On Crying

Like laughter, tears (which often go together and are separated by the thinnest of membranes) are a testament to our humanity, of our capacity to feel. Contrary to popular belief, crying does not come from a position of weakness, but of strength. For it takes a particular sort of strength to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough for something to touch you; whether it is a painting, a movie, a sunset, or a child dancing on crunchy autumn leaves. It is, paradoxically, the strength of fragility.

Not everything that needs to be said can be expressed with words. Like hugging, crying is the non-verbal language of feeling. Crying is intimidating because when we cry, we are no longer in control. We can no longer be hoarders of the soul, putting our feelings and memories in little boxes on a shelf to gather dust. It is also intimidating because crying makes us vulnerable. The body turns on us, the boxes open and fall off the shelves and a demand is made: the demand that these feelings be seen and acknowledged.

People seem to dislike it, but crying is the most wonderful thing! It says that you feel! That you are human! That something was able to move you. It is a signal that you are alive and sensitive.

We do not mind when we cry from laughter. We only have a problem when we cry from sadness. We have decided that some emotions are simply unacceptable and must be pushed away at all costs. But, at what cost? When we do not allow our psychic energy to release, it does not go away, it moves around and is released somewhere else. This is what Carl Jung meant by ‘transference’. Tears denied do not disappear but displace, and manifest in other ways instead.

Introspection, Erica Norelius, 2015

We bend things to our will all the time. If a piece of wood does not fit, we cut it to size; if an employee does not do what the boss says, he can be threatened with dismissal; but you cannot threaten a flower to grow, nor can you demand yourself to stop feeling. You cannot bend yourself to your own will without inflicting immeasurable damage. The one who is bending is also the one being bent.

We associate maturity, especially in men, with pushing down feelings, with not being a ‘cry-baby’. But there is nothing more immature than locking up a part of you and denying yourself the capacity to feel freely, fully, and deeply. To fear crying, or to say it is weak, soft, pathetic, or unnecessary (which may again be symptoms of fear transferring as ridicule), indicates insecurity. Criticising others or yourself for crying indicates a sense of low self-worth, of a need to feel strong in order to compensate for feelings of being week.

Crying does not make you weak, it makes you human. It is a reminder that you are still able to be vulnerable and fragile, and there is an exquisite beauty in this, like a flower allowing itself to be swayed by the wind. We can make ourselves hard and not allow the breeze of feelings to move us, but then we will become more like rocks than humans. Crying does not make you weak, immature, or pathetic; it makes you human.

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