Why do we think something is wrong when we are crying?
OH OH — Someone is experiencing an emotion, they have droplets of water coming out of their eyes……. that can’t be good? or can it?
Typically when we see someone crying, we assume they are experiencing sadness or duress. But we frequently cry during a heart-felt moments found in joyous births and weddings.
Tears of other people remind us that we too have emotions. Without question, the vast majority of us would rather not deal with or be reminded that we have emotions. Since tears can go either way- happy or sad tears – they disturb us. And, compassion aside for a moment, we don’t want to deal with our own emotions or anyone else’s either.
Emotions are messy, but necessary part of living. Emotions tell us what is going on around us and how it’s affecting us. Our bodies react with physical sensations (the emotion), that travel brain for interpretation and, if necessary, to set a course of reaction (the response to emotion.)
Some psychologies believe that tears part of a coping strategy that is self-soothing and can elicit support from those around us. It restores “emotional equilibrium”, suggesting that sad tears lift blues and happy tears bring us back to neutral.
But tears don’t resolve the emotion that they spring from. Tears are an instant remedy without a long-term benefit, emotionally speaking.
I’ve helped several of my clients with their tears.
- Elsie (not her real name) had lost her most beloved husband 2 years prior to her work with me. She still had pictures of him all over the house, because she loved him and didn’t want to forget him or their time together. Whenever she would look at the pictures or talk about her husband with friends, Elsie would well-up with tears. She said “I don’t mind the tears–I miss him. But my friends think it’s wrong to cry after so many years.” I guided Elsie to regulate the emotion she felt when she looked at her husband’s picture. At her next session, she came back all smiles! “I can look at his picture and NO TEARS–I just remember our happy times. I still miss him, but the sadness is gone and the good stuff is left! Thank you!”
- Jane (again, an alias) cried at every happy event. “It’s embarrassing”, she said. “If I’m at a wedding, baby shower, spiritual events or anywhere that I feel happy and blessed, I cry. People think I’m upset. Then I have to explain–its a mess”. I helped Jane regulate the emotion she experiences in these moments of gladness that overwhelm her. Jane reported back that now happy times are only happy. “I’ve found I can be joyous and compassionate without the tears. I don’t feel the need to cry–it’s all smiles and ecstatic joy. I love it!”
I want to make a couple points that relate to Jane’s example. First, when we are overwhelmed by emotion, happy, sad, or otherwise, we miss the essence/meaning of the moment before us. The buried, unregulated emotions flood in, to mix with the current emotional reaction and swamp the limbic system, which is responsible for “managing” these feelings. Many times it’s too much to grapple with.
The emotion that prompted tears are drowning the ability to feel the joy of the moment. This works in the same way as engulfing anger might keep us from a reasonable response–we’re “too mad” and might produce tears of frustration.
Second, Emotional Regulation using TIPI works to remove the emotions that we didn’t naturally regulate when we felt them originally. Sometimes, especially as children, the situation is so intense that the emotions produced don’t have the chance to get regulated by our bodies. They become imprinted in the body. As we move forward in time, these are literally the PTSD reactions we feel.
Removing imprinted emotions does not eliminate feelings of love, happiness, joy, etc. These positive emotions are never imprinted or need to be removed. In fact, the imprinted emotions depress our expression and experience of love. In the end, the happy day-to-day bliss of being in love, finding love and happiness is where we want to end up….without the tears.
Who doesn’t want that?
Following the trail of tears can lead us to emotions that need to be regulated. and regulating your tears can lead to great experiences in your life.
I offer Emotional Regulation with TIPI sessions in-person in North Dallas, Tx or on-the-phone. Here is a link to schedule and appointment with me. http://regulatingsense.schedulista.com/