Do you know how to cry?
My 100-level Psychology professor knew how to cry. He was the most real, genuine person I’d ever met; you could never accuse him of being fake. It’s extraordinary and humbling to be in the classroom of somebody who knows and is himself. It’s shocking and revealing when he tells you he cries.
The Benefits of Crying
Crying allows you to experience and release emotions that have cluttered your subconscious and, perhaps, have been ignored. It is not necessary to be overwhelmed or overcome by emotions to cry, but I believe that the most comforting cry requires confrontation and honesty. You must face your emotions and fears with fire in your eyes, or curiosity on your face – but for you to understand or learn anything about yourself, you must acknowledge and face what you feel.
In my experience, crying allows my heart to open rather than close. I must be vulnerable and exposed. Crying is a symbolic stretching of myself where I end up bigger because of it. Have you ever woken up in the middle of night with tears streaming down your cheeks and felt a cathartic hollowness – but not emptiness – in the centre of your chest? That is the feeling of being completely vulnerable. If you have felt this before, you must know how good it can feel to cry.
Kahlil Gibran said in his book The Prophet: “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?” Through the pain and hardship of life, we are able to forge peace and understanding. Life is not one extreme or another but a balance. To reject sorrow is to reject joy as both are two parts of an entire whole.
Society tells us many things about crying. As men we are told never to cry in public (let alone cry at all); that crying disgraces the family; that crying means you are weak. As women we are told that we cry too much; that we are being emotional; that it does not solve our problems. However, society has not lost a loved one nor experienced the sting of hatred.
Society is afraid. The example my Psychology professor used to explain this was when his dog died. He was at the veterinarian clinic and the attendant asked if he would like to take a back route out of the building as he cried. How horrible is that? He just lost someone he loved and society wanted to save him embarrassment.
When to Cry
At the most basic level, crying was our way to communicate our needs as an infant. As an adult, we learn that it is a way for our bodies to express sadness or gratitude. When we feel overwhelmed and helpless our natural response is to cry. This is how we express our need for help, love and attention. To treat a wound you must know where it is.
Up to a certain point I cry because it hurts and it hurts because I cry. Pain is not negative by itself, rather it is a part of life. Pain is uncomfortable but pain is also a part of growth. Feeling pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong; numbing the pain with medication or ignoring it only removes it from the visibility of your consciousness to the dimness of your subconscious. The best remedies treat the symptoms and the cause.
It takes courage to cry. It takes strength to let down your guard and expose yourself. The time to cry is when you need to. One of the worst feelings in the world is to want to cry but not have the ability to.
To cry is to give yourself permission to heal and grow.