Do narcissists cry?

crocodiletears

This is a revision of the Jan. 1, 2015 article.  It’s one of my most popular posts, so I figured I’d post it again, with a few changes.

Do narcissists cry?  Sure, they do. Of course they do. And the histrionic, somatic types will cry conspicuously and loudly and convulsively and make sure everyone notices.  Think of Joan Crawford’s over the top histrionics in he movie Mommie Dearest.  The attention they get from this show of dramatics (which you cannot ignore) elicits lots of narcissistic supply for them and gets them the sympathy they crave.  Remember, positive attention isn’t necessary to serve as supply to a narcissist.  Any sort of attention–even disgust and anger–will do.

Self-serving crying and fake empathy.
Narcissists cry for themselves, never for you. They *might*cry when they see a sad movie, if they experience themselves through that character. Movies are a safe way to shed tears, even for those who don’t cry easily (and that includes non-narcs too). But narcissists aren’t really crying for the characters in the movie. They are really crying for themselves.

Some narcissists who are good actors can pretend to cry for others–these are dangerous narcissists able to feign empathy but show their true colors after they’ve charmed you and duped you into thinking they’re the nicest, most sympathetic person in the world. But it’s all fake. Those “empathetic tears” are crocodile tears. A narcissist can never cry for anyone but themselves.

Narcissists are just big babies.
Kim Saeed, a writer who has an excellent and extremely popular blog here at WordPress about narcissistic abuse, wrote an insightful article about what makes a narcissist cry (basically, self pity and attention getting). It’s a good read. Narcissists cry the way an infant cries–to have their immediate needs met. Whether they admit it or not, they need a mother–and most likely never got adequate mothering, so they’re still trying to get it. Like an infant, they are incapable of separating themselves from others and can feel no empathy for anyone else.

babycrying
Here’s who your narcissist really is.

While some narcissists take pride in their appearance, professional accomplishments, athletic prowess, or outstanding intelligence, there are some narcissists (the covert type) who take a perverse pride in being as pitiful and pathetic as it’s possible to be. These are what I call “needy narcissists” (Kim Saeed refers to them as “extreme narcissists”).  Many of our mothers (not mine–my mother was overt and aggressive) fall into this category.  They guilt-trip you and constantly whine about how badly you’ve treated them.  They remind you of all the wonderful things they’ve done for you.   They are emotional, financial and spiritual vampires who will suck you dry if given half a chance. They tend to attract empaths and HSPs and codependent types of people who are willing to give them the pity and sympathy they crave. And they use tears to elicit those things. Tears are powerful and contagious and get babies what they want–why not narcissists? Hey, if it works, use it.

Can a narcissist ever cry non-self serving tears?

A narcissist crying for reasons other than self-serving ones is rare.   But if one ever enters therapy or gets to a point where they recognize their own narcissism and is able to grieve for their lost true self, it’s possible.  Don’t get your hopes up though.    That being said, I read an article by Sam Vaknin about the way he cries in his dreams, which I thought was pretty interesting.   If something like this can happen, maybe it could be used as a catalyst to healing.  Maybe.  (Sam is not cured of NPD and probably never will be.  It’s his livelihood).

Dreaming and “lucid” dreaming: a possible key to healing?
Dreams open us up to the subconscious mind, so remembering dreams is useful in therapy.  For a narcissist, dreams have the potential of tapping into the atrophied and depressed true self–the self that dissociated and went into hiding during early childhood to protect itself from abuse by caregivers. Sam Vaknin writes about this phenomenon in this journal entry, in which he describes two nightmares that briefly brought him in contact with his true lost self, at least until he woke up.

He writes:

I dream of my childhood. And in my dreams we are again one big unhappy family. I sob in my dreams, I never do when I am awake. When I am awake, I am dry, I am hollow, mechanically bent upon the maximization of Narcissistic Supply. When asleep, I am sad. The all-pervasive, engulfing melancholy of somnolence. I wake up sinking, converging on a black hole of screams and pain. I withdraw in horror. I don’t want to go there. I cannot go there.

One’s narcissism stands in direct relation to the seething abyss and the devouring vacuum that one harbors in one’s True Self.

I know it’s there . I catch glimpses of it when I am tired, when I hear music, when reminded of an old friend, a scene, a sight, a smell. I know it is awake when I am asleep. I know that it subsists of pain – diffuse and inescapable. I know my sadness. I have lived with it and I have encountered it full force.

Perhaps I choose narcissism, as I have been “accused”. And if I do, it is a rational choice of self-preservation and survival. The paradox is that being a self-loathing narcissist may be the only act of self-love I have ever committed.

cryingofthestoneangel
Crying of the Stone Angel by Eternal Dream Art at Deviantart.com

Can a narcissist’s true self ever see the light of day?

The true self is there in hiding, sometimes peeking out in dreams.  A narcissist without insight (which is almost all of them) would not be able to write the post quoted above.   Even if they were aware of having such a vulnerable inner self, they would never admit it.   They’re so walled off from their true feelings they can’t access it even in dreams.   Instead, they shore up a fake self that takes the place of the true one–but it’s not sustainable and will fall apart without a constant source of narcissistic supply that keeps it inflated like a balloon.  The constant inflation keeps their false self alive and as long as it’s there, they never have to face the black emptiness inside where the atrophied child-self exists.  If they fall into such a depression, they may go insane.  Suicide is not unheard of.

Sadness and tears that could arise from being able to encounter one’s true self, even if only briefly in a dream, could be the key to healing.  If only anyone really could figure out how to harness this and keep it accessible long enough for the narcissist to start doing some difficult internal work before they slap that mask back on.   Harnessing any brief moments of emotional nakedness is like trying to hold onto a dream while awake–most of the time, it dissolves and fragments like soap bubbles before being  swept away in the the river of day to day reality.   It’s still there, buried in the narcissist’s unconscious the way a clam buries itself deep in the wet sand near the shore after the waves recede.  But in all likelihood, the narcissist will die a narcissist, and no one (including themselves) will ever know what could have been.   I think most of them choose to remain living in the darkness because it’s a whole lot “safer.”  Maybe “lucid dreaming” (a skill that can be learned) could be one way to capture the true self when it emerges in a dream, and keep it there long enough to work with.

Most people don’t believe narcissists can be cured (and in most cases, they can’t be and are perfectly fine with being the way they are).  That being said,   I like to remain optimistic.   I can’t believe there are people walking on this earth who have completely lost their souls.  Unless a person has consciously chosen evil and has become sociopathic, I don’t think most narcissists are that far gone. The challenge is catching them when their guard is down, which is almost never.  I don’t recommend you try  doing this yourself.  Leave it to the professionals or to God.   You cannot fix a narcissist.   All you can really do is stop giving them supply, so stay (or go) No Contact.

What the hell?!

I was looking at websites about Easter candy, of all things, and tears just started pouring down my face. I don’t mean a few tears either, I’m talking about a damn river and this went on for about 45 minutes. I wasn’t sobbing or even really crying; it was like someone just turned the hose on. My nose was running too. I just kept reading the websites as if everything was business as usual. I tried to think about what emotion I was feeling and I don’t even know. It’s just pure, raw, unnameable, generic emotion, neither good nor bad, and not even particularly strong, but the release felt good. I think something loosened up inside me from tonight’s session. I wonder if this is a common thing.

I learned a little trick for getting more in touch with my emotions and allowing myself to experience them, and it’s surprisingly simple. Most people have a tendency to say things like “I am angry” or “I am sad.” But you aren’t your emotions, you just HAVE emotions. So, instead, if you can say “I feel angry” or “I have sadness,” it creates a bit of distance between yourself and your emotions, and paradoxically, that distance makes it safer to allow yourself to fully experience them. Of course, I have no idea WHAT I felt tonight, but it was still an emotion and I let myself experience it without fear or shame.

4 awesome reasons to cry.

awesome

One of the things my therapist and I have been working on is getting me to cry in session.   I’ve talked before about how hard it is for me to cry, except in private, and even then it isn’t always easy.   As a child I cried all the time.  Because I was usually shamed for my tears, sometime during my teens or early 20s, I pretty much stopped being able to cry and outbursts of anger, seething resentment, or “freaking out” seemed to replace the tears.  Rage and anger, while they have their place, is often destructive to others and yourself, and if used as an outlet where tears would be more appropriate, isn’t really very healing.  Freaking out is never adaptive because it just makes you appear crazy.   Before I learned mindfulness in DBT, I’d act out against others or freak out without thinking about the consequences, and usually feel regret, embarrassment, and shame later, much more so than if I had just cried instead.

