I don’t cry often, but when I do, it’s incredibly overwhelming. Do you think I need to cry more so that when I do tear up, it’s not so intense?
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried than before—more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Thank you for writing in with your question. I’d like to begin my response by offering you a few points to consider regarding crying.
The first thing that came to my mind was that it is OK to cry and I believe that crying is a beautiful way to cleanse your heart, mind, emotions and spirit. You can imagine your tears, as in our epigraph, like the rain that cleanses the air and the earth. It is a method of rinsing away old, stuck emotions, and moving you back toward a state of homeostasis.
From your question, I don’t know how often you cry or what is the source of it, but it sounds like it can be overwhelming for you. Therefore, I think there may be two ways of working with the tears depending on how you want to be with them and what is best for a situation.
The first approach can be used in situations where you do not have the time or ability to inquire into the tears to uncover deeper learnings about yourself. This is acknowledging the reality that some situations simply do not lend themselves to intense crying. In these instances, you can try to use deep breathing, relaxation practices, and other coping tools such as distracting your attention away from the tears. You can also thought-block any notions that may be driving the tears. You can simply use the word “Stop” as a kind of mantra to work to disengage from the thinking mind. This is a path to choose when you would like to intentionally work toward turning off the tears. It is not an easy path and requires practice to gain skills over these techniques.
The second path is one of self-discovery. It is more appropriate for when you have the time, space, and privacy. This is the way of mindfulness. The meditative path would be the preferred way in situations where it is appropriate to let yourself cry things out. In bringing mindfulness to the tears, I think you can start to shift your relationship to the crying. As a way of exploring this, here is a five-step process to get more clarity with this. This is a practice that requires patience and repeated effort. It is, of course, only one practice of many potential options, and you should also feel free to modify in ways that resonate with you.
1. When the tears come, take some space to sit with and allow them. Do your best not to resist them, but rather see if you can flow with them and go further into yourself.
2. Notice what is evoked with the tears. In other words, what kinds of thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and images come to mind? See if you can gain clarity and insight into deeper dimensions of you. Observe how these tears are wanting to reveal something more of yourself to you or others. Let this experience of crying become a way of becoming more familiar with yourself.
3. You may even imagine them like water from a well springing up from inside of you. Much like the water from a well provides hydration and nourishment, allow the water of your tears to be a source of revitalization and energy.
4. See what it is like to sit with these tears and let them wash over you.
5. When you feel that the tears have run their course, you can slowly bring the practice to an end, offer yourself a bow of gratitude for taking this sacred space to practice, and slowly and intentionally transition your way back into your day.
Since I am not clear on what kinds of situations or events precede your crying, you should choose your response based upon what you think is best. My sense is that as you learn to follow your instincts and trust in yourself, you will be able to come into a more peaceful relationship with the tears. I also think that it is vital to allow yourself to authentically feel and not try to force anything. Remember, your tears are providing you with an opportunity to cleanse and release that which is no longer serving you.
Again, I thank you for writing in and wish you the best on your journey.
By John Rettger