Thought for the Day:
“Tears are not the pain. They are the healing.”
Question for the Day:
Are you ashamed to cry?
I admit it, I’m a huge fan of crying. There’s nothing like a good snot rag producing, stuttering, near struggle to catch your breath sob session to clear the mind and and release all the junk that you’ve unsuccessfully tried to bottle up. Now, before you worry and start flooding my inbox with inspirational quotes, you have to understand my take on crying, especially as a therapist. Though we’ve been socialized to see crying as a weakness or an indication of emotionally instability, it is my assertion that crying is actually a sign of strength and an indication of the emotional honesty that is critical to healing. It is common for my male clients to struggle with allowing themselves to cry even into adulthood as most were raised to stifle their emotions. Young boys are often scolded by their parents if they dare shed tears. The go to assumption is that boys who cry are “soft” and their masculinity might immediately be called into question. This dysfunctional socialization of our men has left many of them struggling to navigate relationships with a high level of emotional unintelligence that renders them ill-equipped to meet their partner’s needs.
However, what I’ve also learned throughout my career as a mental health clinician, is that many women also attach shame and incompetence to crying, which makes establishing and keeping honest relationships near impossible for too many. As a woman, wife, mother, and full-time professional, I am keenly aware of the pressure the average woman is under. We tend to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility of managing the home and raising our children while holding down full-time jobs, serving the community, and upholding our men. Though most of us make it look easy, the truth is, being a woman can be downright soul draining which is where a well-timed tear fest can be extremely effective and life-sustaining.
Some women may not allow themselves the luxury of crying for a variety of reasons that can include being raised by emotionally distant parents, being abused or neglected, a lack of emotional support, and/or the fear of burdening other people with their problems. If you were raised in chaos, having an emotional reaction to the dysfunction you lived through became pointless, especially when things never seemed to change. What may happen then is a conscious or sometimes unconscious shutting down of emotions that feel like part of the problem.
Many women, especially Black women, feel the need to be a demonstration of unbreakable strength. We often carry an unfair personal expectation to always nurture others even when we’re wounded ourselves. We put on a brave face and and soldier on determined to not burden others with our problems. Though we think we’re sparing others from worrying about us, it’s likely that they can see our efforts to mask the hurt which ironically may worry them more. Unexpressed and unhealed hurts might show up instead as workaholism, anger, perfectionism, hyperactivity, addiction, or an inability to tolerate peace and quiet. Sit Down Somewhere!
As Oprah says, “what I know for sure” is that allowing oneself to cry is the first step towards healing. It acknowledges that though we might not be the superwomen we pretend to be, we are humans who are entitled to acknowledge all that we are which includes our negative feelings. So in an effort to change the unflattering narrative surrounding crying, here are the positive connotations that are usually overlooked.
Crying is an act of courage – Most of us have been conditioned to view crying as a weakness, when in fact, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to be vulnerable enough to do it. It is much easier to lie to ourselves than it is to reveal our true feelings. Allowing ourselves to cry means that we will potentially expose ourselves to the judgement and criticism that is sometimes attached. We have a bad habit as women of celebrating those of us who can endure trauma after trauma and never break, but in reality, it’s likely that the women who do this are simply afraid to face the truth or too embarrassed about what others will think if they do. Yes, it’s good to be able to endure hardships, but it’s not human to never get tired or sad enough to need release. Those who can let go and let the tears fall are the real MVPs because they know that their peace of mind is not rooted in the perception of others.
Crying is honest – Crying not only requires honesty with others, but honesty with ourselves as well. Sure, we could cover up the pain of a heartbreak, loss, or an earth shattering trauma with a smile and a generic “I’m fine” when asked about our feelings, but it’s simply not the truth. I’m Doing “Fine!”(ish) Authenticity as a practice is a dying art and our social media image obsessed culture generally focuses on running back the highlights while tucking away the less pleasant aspects of our lives. Like Me On Fakebook Yet, it’s the good AND the bad parts of our human experience that make us who we are. Tears then become a very important part of bridging that gap.
Crying increases intimacy and emotional connection – Many people hold the false belief that crying will just worry or burden their loved ones. Yet in reality, it’s hard to believe someone trusts you when they are never willing to share their hurts with you. Most people who love you will appreciate the opportunity to support you in difficult times and denying them that opportunity can feel like a slight. Allowing someone to wipe your tears conveys to them that you see them as a safe person who is strong enough to handle your authentic feelings. I’ve counseled enough couples to know that not being willing to share your pain with your partner impedes intimacy and eventually leads to feelings of emotional betrayal.
Crying is a healthy release – There’s actually science behind the need to “bawl out” from time to time and indulge in a good cry. Research shows that crying releases neurotransmitters known as endorphins. These feel-good chemicals can help ease both physical and emotional pain and when released, your body may go into somewhat of a numb stage followed by a sense of calm and well-being. I know for me, a good cry is a set up for an awesome nap! Listen, if my body can get the same benefits from crying than it could from jogging, I’ll take crying for 100, Alex. Lol!
The bottom line is, crying is lit! It’s gotten a bad wrap for far too long and it’s long since been time to challenge dysfunctional beliefs that keep us in emotional bondage. We’ve made weeping an enemy though it’s actually a natural, God-designed coping mechanism created by the Lord to provide release for our troubled hearts and minds. If Jesus Christ himself can allow himself to cry then how on earth can it not be good for us? So, let’s commit to doing what Jesus would do and embrace the power in weeping. Despite our avoidance of the “ugly cry,” shedding tears is one of the most beautiful things a woman can do.
John 11: 35