Sure, tears can be manipulative.  Narcissists cry to get attention or to manipulate others into pitying them or giving them what they want.   Babies and young children do this too.  That’s the kind of crying that has given tears such a bad reputation.     But if a child is crying for other reasons–because they are hurt, because they are sad or overwhelmed with any other emotion (ANY strong emotion, not just sadness, can cause tears)–parents should never tell them “big boys (or girls) don’t cry” because that just teaches them to stifle their emotions, and stifling emotions is bad for you and can even affect your physical health.  If a child is shamed out of crying often enough, they may learn to turn off the tears and become unable to cry as adults.  This is especially common for boys in a culture that has traditionally frowned on men and boys crying because it’s a sissy or “weak” thing to do.  But this no-crying policy applies to women as well, especially in the business and professional world, where showing softer emotions is a big no-no.

People cry for many reasons, but I think there are four basic reasons for genuine emotional (not manipulative) tears: (1) need for help or care; (2) connection, empathy and love;  (3) awe, gratitude and joy; and (4) stress relief.   I’ll go through each of these and explain why each one is awesome.

1. Need for help or care.

babycrying

When a baby cries, it’s usually because they need something.   They may be wet, in pain, hungry, tired, or just lonely.    A baby’s cry brings mom running to give the baby what it needs, after which the baby stops crying.   We are born into the world crying; tears are a pre-verbal language and the first language we ever learn. When we are born, we cry to communicate our distress or other needs, and get what we need to survive.   If healthy attachment is achieved, a baby learns more sophisticated ways to get their needs fulfilled later on, but there are still times when needy tears are appropriate and NOT manipulative, even for grownups.

It’s always healthy and appropriate to grieve after a devastating loss, such as the death of a friend, family member or beloved pet.  It’s appropriate to cry when hearing very bad news or when in great emotional or physical pain.     There are survival reasons for this.  A crying person usually draws people near them and attracts sympathy.  If we have normal levels of empathy, we have an instinctive urge to touch or physically comfort a crying person.     A person who has just found out their best friend has cancer or Fluffy died needs the comfort of others.  They need to be held and hugged and have their back stroked and their hand held.   They need physical contact.  They need to be able to pour their story out to another person.   It would be cruel to deny someone in great physical or emotional  pain that kind of succor.  Some societies understand this need, and that is why there are public rituals such sacramental wailing in some cultures, or sitting shiva in the Jewish faith after a loved one dies.  Only when it becomes excessive or is done to attract attention to yourself does this type of crying become annoying to others.

2.  Attachment, empathy, and love.

crying_bride

This is closely related to the above, but a bit different because the tears shed aren’t intended to draw help or comfort, but to connect with others or with the world.   Many new mothers find that they become very emotional during pregnancy and for a few months after their babies are born.   Even though as an adult I’ve always found crying difficult, an exception was made when I was pregnant or lactating.  My emotions went into overdrive!   I remember when I nursed my babies, sometimes I became overwhelmed with pure emotion I couldn’t name or explain, and silent tears began to run.  It wasn’t unpleasant at all.  It just felt natural and real.  I think those tears connected me more deeply with my children.   Tears are words an infant can understand instinctively, and when a young infant sees his or her mother’s tears, they understand this means attachment and love with her has been achieved, and a good mother responds to and feels her baby’s emotions too.

Grownups, even men, sometimes just feel overwhelmed with emotion, sometimes very positive emotion.  People who are deeply in love sometimes find as they gaze into their lover’s eyes, their own well up.  It can happen at any moment when the love they feel seems bigger than they are.   This is why sudden tears are common in lovemaking that isn’t merely for sexual release, but to more deeply connect with the lover.

Tears of attachment and connection indicate high levels of empathy.   A person who is able to feel the emotions of a friend who is sad can sometimes actually cry with their friend, and this serves to connect them on a deeper level.  A world in which we can’t share the emotions of those around us–either negative or positive–is a world where no one cares and everyone is out for themselves.    Any society that regards empathy as a weakness is a sick and dangerous one.  If the human race is doomed to self destruction, I’m pretty sure the growing lack of empathy and care for others we see around us today would be the primary culprit.

3. Awe, joy, and gratitude.

KellyClarkson
Kelly Clarkson learns she won American Idol, 2002.

Tears of awe are the kind you shed when you are blown away by an incredible sunset or magnificent landscape.   Some people get very emotional in church or when hearing a certain piece of music or reading a certain poem.   I think these are the kind of tears we shed when moved by something we perceive as being greater than ourselves.  They are humbling and remind us of our insignificance, but not in a bad way, because at those times, though we feel humbled, we also feel more connected to the universe or to God.  Tears of awe connect us with the divine.

