as we secrete other forms of waste via other systems, (e.g., solid waste via our gastrointestinal system, some of our liquid waste via our urinary system, etc), we secrete our emotional “waste” via our lacrimal system.
This is a way of our mind and body releasing and clearing accumulated stress, emotions, feelings, hurts, pains and yes, even joys. And releasing these emotions is absolutely vital to our mental, emotional, spiritual, and yes, even physical health.
What happens when we don’t release these emotions and feelings? We push them back down. We force them right back down into our body and our mind. And we build up, you guessed it: waste. Emotional waste. Sometimes toxic waste. Emotional waste that festers and grows. It doesn’t just sit there or go away. Oh no, it grows.
The more we try to push down these feelings and emotions, the more they scream to get out. The more we condemn them back into that metaphorical basement (aka right back down into the depths of our body & mind), the more they yell at us to be released.
And they yell loudly. They yell at us through signs such as: anger (a major cover-up for repressed emotions and pain) that is either self-directed, directed at others, or both. They yell at us through anxiety, panic attacks, depression, guilt, shame, addictions, obsessions, body aches, physical manifestations, inflammation, illnesses, and yes, even cancer.
I don’t know how many times I’ve had a patient come into my office, sit down, and just start crying (which is completely fine and NORMAL) because they have so many bottled up emotions that they are literally overflowing with unreleased feelings and tears. Their next immediate response is to start apologizing for crying. Of course to which, I reply, “Please don’t apologize for crying. This is a good thing and you need this release.” “This is healthy and normal and needed to move forward.” I tell them this is a 100% safe cry zone and that I may even cry with them. And sometimes I do.
People are sometimes astonished. Because they are so incredibly used to hearing, “Don’t cry.”
They are so engrained to believe that they should be ashamed of crying. Or that something is “wrong with them” if they cry. That’s complete bull crap!
It’s such a relief for some people to hear that it’s ok to cry. This alone gives them an immense sense of comfort and relief.
I have to reassure people over and over again that it’s ok and normal and actually very HEALTHY to cry.
These are people who may be grieving the loss of a loved one, or people who may be recounting a painful event, or people who may have suffered enormous childhood abuse, or people who may have experienced major trauma as an adult, or people who have just experienced a major life-changing event (such as divorce), or people who are just overly stressed about work…or whatever! The point is: IT’S OK TO CRY. It’s not only ok, it’s HEALTHY to cry!
I mean, OF COURSE they feel like crying! I would be worried if they didn’t cry in these situations! And actually I am.
I am far more concerned about my patients who aren’t able to express any emotions or feelings. They are in much more of a bad place than the ones who can cry and express these things.
You have to feel to heal. I repeat: YOU HAVE TO FEEL TO HEAL. And the farther you are away from feeling, the farther you are away from healing. It’s not impossible by any means, but it takes much more work to get those feelings exposed (and freed) that are so far buried underneath the rubble and concrete walls.
What in the world?! Why did crying and expressing emotions become such bad things?!? Why is it viewed as bad when people feel the need to cry?! It’s a normal and very natural response, for crying out loud (pun intended)!
That is what you are SUPPOSED to do when you are feeling overwhelmed, sad, mad, frustrated, angry, or even extremely happy or over-joyed!!
Our society teaches people how not to cry, or that they shouldn’t cry, or that they should “Suck it up, Buttercup.”
Be “strong” they say. Well, this is a big fat misconception that we’ve bought into.
In reality, it’s much easier to stuff down emotions. It takes a much stronger person to actually feel and release their emotions.
In reality, the stronger the person is, the more emotions they are able to express. And usually the weaker a person is, at least emotionally speaking, the less likely they are to express emotions.
I hear people say all the time, “I have to be strong for the kids.”
Well guess what? That isn’t being strong. Not one single iota. And actually it’s the exact opposite of what you should be teaching your kids. That’s just teaching your kids that they aren’t allowed to have feelings either and that feelings aren’t ok. And thus repeats the cycle of repressed emotions manifesting as other less healthy things (e.g., anxiety, depression, etc, etc, etc).
We sadly teach kids, and especially boys, that it’s not ok to cry. I absolutely cringe inside when I hear the old sayings, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” or “Boys don’t cry.”
STOP IT ALREADY. I see the repercussions of this damaged and defective mentality every single day in my office. Every. Single. Day.
What we’ve done is created generations of emotionally numb people. People who aren’t capable of “feeling.” People who may be lacking empathy due to repressing their feelings. People who think it’s a sign of weakness to express feelings and to release emotions. This is so extremely backward.
Crying and expressing emotions are such natural and innate actions, and necessities even.
We’ve created generations of depressed and anxious people. People who weren’t allowed to express emotions and who now know nothing about healthy emotions or healthy resolution of conflicts, or healthy connection, or healthy relationships in general.
People who have so much pent up pain and emotion, that they literally can’t function properly in life. Or people who can’t have healthy relationships. Or worse yet, people who direct their pain onto others and become abusive toward those closest to them, thus repeating the cycle.
People who are so triggered by others’ crying and pain that it’s intolerable for them to be around others who “feel.”
People who are so uncomfortable with their own feelings and emotions, that they become extremely uncomfortable with others’ feelings and emotions. Thus repeats the cycle.
For the love of all things good, let’s just cry more. Please. Express more. Feel more. And support those in our lives (ESPECIALLY our children) who feel safe enough around us to fully express their true feelings and who are able to CRY in our presence!
When someone is crying (ESPECIALLY our children), give them a hug. Validate them. Reassure them. Resist the urge to say, “Don’t cry.” This in and of itself helps dissolve some of those overwhelming feelings and emotions and is extremely healing. And when you feel the need to cry, allow it! And don’t apologize for it!
I always say, “The world would be a much healthier and happier place if we would all just cry more.” I truly believe that.
Now off to have a good cry I go! I recommend you do the same. I give you permission.
Happy crying…and subsequently feeling, thus truly living!
Liz Burkholder, MSN, RN, FNP-C
Family Nurse Practitioner