I oftentimes find myself admiring the type of person who can stoically face provocation and insult; the type of person who appears as though lip-quivering tears are the furthest thing from their mind; the type of person who faces a situation rationally and does not react purely based on emotion. Perhaps even the type of person who has complete control over whether or not they shed tears in reaction to a human experience.
I am not that type of person.
I am emotional, sometimes to a fault, with the rationalism coming in last. In the quest to love and accept myself fully, I have grown to revere my “crying nature.” In times of joy, in times of fear, in times of illness, in times of frustration, in times of deep intimacy, in times of sadness, in times of perfect clarity, in times of ecstasy, even during mushy commercials…I cry.
I have mostly come to love this about myself, I find the tears cleansing, and I see it as a sign that I’m very in touch with my innermost self, my heart and soul. I am not afraid of my emotions. But how does one honor this quality when faced with rudeness? How does one react to even a loved one’s unintentionally harsh choice of words? How does one react to a loved one’s intentionally harsh choice of words?
I experienced this just the other day. Heck, let’s face it; I experience it probably several times a week. A loved one barks out a hurtful group of words followed by a chuckle, and I feel the burning sensation behind my eyes. My reaction to this is different from that of a perfect stranger flipping me the bird after a tricky motorist maneuver. They can’t see me cry. They are not able to reap the satisfaction of watching my emotional reaction roll down my cheeks. Using this comparison, I can’t help but wonder why I let my tears make me feel so vulnerable. Why do they make me feel as though I’m giving something up to the other person? I think for one it’s because tears are oftentimes hard to recover from, especially when the person who “caused” them was joking around. It bodes a lacking sense of humor, over-sensitivity, and oftentimes leads the one shedding tears to feel embarrassed or defensive. In reality, the tears herald none of these things! I have a great sense of humor, and I’m about as sensitive as human beings come, but I find that to be as much an attribute as it is a flaw. So why the crying guilt?
There are so many reasons to cry. Whether it’s a joke that struck the wrong chord, someone genuinely being cruel, or an instant of pure bliss that just overwhelms you with emotion. Sometimes I excuse myself briefly and let the tears evaporate on their own, other times I let the person with whom I’m sharing this human experience see the tears. More often than not they’re either alarmed, surprised or concerned. It’s this reaction that causes me to want to avoid crying in the first place. This makes me wonder, why am I more involved in the other person’s reaction than my own need to release my emotions? I think we should never feel embarrassed by our crying. This is why:
1.) Crying is cathartic. By shedding tears we are releasing toxins, pent-up emotions, and easing stress. Crying is an authentic and mortal means of helping ourselves to simply feel better.
2.) Crying is natural. Some expressions of, say, anger are not natural. Feelings of anger can be manifested as violent actions, and this is not a wholesome way to experience emotions. Crying, on the other hand, is an organic expression of a wide range of emotions. It is the human body’s clever way of seeking release and comfort, naturally, as it always has been. One does not need to identify a particular “reason” for crying. So often we are asked, “Why are you crying?” Well, why not? It’s a natural human expression. It’s not as though you’re running naked down a busy street, crying is not an absurd thing to do so let’s refrain from treating it that way, or from allowing others to make us feel as though it’s absurd.
3.) Crying allows us to be in touch with our emotions on a deeper level.
Crying is a physical manifestation of our internal emotions, of our thoughts. It’s the body’s reaction to something external. It’s a beautiful thing! Our brains send innumerable signals all day long to our extremities. Think of how wrong it is to deny our bodies the urge to cry. The brain has sent that signal to the body for a reason; so let it come to be. It probably won’t last long, and you’ll probably feel a lot better afterwards. Try not to feel embarrassed or judged and look it as a purely physical means of purging your emotional being.
Now of course, I’m not advocating for crying all day long, everyday. I’m simply calling for an acceptance of the “over-sensitive” possibly “über-emotional” stigma we like to place on those who cry easily, as well as a general acceptance of tears no matter the catalyst. Accept that crying can release emotions is important; accepting that crying can be cathartic is essential; but also accepting that crying is, as all experiences are, powerfully unique from person to person is significant (and further explored, if not argued, by the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/health/03mind.html).
To be human is a glorious, exquisite experience. To be human and deeply in touch with your inner workings is simply amazing beyond words. Next time you feel tears welling up, no matter the surroundings, I urge you to greet them in an honest, non-judgmental way. I doubt many of us would try to continuously fight off a sneeze, another of the body’s clever cleansing tactics, so let’s not discriminate against our tears. Let yourself cry, let the eyes flood with salty tears and the mind’s chatter fade into the background, and just cry. I’m pretty sure that once you’re finished you’ll possibly feel better, and you will most definitely feel more alive.