As a child, even well into my teens, I cried extremely frequently. Usually this was alone at home, but, on occasion, at my prep school (which I attended until I was eleven) I was removed from the class for crying (there was little compassion on offer from the teachers) when I was particularly upset about what was going on at home.
Once, even, to my acute embarrassment and shame (at the time), I started to cry (or quietly whimper) in a second year (now it would be called Year Eight) English class at my secondary school when I was about thirteen, desperately trying to conceal this inconvenient outburst of emotion from both my teacher and classmates.
Also, at about fifteen years of age, I once even rushed upstairs at home after one of my frequent arguments with my family and shut myself in my bedroom wardrobe where I stubbornly and emphatically insisted upon remaining (not that anyone encouraged me to come out), sobbing copiously, for a not inconsiderable period of time. It is quite clear to me, and, presumably, will be to the reader, too, that my emotional development had been arrested at a much younger age.
William Wordsworth, in his poem ‘Ode : Intimations Of Immortality From Reflections On Early Childhood‘, refers to ‘thoughts that often lie too deep for tears‘ and, when one is especially afflicted by profound depression and/or traumatized, this line of poetry is often most apposite – one simply becomes numbed and internally deadened by the sheer intensity of one’s chronic and unrelenting mental suffering. In such a condition, as a psychological defense, all feelings and emotions shut down ; however desperately one wants to cry, one is unable to do so.
Something deep in our soul is blocked or frozen.
Being Finally Able To Cry Can Be A Breakthrough Moment In The Process Of Recovery :
The psychotherapist, Pete Walker, in his excellent book entitled : Complex Trauma – From Surviving To Thriving, explains how finally being able to cry after a long period of emotional numbness (emotional numbness is a key feature of complex post traumatic stress disorder) can signify a major turning point in the recovery process, marking our re-engagement with our long suppressed feelings.
Relevant Research :
There also exists a body of research supporting the idea that crying is beneficial. For example, the biochemist, W. Frey, reports that crying helps to rid the body of chemicals that are produced by stress and, therefore, when we cry, by lowering the concentration of these chemicals within our biological system, we reduce our stress levels ; this not only makes us feel better mentally but also has physical benefits (for example, by lowering our blood pressure).
Also, research carried out by Gracanin et al at the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands supports the idea that crying can improve mood.
Unfortunately, males in our society are often discouraged from crying on the erroneous grounds that it is ‘weak’ or ‘unmanly’. In fact, though, crying can be of immense therapeutic value, particularly when one has been feeling emotionally ‘dead inside’ for a long period of time due to having experienced severe trauma.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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