I’m not afraid to cry. In fact, I am so unafraid of crying that if need be I will cry in a public setting relatively humiliation free. Don’t get me wrong I would much rather cry alone in the comfort of my own shower but when emotion strikes I sometimes don’t have much of a choice. I’ve cried in class. I’ve cried on a school bus. I’ve cried on the sidewalk in downtown San Francisco and I’ve certainly cried (multiple times) in the San Francisco airport. I’m not proud of all of these moments but I’m not necessarily ashamed either. I’m comfortable with crying both my own and the tears of others. I’m not a pretty crier but I’ve cried enough in my life to at least appreciate the deep shade of turquoise my eyes appear after a solid sob session unfortunately I haven’t discovered a way to emulate this same effect outside of extreme sadness (oh well).
There seem to be two distinct mind frames when it comes to tears. There are the families who discourage crying unless you are dying (or someone you know is dying) and there are the families who sort of encourage it. I grew up with the latter. As a child I was never discouraged from crying (not that I can recall at least). My Mom cried every year on the first day of school as she dropped my brother and I off for class (even through high school!). I was never told to stop crying over boys, over fights with friends, over anxiety with school…I don’t think I even understood that shame and tears were associated at all.
As a grown up I’ve encountered a lot of different reactions to tears. While I don’t love seeing other people cry I don’t hate it either. I feel comfortable around tears (and genuine displays of emotion in general). On the few occasions I have broken down and cried at inappropriate times (although I do believe in crying I also believe there are places it is best not to cry) I have received mixed reactions. Some are quick to coddle, others try to talk and some completely shut down unable to process what is happening. My Uncle grew up in family that forbade crying. Crying was in no way allowed unless you were seriously injured. Although his childhood is behind him he carries the same perceptions on crying into his adult life and the few times I’ve cried around him I could tell it made him extremely uncomfortable (eek sorry Uncle Stan)!
I don’t know if there is a correct way to handle crying. For me crying stems from a lot of emotions. I may cry when I am frustrated, when I am sad and most often I cry when I am disappointed in myself. I find crying to be a very nice release igniting the same “reward center” that writing often ignites for me when I am confused or frustrated (no scientific facts here just based off of how I feel). There are days I can’t wait to get home, snuggle into bed, listen to sad Lana Del Rey songs and just bawl my eyes out. It isn’t to say I find this sadness “fun” but rather as a necessary balance. I need it! I don’t think I’m weaker for crying as I don’t see tears as a display of weakness but rather as a genuine expression of raw emotion. Unless you’re crying to try and get your way or to manipulate a situation I don’t see a real problem with it (as long as you aren’t at work, in a professional setting or wailing loudly on the street).
I wonder how much a person’s perceptions of crying reveals about their emotional vulnerability as a whole. I’ve always been encouraged to freely express my emotions. I practically live to talk about feelings and I find extreme beauty in the artistic/written expression of emotions from others. I can’t imagine feeling like I couldn’t talk about (or write about) how I feel…I would explode. However, I’m quite aware that many people process their feelings differently. Some people prefer not to talk about their sadness, their joys or anything in between. Some people would rather not cry even when they’re alone or in the shower. And strangest of all some people would rather not read long winded blog posts about feelings, or tear stained journal entries or depressing poems by authors who’ve since committed suicide. I don’t understand the minds of these less expressive people but I understand that they’re out there!
What about you? How do you perceive crying? Were you raised to view it as a vulnerability or as a release? Do you invalidate a person’s beliefs or arguments once tears are involved or does this display further their point? I’m not judging by any means, just interested in the sociology of crying!