The subject of crying has come up quite a bit in the last week. We often find that after (and during) one of our retreats there is a lot of crying going on. Also, quite a bit of illness or pain! I know – sounds very enticing doesn’t it?
But actually, it is a great thing. The body and the mind are healing themselves.
But before we get to that, the thing that also comes up a lot is the reluctance of some people to cry. Many people don’t like to cry – they believe it ‘shows weakness’ or “makes them vulnerable”. Men especially have a problem with this due to programming from society, parents, schools, friends. At some point in a boy’s life he will often be told to ‘man up’ or asked ‘what are you crying for?’.
But it’s not just boys, you may have been told to “stop crying, or I will give you something to really cry about” as if hitting a child is the way to stop them crying? Madness. Or you may have been teased or bullied at school for crying and called names – “Cry Baby”.
Or you may have been told – with all good intentions “Don’t cry”, because a loved one doesn’t want you to feel sad and wants to make things better for you.
The problem with that is, you need to cry, and not crying can cause all sorts of mental and physical problems. There are at least 4 reasons why crying is good for you.
- Everyone produces basal tears all the time – this type of tear lubricates the eyes, reduces or gets rid of infections and clears the eyes of dust and debris.
- There are reflex tears – which again are to protect the eye and will happen in response to external stimuli, such as smoke, cold, or a bit of mascara or an eyelash landing in your eye.
- Crying signals to others (we are talking cavemen times) that the stick poking out of your leg really hurts and you could do with some help before the sabre tooth tracks you down for a light dinner.
- And of course, there are tears produced by emotions. These might be in response to sadness, shock, relief, laughter, joy or fear. And these emotional tears are made up of a different chemical component than those evoked by eye irritants and can relay chemical messages to others.
And actually – I have some news for you. All the scientists through the generations who have been looking for the differences between humans and other life forms, who have been focused on the bigger brain or the opposable thumb, have all been looking in the wrong place.
Because the real difference between humans and other animals, is that humans cry. We are the only species. That doesn’t mean that animals don’t feel stuff, but they express it in different ways.
Anyway – back to the point – which is why some people are so reluctant to allow themselves to cry. It is all about the messages you get – or interpret as a child. One of my clients was given lots of praise for “being brave” when visiting the dentist as a child and having fillings without anaesthetic.
This same client understood that when she cried it made her Mother cry and therefore, not wanting to cause her Mother any pain, just decided she didn’t cry. And oh my – the things she has ‘not cried’ about. Her beloved family dog dying in her arms was a pretty big one, ripping her Achilles tendon in karate class with a load of small children was a pretty big one, but her Dad dying might just trump that one though.
The problem with all that is that it is really bad for you. If my client felt no emotion and that’s why she didn’t cry – well that would be weird and a different kind of problem, but unshed tears mean unresolved emotions. When you don’t allow yourself to cry, that emotion stays inside you and there are consequences. One of the consequences is that this woman couldn’t listen to music, because music made her cry! Actually, that’s the opposite of what she should have been doing, but after her Father died she was unable for a long time (10 years) to listen to music and especially music in the car.
And here’s the thing. It is NOT showing weakness to cry. Tears literally wash grief away, they are a pain reliever, and they heal us. I understand my client very well, because this was me a few years ago. When I first met my cohort Marian, and saw her smiling when someone was crying – I thought ‘how inappropriate’, but know I know her better I realise that she smiles when someone is crying who is having an emotional breakthrough, or is letting go of something. She is happy for their growth not their pain.
Crying over something is an outward manifestation of letting something go – you are LITERALLY letting the emotion go, washing it away. And that can only be a good thing.
So next time you are feeling sad – just let it out. Your body will thank you, and so will your heart and your mind!