Newsletter: Spring 2016
Is it Okay to cry?
Of course your response will depend on your own beliefs and attitudes, the cultural context in which you live now, how others are behaving around you and the way you were brought up. Gender and age are also factors. For example, many people believe that men either shouldn’t or don’t cry, that children can cry but not adults; whilst others believe that it is important to cry when emotionally moved. The current ‘turn’ of TV presentations and entertainment often promotes weepiness as the new norm. In a fairly recent book looking at the history of emotions (‘Weeping Britannia’) Thomas Dixon makes the point that emotions in one sense are universal and yet in another are acutely sensitive to cultural context: people from some nations cry in public; others less so. He comments that crying is often related to the depth of crisis and trauma someone is involved in, so that often in war or personal tragedy people do not cry, partly because of the need to focus on survival and partly because of shock. Whereas when people feel safe and more contained they are then able to engage with this emotion.
Some people coming to therapy have difficulties engaging with sadness, and sometimes the related emotions of anger or shame. Some people that once they start crying they will never stop and that it will be debilitating or possibly life threatening. I don’t think there is any evidence of anyone dying from crying, or not being able to stop crying. ‘Mind’, the mental health charity, started a campaign in September, promoting the value of showing emotions including crying. This emerged from a survey showing among other things that 1 in 4 18-34 year olds feel they have to put on a brave face when experiencing anxiety, and that showing emotions is a sign of weakness. This campaign helps anyone have permission to cry should they feel moved to do so. In juxtaposition to this I would add that people who aren’t at ease with crying, are not necessarily incapable of feeling sad, being sensitive or in touch with their emotions.
Interviewed on the BBC programme ‘All in the Mind’ as to whether crying is actually good for us, Thomas says that this has been difficult to prove scientifically, but that many people report that when they cry they feel better, both physically and emotionally. The Mind report says that women are 3 times more likely to have cried in the past week and are twice as likely as men to feel better from it. This indicates that experiences and perceptions are very subjective. As a therapist I would advocate that this is all very personal and exploring the significance of someone’s emotions, context and concerns is what matters provided this feels safe and contained. I would also want to be addressing this in the context of developing personal resilience. This does not mean pushing emotions down, rather being able to recognize emotional states and vulnerabilities, in order to be able to develop self support, both internally and from others, thus developing a platform of strength and hope.
Annie Robinson, April 2016
Check here each month for a regular Newsletter on themes which I think will support your counselling and therapy. All these ideas are derived from my experience of working with clients, supported by outside reading, training and research. I am
grateful to feedback and ideas contributed by my clients.