People shed tears of joy when something wonderful happens to them, usually a great surprise.  Winning the lottery, winning a contest, your team winning the Superbowl, walking into your house to a surprise birthday party, hearing your baby’s cry for the first time…all these things make people cry.    They’re anything but sad or manipulative!   Tears of joy may also be a form of stress relief, as in some cases, there’s often an element of relief, which I’ll explain more in the next section about stress relief. For example, contestants in singing or dance competition shows or in pageants almost always cry when they win.   For many months, they’ve been under enormous stress.   The moment of winning not only validates all the hard work they’ve done, it’s also a sudden release of months of the built up stress of heavy competition.   It’s okay to let go!

Related to tears of joy are tears of laughter–those times we laugh so hard we begin to cry.  Crying and laughter are physiologically very similar and serve a similar purpose of relieving stress, so it’s not too surprising that sometimes our bodies get laughter confused with tears!

Finally, there are tears of gratitude.  Sometimes we are taken by surprise when someone does something nice for us.   Especially when it’s unexpected, kind words or deeds can bring on tears.   Colloquially, this is known as being touched, which differs from being moved because it’s more human and less spiritual/humbling than being moved.     Tears of gratitude connect us with each other.

4.  Stress relief.

cry_in_shower

Some unpleasant emotions aren’t normally expressed through tears.  For example, people don’t usually cry when they’re afraid or anxious or angry.   To do so wouldn’t be in our best interests survival-wise.  When we’re in danger or there’s some kind of threat facing us, showing vulnerability might get us killed.   So when we’re angry, we want to attack.  When we’re afraid, it’s fight-or-flight.   When we’re worried, we want to remove the source of worry or solve the problem.   But once the danger or stressor has passed, and we feel a measure of relief, it’s common for people to break down in tears.   A child who has become lost doesn’t usually cry while they’re looking for their caregiver, because that’s too dangerous.   They cry the minute they see Mom or Dad’s arms reaching out to them (and very often Mom or Dad cries right along with them!)

Sometimes people cry even when the danger hasn’t passed, when they just feel overwhelmed and have given up trying to fight or escape or trying to solve their problem.   In those cases, crying is a last-ditch effort to solve the problem.   If all else has failed, then crying may bring help or comfort from others.   It’s not necessarily manipulative if everything else has been tried first and nothing has worked.

Sometimes even when the threat is gone or the issue resolved, or the horrible outcome we expected didn’t come to pass, we still cry, because it’s finally safe to do so. The tears shed at those times are really tears of relief because they help release all the emotion that was pent up while we were in danger.  When thought of this way, it makes no sense to tell someone not to cry, because it doesn’t mean they’re upset, it means they’re relieved and finally feel safe enough to release all that bottled-up stress through tears.

And then there are those times when you just need to have a good cry, and you don’t even know why. After a few minutes or hours of sobbing, pouring out snot and tears, you come away feeling like a million dollars. So if you want to cry, go ahead and let it out. It’s good for your body, mind and soul.

Always waiting for the other shoe to drop…

afraid-to-be-happy

I think I made a kind of breakthrough in my therapy session tonight. For years one of my problems has been this overwhelming fear that something bad will happen to one of my kids. (I don’t like to even say the D word because I irrationally believe if I say it, I’ll somehow make it happen, by putting it out into the universe or something).

Of course all parents worry about their adult kids, especially when they know they’re out there somewhere in cars, which we all know are dangerous hunks of metal capable of the most ghastly and gory deaths you can imagine and operated by countless idiots and drunks on the road who can’t drive. I think my apprehension about something bad happening to my adult children edges into OCD-type territory though, because of how overpowering and pervasive these thoughts are, intruding where and when they are not welcome, even though I know that in all likelihood, something bad will NOT happen and even if it does, worrying about it excessively is like living through it twice. I think about my hypothetical reaction to such an event and wonder how I would retain my sanity, if not my will to live. I always marvel at people who have lost a child in a sudden manner like a car accident (a long illness is more bearable because you have time to prepare for it and process it) and wonder how they can still go on with their day to day activities–going shopping, paying bills, working at a job, watching a movie, hell, even having FUN sometimes. I know that wouldn’t be me and I obsess over how I might react.

