Many years ago, when struggling with anxiety, I saw a psychologist. I was asked to fill out a lot of forms. One of them asked, “do you cry a lot?” I answered ‘yes” and then wrote off to the side, “and I think this is healthy”. The psychologist asked me why I wrote that and I responded, “because just asking the question implies there is something wrong with you.” He actually appeared somewhat perplexed to me, and in the end the session was more about his process of trying to label me with a diagnosis to determine the best recommendation for a medication referral. Suffice to say I did not go back.
I have “worn my heart on my sleeve” my entire life and have faced a great deal of external and internal difficulty around that, but have learned that crying is a way to manage the flow of both conscious and unconscious energy and information through the ‘bodymind’, and ultimately is a strength. I was taught (and any indigenous Lakota person that is reading this, please correct my version of this teaching if I am not relaying it correctly) that in the Lakota language, the root of the word ‘to cry’ is shared with the word ‘to pray’! When we cry, it is also a calling out to spirit. This can be seen as an expression of creative inquiry and a form of not just our mind-body connection, but of spiritual communion.
Crying means that you are not afraid of experiencing your emotions, which is a challenge for many. We often get messages in childhood, from long-standing familial or cultural beliefs and patterns, that result in the suppression of emotion and a distorted relationship to our feelings. Examples include, “Don’t be a cry baby” and “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”. What sort of messages around crying and emotions did you receive in your family of origin? We become masters at the art form of hiding from that which makes us uncomfortable or that we do not yet know how to deal with. Comfort with emotions, and their expression, of which crying is a sort of “collapse all” for everything from grief to fear to joy, is a sign of strength. Crying can become a sign of cultivated emotional resiliency…
Unfortunately crying generally remains frowned upon in society – for both genders. Men who cry are often labeled as weak or ‘unmanly’, especially by other men. When women cry, they’re often labeled unstable, ‘crazy’, or dramatic. Crying, despite these unhealthy stigmas, shows that you’re not afraid to challenge unhealthy social norms that are rooted in ignorance around the topic.
Individuals who are comfortable with openly crying when emotion arises, give others permission to do the same, and this supports social engagement. There is a complex science to this. In essence, when we are vulnerable, it challenges shame and promotes courage. Others will feel safer and at less risk for judgment, being around you.
Finally, crying shows that you know how to ‘discharge’ the stress response before it takes a toll on your health. This is a built-in feature of our physiology that promotes balance in our bodies, minds, and souls…
This is a nice, short video on the topic: