If you’re constantly beating yourself up, not speaking up, or feeling hopeless, chances are your emotional constitution is sadness. Sadness is a natural reaction to hurts and losses. When not expressed constructively, it silently eats at your heart until joy has to pack its bags and move out. Your mind turns against itself. How can you turn the tide and truly honor who you are and feel your inborn joy?
At last, after a hectic week, Cathy found herself alone. Her husband had gone out with friends, and her son was away for the weekend. She cherished her private time and had three hours of a distraction-free household.
Cathy was aware of a number of upsetting incidents that she had shrugged off but that still lingered. Before diving into a pile of chores that she had postponed, she sat down with a cup of tea and flipped through the TV channels.
She found herself getting pulled into a story about a woman who had just reunited with the daughter she had given up for adoption. For twenty-five years, the mother had thought she would never see her daughter again. Cathy hadn’t planned on getting sucked into television that night, but there she was, glued to the set, tears streaming down her face. She settled into the show, pulled out her hanky, and wept. She’d known for days that she needed to cry and hadn’t made the time. “I’m just so sad,” she said as she sobbed. “I just need to cry.”
Cathy understood that crying hard was a kind of inner cleansing, a beauty treatment that would renew her from the inside out. She knew she wasn’t just crying about what was on television. She was crying out the tears that had been accumulating in her over the last few weeks. The exact causes weren’t really important.
Tears As Nectar
Were you ever told that tears were nectar? They are the natural expression of hurt and loss. In North America, crying openly has become only slightly more acceptable in recent years. We’re only just beginning to feel comfortable with tearful displays of grief or happiness in public.
Many of us still believe others will judge us if we cry and so we avoid it at all costs, choking back tears and fighting the lumps in our throats. I was pleased to find this article by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen, entitled "Sometimes Crying is Healthy." It indicates that crying is slowly becoming mainstream.
Infants are great role models for truly effective crying. When something happens that they perceive as a hurt or loss, they sob and shriek. After just a few minutes, they return blissfully back to the moment. No repercussions or lingering moods. It’s over and done. Their sparkling eyes instantly return, innocently observing the beauty of the world, in joy, delight, and wonder.
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Sadness manifests as internal sensations in our bodies and that means a tender heart can literally ache as well. Hurts are inflicted by mean words, broken promises, prejudice, or physical injury. Losses can include unrealized goals as well as the loss of innocence, opportunities, a loved one, money, or freedom. Many of us are walking around with a huge well of unexpressed sadness. And we wonder why we experience both physical, mental, and emotional issues.
When we don’t release our sadness, it’s easy to get down on ourselves. We fall into self-pity, helplessness, or self-reproach. Over time, our sadness can manifest as depression and despair. But if we truly express our sadness by crying instead of bottling it up inside, its influence will dissolve, and we will naturally honor ourselves and feel more joy.
How to Cry Constructively
“Clean” crying -- that is, crying without criticizing yourself -- is the most efficient way to release sadness. When your eyes start to well up and you sense a heavy constriction in your throat, try something different. Regardless of why you feel so sad, just allow yourself to cry -- the harder, the better.
Say yes to the runny nose and red eyes. Don’t apologize or be ashamed. Simply return to how you expressed yourself as a child before you succumbed to the pressures of family and culture. Jump back into that little kid mentality and feel the loss, the sorrow, and the rejection. Whatever it is, let the healing tears flow. You’ll feel the benefits. Other people really won’t mind as much as you think. If they do, that’s their problem, not yours.
No matter why you’re feeling sadness, you just need to cry. Since self-criticism only increases your sadness and reinforces bad feelings about yourself, it’s crucial to refrain from thinking or saying anything negative about yourself as you cry. Interrupt any thoughts about how inadequate, unlovable, or pathetic you are.
You need to intensely express your sadness, so turn it up a notch. Wail! Get into it. This is your time to unplug the dam! If you do use words, stick to naming the emotion, stating how you feel right now, or recounting the facts of the event that triggered your sadness. Say things like:
- I feel sad.
- I just need to cry.
- I feel so hurt.
- My sadness will pass.
- My mom died last month. I really miss her.
- Dave just told me he wants a divorce.
It's Never Too Late To Cry
If you haven’t cried in years, it’s never too late to start. If you feel sad, set aside some time to ignore all the excuses you’ve made up to avoid tears and let yourself cry. Find a safe place -- maybe a darkened movie theatre. Or wait for nighttime, when you can curl up and be alone.
Turn off the phone, think about the sadness you have been carrying inside yourself, and turn on the spigot. Light a candle if you’re so inclined. One tear falling down your cheek during a sentimental song is a fabulous start, but crying means really letting the tears flow. If you want to siphon off your accumulated sadness, you’ll have to give yourself permission to bawl for a few minutes when you experience that weighted-down sensation.
Set aside some time, and with a box of tissues, do one or more of the following:
- Watch a movie that touches you.
- Listen to a song that stirs your heart, over and over.
- Look at photographs of loved ones, pets, or places you’ve been.
- Lovingly say good-bye, over and over, to acknowledge the many losses in your life.
- Hug a pillow, pet, or teddy bear.
- Press your chest, curl up, and rock back and forth.
- Make sounds or say and think, “It’s okay. I feel sad. I just need to cry.”
- Confide in a friend about your troubles.
Whether you decide to go it alone or cry with a supportive friend, let go of the critical voice and remind yourself it’s okay to let the tears roll. If you’re trying but nothing is happening, shift to shiver or pound -- the other two expressions. Pretty soon, the true emotion begging to be expressed will rise to the surface, making itself known.
As unpleasant or weird as it might sound at first, crying is rejuvenating. It restores openness, clarity, and receptivity while washing your every cell clean. A feeling of lightness will wash over you when you’re finished: this is a divine shift.
Because emotions and thoughts are so inextricably linked, I want to make an important point. In addition to simply stating what you are feeling, or describing your hurt or loss while crying, you can also repeat a phrase that contradicts your well-worn commentary about your own failings, such as “I am whole and complete” or “What I’m seeking is within me.”
It’s important to get this part. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at how repeating ‘a truth’ helps kick-in the emotional release. Your crying may intensify, which is a good thing allowing you to finally let go of what you’ve stored inside, often for years.
Let me close with an email appreciation I just received from a client who has been a self-described stoic since childhood. It warmed my heart. "I experienced one of the points that The Docs (see Sometimes Crying is Healthy) talked about after my session with you. I woke up Saturday morning with a much-reduced headache. I was so happy!!! I have been crying ever since. That's one of the reasons that I went to see "Wonder"! It's fabulous. Thank you also for being such a support for so many years. Thanks for listening and listening."
©2017 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.
Book by this Author
Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
With practical tools, real-life examples, and everyday solutions for thirty-three destructive attitudes, Attitude Reconstruction can help you stop settling for sadness, anger, and fear, and infuse your life with love, peace, and joy.
About the Author
Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life. In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education. Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/
* Watch an interview with Jude Bijou: How to Experience More Joy, Love and Peace
* Watch video: Shiver to Express Fear Constructively (with Jude Bijou)