TO CRY OR NOT TO CRY
By Doris AC Johnson MA of Psy, ABA
People say that crying is a sign of weakness. I grew up in the 80s and ’90s during a period when people weren’t supposed to cry, or you were considered a cry baby. It was even more unacceptable for boys or men to cry because then you would be called a “sissy.” And then It
was labeled as a sign of weakness. A man is supposed to rule the house with an iron fist indicative of a heart that only beats in rhythm and not in emotions. So, showing vulnerability was no excuse.
Who came up with this idea? In my opinion, that’s pretty tough…especially for a person who has always been sensitive. But when you put a careful eye on it, you see that holding those tears can cause an emotional explosion or prove to desensitize people.
Children that don’t cry are learning to pack their emotions and may eventually grow to be adults that automatically avoid crying. It becomes natural to them.
Imagine being in the hospital and the nurse that cares for you shows no compassion. At a time of physical vulnerability, that could be a dagger to one’s soul.
Not crying (to me) is like not laughing when something is over the top hilarious. Sometimes, to laugh is to cry. You have to let it out! Showing emotions is ok. It makes you human. It makes you relatable to those in the like. It even helps to maintain relationships. How so? Because a person experiencing a tearful moment needs a shoulder to cry on. Your understanding is a safety net. Tears carry many functions. They relieve pain. They relieve stress. They release toxins, dirt, and debri. And they seek to request help. Words can’t always do that.
Suffocating your emotions and blanketing your concerns are depleting who you are and who you can become. And overtime, if you continue to react like a robot…people will avoid interacting with you on some levels. Some will dismiss you altogether.
When I was a young mother, I often choked back my tears for the safety of my children. I thought I was setting an example for them. In hindsight, I wasn’t sparing the burden that often accompanies adulthood. I was teaching them to ignore or bury away their emotions. And by doing that, I was injecting them with the poison that was injected into me. Big girls don’t cry! There were times when I was physically hurting that necessitated tears. There were times when I was angry that summoned tears. There were times when I was sad that evoked tears. There were times when I was physically hurt and forced to cry. And then there were the times when I had to see them cry. What kind of mother would I have been if I didn’t cry with them? The answer…a robot…an emotionless, unfeeling, empty cell. And they comforted me as I comforted them. They gave me the space that I needed to grieve situations, problem-solve, clear my head, or grieve the loss of others. Some news can only be delivered with tears…good and bad) Even small hands know how to pat you on the back.
My tears didn’t make them see me as a lesser person. The tears helped them to accept their own feelings and express them freely. My cries did not transform my household into a group of cry babies and heartless adults…it made (and continues to make) each of us human…beautifully human. So if you ask if it is ok for a parent to let their children see them cry…absolutely because those very same nurturing and loving adults are the people you may encounter someday in your time of need.