Have You Had a Good Cry Lately?

May 05, 2021

Have You Had a Good Cry Lately?

I’m preparing to facilitate a workshop at the end of this month as part of a series for my Pathwork community in Japan. The title of the series is, “The Unwanted.” 

It’s so timely. Hasn’t this just been a year of “the unwanted”? 

What to do with “the unwanted”?

The unwanted shows up in everyone’s life at some time, in some form - lost loves, lost dreams, losses in general, and then of course there’s death - the big unwanted.

At the heart of this topic is grieving. We can’t just skip to acceptance, although hopefully we get there in time. When the unwanted hits, we need to feel all the feelings, in order to move through to real acceptance.

Grieving is part of that process and has many faces, but sadness and crying is always there.

The current research on crying is really interesting. Did you know there are different kinds of tears and they serve different physiological functions?

That when we cry for emotional reasons, we release stress hormones and can shift our nervous system’s response from the sympathetic (fight, flight, freeze) to the parasympathetic (rest and repair)?

The poem Crying by Galway Kinnell

But here’s the thing - the more full-bodied the tears the better. This puts me in mind of the poem Crying by American poet Galway Kinnell, that speaks to this point.

Crying only a little bit
is no use. You must cry
until your pillow is soaked!
Then you can get up and laugh.
Then you can jump in the shower
and splash-splash-splash!
Then you can throw open your window
and, “Ha ha! ha ha!”
And if people say, “Hey
what’s going on up there?”
“Ha ha!” sing back, “Happiness
was hiding in the last tear!
I wept it! Ha ha!”

Right now, is a time for crying – real full-bodied tears. The daily frustrations of the pandemic restrictions; the loss of fulsome social contact; the loneliness; all life as we knew it, diminished.

One response is to just go a bit numb. We’ve been given an applicable term “We’re languishing.” Another possibility is to cry.

Cry like a baby

Maybe crying has become unfamiliar to you. In psychological terms, when we’ve shut down the response of crying, of grieving, it can contribute to anxiety and depression.

Perhaps the fear of judgement and all our negative connotations about crying have contributed to our inhibitions.

Do you remember being told, “don’t be such a baby” when tears would come? We associate tears with immaturity or weakness.

But do you also remember, as a child, how good it felt to just wail! And to notice how children can shift from deep sobbing to laughing a few moments later. Maybe it’s time to renew the healthy reflex of tears, as a response to the frustrations and stressors of this time.

The Japanese Tear Teacher

In Japan, this lost art of crying is being renewed by workshops that help people remember how good it feels to have a fulsome cry. This YouTube video by the BBC, features Hidefumi Yashida, a “Tear Teacher.” It gives you a taste for how it could work.  

So, crank up those hurtin’ songs, watch that film that always gets to you, or perhaps just sit quietly and let yourself be aware of the losses that are happening. Let the tears come – not just a few – you got to soak that pillow! And savor the relief that comes afterwards – the softened heart, the renewed hope and the opening to new possibilities.

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