Here it is. Here is your official permission slip to cry. Seriously. It is okay. In fact, not only is it ok, it is actually good for you!
After doing therapy for as long as I have, it has come to my attention that some of you have a real issue with crying.
How do I know?
~ You apologize for crying, even to your therapist in therapy.
~ You smile or laugh when you really want to cry as you talk about something traumatizing, scary, hurtful or sad to lighten the mood, so others don’t feel bad.
~ You show anger or defensiveness instead.
~ You stop talking about what is important, shut down and run away in fear you will cry in front of someone.
I get it. You have bought into the myths society has taught you. It is easy to do. You know the ones.
~ Don’t cry because you have to be strong for those around you.
~ Real men don’t cry.
~ People are bothered when you cry.
~ You make people feel bad when they see you cry.
~ Crying means you are weak.
Maybe you learned it from your parents, friends, or TV. Who knows! All I know is it is confusing to me because I can’t think of anything more brave or more strong then to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to feel your emotions or to let others see how you are feeling. You are a human. No human is exempt from having emotions. Shoot, I have seen the most tough, manly men cry. It by no means reflects on their character as weak!
In fact, I feel excited when people cry in therapy, because I know, now we are getting real. Now you feel safe enough to go deeper, to the scarier emotions. Now we are getting to the true underlying reasons and emotions that wreaking havoc on you feeding your depression, anxiety and interfering with feelings of wellbeing. When you cry I know we have located your emotional wound and we are now able to clean it out, like an infection, so that you can heal properly, instead of pretending that everything is okay as your wound festers. Crying means you are allowing yourself and subsequently allowing yourself to heal. We are no longer operating on the guarded surface of you.
Do remember in the movie, “Finding Nemo,” when the school of fish told Dory to go through the scary cavern and not over it? She forgets and they avoid going deep into the dark, scary cavern and choose to swim over it, closer to the surface, get stung by jelly fish and get knocked unconscious. This is a great metaphor for your emotions. Is it scary to go through the dark scary cavern of your emotions? YES! But if you avoid it and go over them, instead of going through them and experiencing them, they will sting you later.
Suppressing your emotions has negative physiological, psychological and interpersonal effects. When you experience an unpleasant emotion, it creates extra energy that needs to be released and will be released somehow. No matter how much you try to suppress it, you can’t. It will leak out and manifest itself in one form or another. If you don’t release it through tears, you may try to release it in unhealthy ways. Suppressed emotions may manifest as mental illness like depression and anxiety. It can manifest physically through stress, weight gain, gut health problems, sleeplessness and more. Maybe you try to release the energy through alcohol, drugs, gambling, working, sex, shopping etc., which temporarily numbs that energy and causes new problems. Maybe it causes you to shut down and avoid important conversations in your relationship. Maybe you lash out in anger in your relationships. That pent up energy will leak out somehow.
Here is the good news!
Crying releases that emotion in a healthy way.
Crying has many benefits. It releases stress. Literally. You release stress hormones in your tears!
It helps you sleep better.
It reduces pain. It causes your body to produce the feel good chemical of oxytocin.
It improves communication.
It releases that extra energy.
So, next time you want to cry. Let yourself cry!
Let yourself feel, so you can let yourself heal.
And here is the best part...
As you let yourself feel and heal and cry in front of others, you give them permission to do the same!