I’ve been so haunted by the remote possibility of getting THAT life-changing phone call late some night (you know the one), that it’s even been a recurrent theme in my writings. I had a dream over a year ago about losing my son, and wrote a post about it, called Losing Ethan.

fine_line

Anyway, I decided to bring up this problem because it doesn’t exactly make my life happier and it annoys the hell out of my kids. The first thing my therapist did was tell me to stop BEING those feelings, but just OWN them. In other words, he’d noticed that when I talk about bad feelings that make me ashamed or anxious, I always use the term “I am….” Instead he told me to practice saying, “I feel…” or “I have…” In this way, you create a bit of a distance between yourself and the bad feeling. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel it, but with a little distance, the emotion can be explored, almost from the viewpoint of a third person. Ironically, what happens is you feel the emotion MORE (I can’t really explain why that works but it does).

His advice was brilliant, because a few minutes later, I made a connection. In 1998, with my then-husband in jail, I was forced to learn to drive his stickshift truck. I had to teach myself and never learned to park the truck properly. So after picking up my kids from their after school program and pulling into our driveway, I set it to Neutral and the truck began to roll downhill–containing both my kids, then ages 5 and 7, straight toward a TREE. The events that played out next are described in this post, called The Tree.

The important thing is, I’d connected this traumatic event in August of 1998 to my current obsessive thoughts about tragedy striking and generally always feeling like I’m about to receive some devastating news–and I knew immediately that these unpleasant thoughts are based on guilt and shame. I started to tell my therapist that I always felt guilty that the truck had rolled and that I *could* have killed them. For about 10 years I couldn’t even talk about it, because any time I did, I’d start feeling very dissociated and anxious. My ex knew how to press all my buttons, and knew this was my biggest one. If he wanted to upset me all he had to do was remind me what a rotten mother I was to almost kill my kids that night because he knows I’m still struggling with guilt over my failure to protect them, my failure to be smart enough to know how to park a stickshift.

I’m always very mindful of my body language, voice and gestures when I’m in session, probably as much as my therapist is. These things can tell you a LOT about yourself, not just about others. And I realized as I was making these connections that my body relaxed and I leaned back but my voice became softer and sadder. I was opening up to him in a way I hadn’t before. He just listened, with what appeared to be a great deal of empathy.

somedays

And at some point I felt tears come to my eyes. My eyes just barely glistening, tears not overflowing, but there, making the backs of my eyelids feel warm. I looked off to my left like I always do when I get deep into stuff, and kept on talking. I felt myself opening up and feeling some kind of generic emotion that wasn’t sadness and wasn’t guilt and wasn’t gratitude or joy but was none of these things and yet all of these things. I wanted to share all this with him. I heard myself speak and my voice became thick and my eyes burned again.

There was more, much more, but I’ll end this here because I’m getting emotional writing this. The important thing is, I almost shed tears in front of my therapist tonight. That might not seem like such a big a deal, but for me it was a huge deal because I haven’t been able to cry in front of another human being in about 15 years–which I realized is when THAT happened. (It might have been longer than that though–my memories of the time I was in my horrible marriage are gray, shadowy and even have yawning gaps in places).

What happened tonight is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg–I was seriously fucked up for a very, very, VERY long time, at least since age 4 or 5–but it’s significant because it means the wall in my head that prevents me from really being able to connect to my emotions is developing a few weak spots.

A Guide to Crying in Public.

goodplacetocryCredit: cryinginpublic.com — part of a series of art installations in Hong Kong, 2013 

Funny and useful if you’re the type who cries easily in public places.
I actually wish I had this problem. I have to work hard at it to even cry in private. But if I did have this problem (or if I ever do again), I’d be referring to this list.
I especially enjoyed the reference to losing your sh*t because your husband is a manipulative narcissist. :mrgreen:

A Guide to Crying in Public
By Cassie Murdoch for The Hairpin

Unless you’re one of those lucky people who lives in the middle of nowhere and never has to leave your house, chances are at some point you’ve had a mini-breakdown in a public place. It happens to us all! Normally it’s not anything earth-shattering that brings it on — perhaps you’ve had a particularly crappy day at work, or maybe you’re feeling extra tired because you had one too many glasses of free wine at that happy hour thing last night and then stayed up until four in the morning worrying that you’re going to spend the rest of your life alone? But sometimes it is actually a more serious/horrible thing, like your boyfriend tells you he’s been cheating on you in the cereal aisle of a grocery store or the doctor calls you at the office and tells you to come in for some scary test.

