To go hand in hand with my last post, I’d like to do something that my younger, wannabe-stoic self would find horrifying: I’d like to defend the “good cry.”
Like many people, for a long time I was crying-averse. I tended to blame myself when I felt like crying, reminding myself why whatever was wrong wasn’t worth it and telling myself that I was being stupid. “Strong” people didn’t cry over spilled milk or a really bad day or the occasional lunch-room snub. I had some difficulty with crying at school when I was trying to adjust to middle school in 5th grade and usually managed to convince people around me that I had a cold. I was mortified at the thought of being caught crying, because:
“Big girls don’t cry” -The Four Seasons
“I am not the type of girl to cry” – The Saturdays
[insert quotation about not crying here, there are tons of them]
I’m sure you’ve been in this situation: You’re tired, you’re upset, you’re talking to someone about something that seems innocuous when your throat starts to lump up and your eyes start to water. You look up to blink back the tears and you pray that the person you’re talking to doesn’t notice. You excuse yourself to the bathroom and squeeze out the excess liquid from your eyes in as silent a manner as possible inside a stall, then go on about your day, avoiding that person who might have seen you get upset. And you feel awful.
At a certain point, when I first started crying at movies and commercials, I realized the other obvious thing that most people know: Letting yourself cry can feel awesome. If you’re in the safe zone of fiction, being moved by a piece of art or literature or music, crying makes you feel connected. Sensitive. Enlightened, even. As an actor, crying on stage means you’ve really entered the character and evoked the necessary emotion to fulfill the role (though you shouldn’t try to force crocodile tears). I cried in the dark over and over, and even managed to do it on stage, in workshops and productions, and would always walk away thinking, Wow, that was amazing.
Well guess what. Once you take a look at what you’re feeling in your life, acknowledge what it is that has you down or what’s triggered this sadness, and give yourself permission to feel that sadness, sometimes the most satisfying thing in the world is a good cry.
I don’t like crying on the shoulders of or around other people–I always feel like I have to hold it in somehow, not let completely go, and be considerate of their time. Even if they’re explicitly there for me. It’s much easier to go into my room, grab a pillow, press it to my face, and have at.
-Screw up your face as much as you want. The more your face looks like a Tragedy mask, the better. Seriously, it works.
-Pick a phrase to repeat over and over. Something that really evokes the reason you’re crying. “Why [not] me?” works pretty well, I’ve found.
-Try not to judge the first, surface reason you’re crying. Something like 95% of the time I start to cry it turns out it’s because of something other than what I thought. If it’s a bad day at work, it’s really because I don’t think I’m being appreciated in multiple aspects of life, or what have you. Twenty bucks says that the thing you end up crying about will be a lot deeper and more primal–and completely human–than what you started crying about. Unless you’ve had something really tragic happen to you. In which case you get to throw things and have a fit in public.
-Cry it all out. Keep going, even if it’s past the point where you feel like you’re “really” crying. Let yourself sit in it for an extra minute or two. A lot of the time you’ll realize you actually can’t do it anymore, and you don’t want to.
-Wash your face, get up, and go do something.
Go do it now! It feels great! And when you’re done, sometimes you’ll realize that this was exactly what you needed to process whatever was on your mind. You can take a shower, cook up something nice, and face your day. Or night. Or birthday party. Because you can cry if you want to.