Crying…how do you feel about it? As an adult, when you’ve found yourself in tears in the presence of others, how did you feel? Probably like you wanted to stop crying as fast as possible or crawl in a hole and die. That seems to be the experience of most people when it comes to the topic of tears. As a counselor, I observed that, for the most part, people are terrified of crying. We, as people, are much more afraid of it than we realize. In my years as a counselor, I observed three types of people:

  1. those who cried freely and often almost as if they didn’t notice that tears were constantly streaming down their cheeks
  2. those who cried at appropriate times and apologized profusely, trying to hold back the tears with all of their might
  3. those who refused to cry no matter what the cost

If I had a penny for every time a client said “I’m sorry” when they cried, I’d be a rich woman. I always wondered, why are you sorry? Don’t be sorry. You’re in a counseling office. This is my job! There are tissues on the coffee table for a reason. You are going through a hard time. Why can’t you give yourself permission to cry in front of me?

Those who refused to cry usually had one of two reasons for refusing to do so:

  1. It’s a horribly unpleasant experience (crying), and it doesn’t do any good or change anything. So, why do it?
  2. “I’m afraid once I start crying that I’ll never be able to stop.”

Let me acknowledge up front that I realize there are gender differences on this topic. Generally speaking, women feel the need to shed tears more easily than men. But, men do cry- just not necessarily at Hallmark commercials.

So, what is so stinking scary about crying? Why do we find ourselves holding it back, keeping busy, avoiding certain thoughts, etc so that we don’t have to do it? Yes, it’s unpleasant. Crying is not fun. But, neither is peeing. I never have a great time using the restroom, but I do it. Why? Because it’s a natural, biological need. If we let that liquid out, why don’t we let out the liquid called tears when it needs to come out?

I think we’re afraid to feel sadness. Also, it’s possible that we were trained not to cry. As children, crying may not have been acceptable. Maybe your parents were so uncomfortable with your emotions that they made you suppress them for their benefit. Like many of my clients, you may be afraid that you’ll sink into the sadness and never come out. I promise you that I’ve never seen that happen. Maybe, like many of my clients, we just think it’s a pointless activity.

Well, my friend, let’s dissect that theory. God created us to shed tears when emotions well up strongly within us – good and bad emotions alike. Why? Is it pointless or does it have a biological reason?

Did you know that:

  • Tears shed when emotional (not tears that normally wet your eyes) contain stress hormones. When we well up with emotion, our body produces stress hormones. Too much of these can be damaging to our health. Tears release that hormone and wash it from our system.
  • Crying stimulates the production of endorphins- our body’s natural pain killers. Therefore, they do make us feel better.
  • There are actually numerous physical and psychological benefits to crying.

Of course, there is a time and a place for everything. We do, on occasion, need to hold back tears because it would be inappropriate to shed them at that time or in that place. However, if that need persists, you need to let it out as soon as you get a chance. Much the same way with peeing. Holding your pee is not good for your body. Neither is holding in your tears. Tears release stress. Holding in that stress leads to a host of health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, and more as well as psychological problems including depression. The two most common psychological results I saw in people who refused to cry were:

  • They were cutters (people who purposely cut themselves as a way of self-soothing)
  • They had anger issues. Listen, emotion has a funny way of sticking around until it’s released. But, it’s flexible. If you won’t release the emotion, stress hormones, etc as sadness and tears, then it will happily come out as anger, irritability, and rage instead. But, it WILL come out- one way or the other.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you feel when you cry in front of others? When have you ignored your need to cry and later noticed that you became depressed, angry, or ill? Are you afraid it will hurt too much, last too long, or go too deep? How often do you cry? How do you feel when others cry in front of you? That’s an important one because I think that we assume others are uncomfortable with it. That’s not always the case. I don’t mind it at all when someone cries in front of me – unless they’re crying because I kicked their butt in a game! No sore losers allowed 🙂

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