27 Sep Honoring your Tears: The Benefits of a Good Cry
Crying is most commonly defined as the action of shedding tears as an expression of distress or pain. It can also be the action of expression of any emotion felt: happiness, anxiety, frustration, fear–the list goes on. It is the human body’s natural release of the strong feelings that we all, inevitably, feel.
We all have emotions and therefore we all cry. Yet, do we cry enough? Do we cry when we really need to? Do we try to manage and control our emotions in a different way in an attempt to stop crying?
Many people I know try to hide their tears, say they can’t cry, or try to stop crying when they feel that they need to. This is where our self-judgments come in: “I should be stronger.” “I am too emotional.” “This isn’t something someone else would cry over.” “I should handle things better.” “I am weak.” “I can’t cry right now because it isn’t the right time.”
Sound familiar? Crying is NOT a sign of weakness. In fact, I believe that crying is a sign of emotional strength and a way to heal.
So, if we all cry (or need to cry), why is the act of crying often thought of as such a hidden, private, or sometimes shameful-seeming act?
This makes me think of my favorite quote by artist Jim Morrison:
“Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”
And while crying isn’t always an expression of pain in particular, Mr. Morrison is on to something. We have somehow been taught that expressing our emotions through tears is not okay in certain circumstances. Males, especially, fall victim to this; although when females cry, they are often looked at as “too emotional.”
There is a profound judgment that exists out in the world for crying, although crying is actually a sign of strong emotional health and awareness of feelings.
We all need to stand up for our right to cry!
As a psychotherapist, when a client cries in session for the first time, I often hear an apology from them, or a disclaimer or an explanation, such as “I don’t know why I am crying.” They will often try to stop themselves from crying. My answer is always the same, “Cry! Let it out!” I encourage it, and I don’t fear it, which many people do.
Crying is a beautiful, healing thing. A courageous and natural form of self-expression. When someone says, “I don’t know why I am crying,” I respond with “It’s okay. You don’t need to. Let’s explore that together.” You don’t need a reason to cry or release emotions. Sometimes, it just happens. And it is usually the pent-up emotions that we either subconsciously or consciously try to suppress.
I have many clients who come in and say that they can’t cry and really need to. As a result, clients may resort to self-inflicting physical pain or engaging in maladaptive behaviors in order to obtain that emotional release.
Here are 10 safe tips to get yourself to cry when you feel you need to release extreme emotions:
- Ask for a hug from a friend, parent, trusted person. Sometimes the feeling of compassion and genuine human interaction can help the tears come.
- Watch a sad movie or episode of a tv show.
- Watch a ridiculously funny movie or episode of a tv show (popular suggestions from my clients include Friends and The Office), and laugh until the tears come.
- Listen to a sad song or playlist, and really be mindful of the lyrics.
- Look at photographs that may evoke strong emotion.
- Exercise! Many cycling and boxing classes are now held in darkness which offers a safe, private space to let go of some emotions (and sweat!) even in a group of people. Yoga is wonderful, heart opening, and always a safe place to release emotion. Try a Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga class, which are less intense, and can be times of deep reflection. Please talk to your doctor and/or therapist before starting any exercise routine. Make sure that exercise is safe for your body and never exert yourself to the point of pain.
- Get a back rub or massage. Many emotions are stored in the body and sometimes a muscular release can help.
- Confide in a close, trustworthy friend or relative.
- Talk to your therapist. They can likely help guide you to go deeper in therapy and help you gently access buried emotions.
It is important to note that crying can most definitely be a sign of depression, especially coupled with symptoms such as hopelessness, increased sleep, deep sadness and lack of motivation. If you find yourself crying more than usual, or witness a friend crying more than usual, or for extended periods of time, please alert a loved one or clinician.
There are also many physical benefits of crying, including releasing toxins. While I have focused on the emotional benefits, if you would like to read the physical benefits, and some additional emotional benefits you can do so here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201007/the-health-benefits-tears
Authored by: Jaime Gleicher, LMSW