No matter what puts you in a fragile state, once you’re there it doesn’t take much to push you over the edge. One micromanage-y email from your boss or a funny look from a stranger on the street or the wrong song popping up on your iPod and the camel’s back is broken. It doesn’t matter that you’re standing in full view of 200 other commuters, your tears (or full-on wracking sobs) cannot be stopped. It feels terrible, but there’s no shame in it! You just have to ride it out and do what you can to minimize the damage.

First things first: When you find yourself on the brink of one of these emotional tornados, the best thing to do is the same thing you should do during an actual tornado: seek shelter. Never be shy about bolting from any kind of social situation if you feel tears welling up. Lie and say you’ve got an urgent phone call you have to take. Or, if you’re in some kind of professional meeting, excuse yourself by saying you don’t feel so well. I generally think it’s better for coworkers/clients to think you’ve got a stomach bug than to start guessing about what personal drama is making you cry. Wherever you are, don’t worry about what people will think, just make something up and get out of there.

Read the rest of this article here.

“Why I Am Teaching My Son That Tears Take Courage”

Here’s a wonderful article from The Good Men Project about a mother who is encouraging her young son to express his emotions instead of stuffing them. If only more parents encouraged this sort of thing, we’d live in a world with more empathy and less narcissism.

Why I Am Teaching My Son That Tears Take Courage
By Colette Sartor, for The Good Men Project

sartor_article

My son didn’t cry on his first day of preschool; he cried on his thirtieth. The school was a tiny, progressive place that took a surprisingly stern approach to drop offs: Say goodbye and leave. No looking back or lingering. This was fine by me. I hate to cry in public, and I knew I might, which would scare my three year old and make him cry.

So, that first day, I watched him cautiously pile blocks for a few minutes, then I told him I’d pick him up later, kissed him, and left for work. He barely glanced up. He was absorbed in the newness of everything: new kids, new toys, new sights and sounds and smells.

Every day that month, I repeated the routine. I’d briefly watch him play, kiss his cheek, and leave. Every day, I breathed easier. “He loves his new school,” I told people. How well adjusted he is! How happy! Yay him! Yay me! I thought. Then, on the thirtieth day, he raced to me with outstretched arms. “Mommy, stay!” he sobbed. I gathered him up, buried my face in the talc of his hair. “I’ll be back, honey, don’t worry,” I whispered before his teacher gestured to hand him over. He cried and reached for me, struggling to extricate himself from the teacher’s grasp. “Just go,” she mouthed over his head. I nodded and walked out, my own tears streaming as he sobbed behind me.

♦◊♦
When I was growing up, our family motto was, “If you want to play with the big dogs, don’t piss like a puppy.” Which meant no crying.
♦◊♦

My son cries easily. He gets it from me. I cry over life insurance commercials, sappy movies, real and imagined slights. I usually hide my tears, even from him. When I was growing up, our family motto was, “If you want to play with the big dogs, don’t piss like a puppy.” Girls were puppies by default. They showed the world when they hurt. They cried. To play with the big dogs, girls had to be tough. Which meant no crying. So I learned not to cry. At least, not in public. Still, I try not to discourage my son from crying. I love his sensitivity. I love that he cries when a friend is hurting, that he cries when he feels he’s being treated unjustly, that he cries at all.

See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/why-i-am-teaching-my-son-that-tears-take-courage-jnky/#sthash.FTqEhBGI.dpuf

Crybaby.

kid_crying

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE MAY BE TRIGGERING.
I spent the first 13 years of my life almost constantly crying. I was a perpetually squalling cranky baby, a screaming tantrum-throwing toddler, a tearful preschooler, and a school child prone to attacks of uncontrolled crying in public places and embarrassing situations. During my teen years, my crying was downgraded to near-constant sulking and negativity. Tears came mostly when I was angry or frustrated by the time puberty hit. Rage frequently accompanied the tears, or maybe it worked the other way around.

I had the curse of the blonde and fair skinned, so my emotions showed on my face in neon reds and pinks against the white background of my skin. I blushed easily and that was embarrassing enough. I could feel the blood rising up my neck like a sudden wave of heat and my ears would start to burn. My bullies picked on my tendency to blush and would deliberately embarrass or humiliate me to see my ghostly pale face turn as red as a fire engine. If it went on long enough, my lips would start to quiver and there would be tears, and that’s what they were really waiting for–to see me cry.

