What does ‘being strong’ mean? Is it the ability to hold up heavy objects or the fortitude to just hold up under pressure? Whatever your definition, we need to rethink strength. When we see someone struggling we immediately assume weakness; tears equating to lack of fortitude. The assumption that ‘falling apart’ and expressing deep raw emotions, is somehow a sign of not managing or not dealing with the issue at hand. Why is it that when we cry there is a distinct impression that we may be weak or in need of protection or pulling it together. We need to challenge this notion.
When we witness someone crying we often give subtle messages that say, stop. We hand out tissues, which can imply; “Here, clean yourself up.” Or we say, “ There, there. It will be ok.” Why are we so uncomfortable with tears? What would it be like to instead say, “Just let it out, I’m here for you.” Or say nothing and hold the person. Let them sob for as long as they need to. Send the message that it is safe and you are free to feel.
Often we hold back our own tears; stuffing our emotions in fear of appearing weak or putting on a ‘brave front’ so others don’t need to comfort or support us. At times we may replace our pain and vulnerability with reactive anger or frustration. What would it be like to embrace our emotional pain, pay attention and lean into the feelings? It takes incredible tenacity to open ourselves up, let the tears flow.
Tears are a purely human experience and there are actually three different types of tears; psychic, basal and reflex. Psychic tears are produced from extreme emotion (sadness, joy, anger or frustration). Basal tears produce a natural lubricant for the eyes and reflex tears are an environmental response (onions, dust). Amazingly, photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher (Topography of Tears) discovered different tears have different molecular structure and even tears from varied emotional states are different. Psychic tears also produce a natural painkiller hormone. Our bodies naturally produce the needed tears to heal.
The ability to let ourselves feel and allow for the open expression of painful emotions takes incredible strength. Tears are a sign of humanity, and an important release. Being able to safely experience our own vulnerability, takes courage. There is no need to apologize for tears, there is no need to hold in our emotions; there is power and purpose to letting go. So cry away and allow others to cry. Encourage the strength it takes to fall apart and put ourselves back together. Ask and seek support along the way; It is an incredible journey.
This Post Written By:
Caryn Kondo – MSW – Therapy With Heart
8737 E. Via De Commercio, Suite 200
Scottsdale, Arizona 85258
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