“I had a lot of trouble crying; sometimes I needed to cry so bad that I would watch a tear jerker movie by myself so I could get a few tears out. I still have trouble in this area but I have been able to keep going forward anyway. Other than a tear or two, I can’t cry in front of anyone. This comes from not having PERMISSION to cry in the past. I am happy to say that this has not prevented me from healing.” Darlene Ouimet
I have always had trouble crying. I have not thought about this as deeply in the past as I have been thinking about it lately. I knew that crying made me feel bad about myself. And I have come to understand through the emotional healing process the different ways that I was not given permission to ‘feel’ when I was growing up.
When I post these types of quotes on the Emerging from Broken Facebook page about difficulty with crying or the inability to cry, there are always a lot of comments from others who share about being told not to cry and about being hit or punished for crying. Some people experience an intense fear of starting to cry and never being able to stop. Some share that like me, they have real difficulty crying and many share having both difficulty crying and shame for crying or even shame for wanting to cry.
The message I got when I was a kid was that I didn’t have a right to cry and that my feelings were wrong and the message was that I was exaggerating or lying about my pain whether it was emotional pain or physical pain. I too was often told that if I didn’t stop crying I would be given a reason to cry ~ (said to me by the person who had delivered the blows) when I was crying because I had just been hit with a belt. Recently I realized that this issue goes even deeper than the fear of crying, shame over crying and the fact that I had been threatened and punished for crying.
There was another message I received by being told to stop crying that was even more covert than then the messages about my worth or lack of worth and even more manipulative than the message about my rights or lack of rights;
The deeper message that I got about crying was that my emotions, my pain and my hurts burdened other people. I came to believe from being told not to cry, for being told that I had no REASON to cry, and that if I persisted in crying that I would be given a ‘real reason to cry’ that my crying was hurting someone else and that when I cried it was a problem for someone else. Even if I was crying because I had been spanked with the belt, or because I was hurt, my crying was causing further damage and I believed that the labels of ‘inconsiderate’ and ‘self-centered’ applied to me because of that message.
Today I associate crying with harming others instead of with a necessary release of emotion or an expression of physical or emotional pain. I came to believe that if I cried I was ‘making matters worse’ and not just for myself but for the people around me. For a little girl who believed that compliance and obedience was the only way that I would ever be loved, causing a problem was not the way I wanted to go because that went outside of my survival mode and my survival mode was keeping me alive.
The truth is that I HAD a reason to cry when I was told not to cry but no one cared about my reasons, no one validated my reasons so I learned to invalidate the reason for my tears myself. I learned that I did not have the ‘right’ to cry that I was not permitted to cry, that I didn’t deserve to feel or to hurt, and I put all that info into the grid of understanding I was developing about myself, right alongside the other messages about my worth (or more appropriately messages about my lack of worth) that I received as a result of neglect, abuse, mistreatment and the dismissive lack of interest in me as an individual from the adults in my life.
My self-esteem was not nurtured; it was in fact deprived. The damaging message was not only that I did not have ‘permission to cry’ and not only that I didn’t have ‘the right to cry’ and that my ‘need to cry’ was denied me, it was also that my feelings and my emotions were harming to others. This message (that I was a burden to others when I had feelings and needs) caused me to believe that I was not significant, not worthy, and therefore not valid as a person in the way I believed that other people were valid.
Through understanding this deeper message that my reasons for having difficulty crying had to do with the message that my tears were a burden to others I noticed that one of my reactions to feeling like I am going to cry is anger. Anger at myself! I have used anger at myself to stop the tears from coming. And this is exactly what my abuser did to me. She used anger and threats of something worse to follow if I didn’t stop crying in order to MAKE me stop crying.
About two years ago I fell down the basement stairs and landed in a weird position. I still have the bruises and dent on my lower shin were I hit the cement landing. It was a really bad fall and was very painful and I started crying as my husband my son rushed down to help me. For my child who was 19 years old at the time, I tried to hide that I was hurt. I didn’t want to scare him or make it worse for him. For my husband I tried to act like it was my own fault and that I had been careless and stupid. I even commented on how terrible it was that I had crushed the bag of chips that I had been carrying at the time as though the crushed chips was the ‘real tragedy’ here and not the fact that I had fallen and was really hurt. I distinctly remember the rage that I felt towards myself in that moment as I choked off the tears and stopped crying. I stopped crying by reprimanding myself. I told myself that I had been careless and stupid and the fall was my own fault and I had ruined a whole bag of chips. I stopped crying because I didn’t want to hurt them. I didn’t want to burden them with my pain. I didn’t want to admit that I needed anything. I stopped crying because when I was a child I learned that I was wrong to cry and I was taught to suck up the pain so I didn’t get a worse punishment ~ because it was ‘proven’ to me that crying only makes everything worse and that my crying was a problem for other people.
In order for me to move out of my many coping methods and thrive in my life today, it has been extremely important for me to find out what the false messages I was given in childhood were and where they came from, in order to change them back to the truth. These false messages about crying were no different than the other lies I had learned to accept.
The truth about crying is that there is no shame in crying. Although some people do use crying to manipulate others, I have never done that and there is no guilt associated with my need to cry. I am not a burden to others. I am not going to be punished anymore for crying and if someone reacts to my tears in a way that disrespects me or devalues me, today I know that is not about me and I do not have to accept their reaction as the truth about me. If their reactions are mean or negative and warrant a response from me, I am no longer afraid to stand up for myself. Crying does not define me as weak. Crying does not define me as ‘looking for a worse punishment’ or as ‘looking for attention’. Crying has value and can add value to my life. I have a right to my emotions today and crying is a wonderful expression of many emotions and an important way to release emotion and is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of.
Please share your thoughts about crying. Is crying difficult for you? How do you feel about your tears or lack of tears. What formed your belief system about crying and what were the messages that you got about crying? When you are working on this, here is one more little tip; sometimes my reactions (or feelings) to other people crying are also great clues to the messages that I got about crying; I took a look at how I felt when other people cried. There are lots of ways to dig into our belief systems when it comes to getting to the bottom of where we got these messages.
Exposing Truth ~ one snapshot at a time;
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Related Post ~ Stop That Crying or I will give you Something to Cry About”