The crying was awful. I wasn’t a pretty crier; in fact I was ugly when I cried. My skin would turn into a mottled red and pink that looked like a bad case of rosacea, my nose ran like a faucet and turned so red it was nearly purple, and my eyelids turned bright red too and swelled up as if they were bee-stung. It would take hours for these facial giveaways of my pathetic vulnerability to finally disappear.

I had a great deal of difficulty controlling all the intense and confusing emotions that seemed to crash over me like tidal waves when I least expected it. These feelings were just too big for me to handle, and I was so easily overwhelmed by them and had trouble soothing myself (this is an early indicator of BPD and other disorders like PTSD). Whenever I cried I thought I would never stop. No one could calm me down. My emotions were a force of nature too powerful to be tamed. When I wasn’t crying, I felt a constant dull ache in my chest (heart area) and congestion in my throat. Even that early, I knew crying would relieve the tightness and pain, but the crying was like vomiting and sometimes as painful because the intense waves of emotion plowed through me like an out of control bulldozer.

Raised by a narcissistic mother and enabling (possibly low spectrum or covert narcissist) dad, I became the the family scapegoat (made even more crazymaking by the fact that as an “only” in their marriage, I also sometimes served as Golden Child). I was either held on a pedestal that far exceeded my actual abilities/beauty/intelligence/whatever, but most of the time I WAS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM. I questioned myself and everything I did; it seemed I could do nothing right. I wasn’t allowed to do things for myself or speak my mind. I felt awkward and defective in my family and everywhere else too.

Not long after I started elementary school the bullying started. I was the class crybaby and kids always target the kid who cries the most or seems the most vulnerable. I had no defenses at all; I had never been taught any and lacked the confidence to stand up for myself. Things got especially bad in 3rd – 5th grades. During 4th grade, I was followed home every day by a group of kids who laughed and jeered at the way I walked and imitated my walk, as my tears welled and threatened to overflow (no wonder I hate mimes). The bullies would call out to me and sometimes even throw things to get my attention, but I wouldn’t turn around. I just kept on walking. I knew I couldn’t let them see the tears streaming down my face because that would make everything so much worse.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Morse, was a psychopath with arms like Jello who always wore sleeveless dresses, so whenever she wrote on the board, all that quivering, pale freckled flab hanging from her bare arm made me want to throw up, but I still couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was mesmerizing in a horrible way, like a car accident.

Mrs. Morse knew how sensitive and scared of everything I was. She knew I was bullied by most of the other kids. But she had no empathy for my plight. She was a sadistic bitch straight from the pit of hell. She deliberately called on me whenever I was daydreaming, which was often (no kids got diagnosed with Aspergers back in those days and the idea of “attachment disorders” that lead to later personality disorders was an afterthought in those days), then she would make me stand in the front of the room and answer a question or solve a math problem while she glowered at me like wolf about to pounce and kill their prey. She never did this to the other kids, who were allowed to answer questions from their seat. She deliberately tried to humiliate me, because she knew she would get a reaction.

meanteacher

One time I couldn’t solve the math problem on the board (which was my worst subject), and she berated and belittled me in front of the class.
“You never pay attention. You’re always daydreaming. Do you have a mental problem?”
The class laughed.
My tongue was in knots and I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt tears burning the backs of my eyelids like acid.
I swallowed hard and tried with all my might not to let a tear loose but they started to flow anyway. I hung my head in shame and rubbed away the tears with my grubby fists as I turned away toward the wall. My narrow back and bony shoulders heaved with silent sobs.
That was exactly the moment this sadistic malignant narcissist who passed for a teacher was waiting for.
“Look everyone! Lauren is crying! Look at the tears! Cry, cry, cry, baby.”
The class burst into screams and hoots of laughter.
“Cry, baby, cry!”
I stood there in front of the class, staring at the floor, snot mingling with my tears, and longed to melt into those scuffed green-gray linoleum tiles, and never return.
In today’s anti-bullying environment, this “teacher” would have been fired for that shit. She might have even lost her teaching license. That kind of thing isn’t put up with anymore.

white_rabbit

Later that year, there was a similar blackboard incident. This time, I was stood in front of the room and told I looked like an albino rabbit when I cried. (I actually did, due to my fairness and my slight overbite.) I was mortified as this unbelievable cruel bitch encouraged the entire class to laugh at my pain and humiliation. I ran out of the room and fled to the library sobbing. The librarian was a sweet and very young woman (probably just out of college) who actually liked me and knew about my love for books. That library was my refuse and the librarian was my friend who understood me. This time, she saw me rushing in like that and held her arms out to me as I crashed into her and sobbed into her warm fragrant neck. We stayed like that for a long time, until Mrs. Morse (accompanied by one of her 9 year old flunkies) came marching in looking for me. Mrs. Morse grabbed me roughly by the arm and marched me back to the pits of hell she called a classroom. Sadly, I looked back at my librarian angel and saw the wetness on her face and her sad little wave.
She knew, and I knew she knew. I’ve never forgotten her. Sometimes in my fantasies I still see her waving at me with that sad tearful smile, and that image gives me comfort and strength.

