When we experience a loss, a death of a loved one, a divorce, a physical ailment or the loss of financial stability or a job, there is sometimes a gut wrenching emotional pain that words cannot describe. Many people hold back their tears in an effort to appear strong in front of their friends and family. Sometimes people hold back tears to protect themselves from feeling vulnerable.
Family Dynamics & Gender Role Stereotypes – In some families, crying is a sign of weakness. Little boys are often told to “man up”, “stop crying like a wimp”, or “stop crying like a little girl”. Crying is looked at as weakness. Strong people do not cry, they fix things and work things out.
However, there are some situations that cannot be worked out. (Ex: the death of a family member). No matter what you do, you cannot bring that person back from the dead. When people who are taught not cry face a situation that they cannot fix, they sometimes freeze and continue to hold back tears. The holding back of tears can lead to more intense physical discomfort related to the event, such as, a tightness in the chest, a tightness in the throat, tension headaches, hollowness in the stomach or a feeling of depersonalization (i.e. feeling numb – going through life on “auto-pilot”).
Crying is natural. From an evolutionary perspective, infants crying communicate to their primary caregivers that they are in distress. Also, in adults, it communicates the depth of one’s pain when words are not adequate to describe the pain. “Thirty years ago, biochemist Frey found that emotional tears carried more protein than non-emotional tears (say, from chopping an onion). The implication was that when you cry for emotional reasons, you are involved in a healing process” (Collier, L., 2014). Although there has been conflicting research in the past, more and more scientific evidence is confirming that “crying” is part of the healing process and that a good cry is better than holding it in.
This is not to say that healing cannot take place without crying, but if you feel the need to cry, don’t hold back. Releasing tears release tension and after all, a good cry never hurt anyone.