“You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry”

In the Christmas song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, children are admonished not to cry or pout because Santa Claus can see them when they’re sleeping and knows when they’re awake, he knows if they’ve been bad or good, so they should be good for goodness sake! This, of course, must mean that crying and pouting are bad!

Here are some other well-known sayings regarding crying:  “If you’re going to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about.”, “Keep a stiff upper lip”, and “Boys don’t cry”. The more I read and study about emotions, the more I realize that these types of statements definitely do more harm than good.

We all know something about the therapeutic value of laughter, gratitude, and keeping a positive attitude. What about the value of tears?  Tears have been called “nature’s antidote for pain” and with good reason.

Shakespeare said “to weep is to make less the depth of grief”.  He seems to have known a lot of things before science caught up and proved him right.  Certain chemicals build up in our body during stress and grief, and tears are the body’s way to flush out excess stress hormones.  It has been shown that physiologically it takes only 90 seconds of feeling an emotion caused by a negative event before the body finishes processing it, so you don’t have to have an hour long crying jag to benefit from tears (although there’s nothing wrong with crying off and on for an hour if that’s what it takes).

Avoiding pain is not the way to heal it; we need to face it, and this often involves crying.  Don’t think of it as a sign of weakness; think of it as your body’s wisdom coming into play.  During this holiday season, many of us may feel lonely or sad or grieve over what once was – happy family times that because of death or divorce or time moving on are no longer.  Go ahead and cry, allow yourself to feel the emotion and then let it move through you so you don’t store up those blocked emotions in your body.  You’ll be a happier, healthier person because of it. And for “goodness sake”, allow your children to cry! (And to safely and appropriately express any emotion, even if you can’t see why they are feeling it.)

Author and grief counselor Lou LaGrand says: “Never miss an opportunity to shed tears and allow the stress, confusion, and frustrations to come pouring out.  And notice how laughter and tears go hand in hand, sometimes in the same breath.  Together they are twin resources to be given high priority in all types of healing and adapting to life changes.”

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