I think my years of uncontrollable emotional displays came to an end when I was 15. They had already been abating somewhat, replaced with rage and anger, but I had trouble controlling my anger and constant dark moods, even though I wasn’t crying as much. I started to drink and do self-destructive things. I started “talking tough” but inside I still felt anything but.

The year before, when I was 14, my parents divorced and I was taken to live with my mother in the city. She loved it; I hated it back then. We fought all the time, mostly because of her self involvement. My grades slipped and I never did my homework. I was depressed all the time and cared about nothing. When I cried (which was still often) I usually did it alone. The other kids at school didn’t like me. I was never invited to parties, always last picked for softball. I felt intimidated and shy all the time, but I still tried hard to make friends–a little too hard. I fit into no clique (I have never fit into any clique) but there was a group of girls low in the high school pecking order consisting of the geeks and quiet, studious girls. They seemed welcoming enough at first. I saw their small (or more likely, polite) displays of acceptance and wanted so badly to believe they actually LIKED me that I guess I started following them around like a needy puppy.

charlie_brown_linus

I noticed after awhile they avoided me too, and my “birthday corsage” box was proof of my unpopularity, because it was not signed by all the girls and when it was signed, it was just a name. No long flowery messages, no in-jokes, no high-school risque comments, no “you are such a great friend” or “Love ya, Lauren. XXXXOOOOOO” Just…signatures and an occasional terse “Happy Birthday.”

My fears were confirmed later that day. After weeks of avoiding me, the group of nerdy girls approached me and told me they wanted to take me out to a restaurant for my birthday after school. Wanting so much for them to like me I remember grinning like a fool and nodding like the needy puppy I was. Inside I was a little suspicious, but dammit, I wanted to believe them! Maybe their ignoring me had just been my overactive, “oversensitive” imagination after all, and they really did care. Why else would they want to spend time with me on my birthday?

At the restaurant I was picking up a certain tension. The girls kept looking at each other worriedly and wouldn’t look me in the eye. As I ate, I watched their anxious faces. Something was up, and it wasn’t good. I felt like I was going to throw up. I spoke to no one.

Finally, Harriet, the leader of that clique told me she needed to talk to me–privately. I felt like I was on my way to the principal’s office for some transgression. My heart pounded in my throat and I felt tears burn the backs of my eyelids, but I didn’t cry. I bit my lip until it bled and tried to just breathe through my terror.

Outside, she smiled at me sympathetically. Then went on to tell me the real reason they had planned to take me to lunch was because they didn’t want me to hang around with them anymore and didn’t have the opportunity to tell me at school. She actually got tears in her eyes when she said this, and then told me she hoped my feelings hadn’t been hurt. Um…hello? But all I could do was stand there staring at her as if I was cognitively challenged. For the first time ever, I felt emotionally numb. I didn’t realize at the time that would soon become my new way of coping with my pain.

nobody_loves_you

I was traumatized by that rejection. I spent the next two days in bed. I felt sick and couldn’t go to school. I told no one what happened because the shame was too great. I didn’t cry; I couldn’t anymore. I just wanted to sleep forever and maybe die.

After that I couldn’t cry anymore. At least not in most situations that call for it. I had and still have trouble accessing my emotions. It was too scary to let them out, because when I did, bad things happened. It scares me to realize I might have easily become a narcissist, splitting off from all soft emotions, even empathy and guilt. Many narcissists started life this way too, without natural defenses.

I know now whenever I feel that painful tightness in my chest and throat, that means I need to cry. I’m not afraid of it anymore. I want to retrieve my long-ago ability to feel intensely connected to my emotions, because used properly, being an HSP is a gift and a blessing. The big difference will be that I’ll be able to let emotions pass through me freely and be able to express them without shame and without allowing them to overwhelm me or control me.

Why men don’t cry anymore.

football-crying
Men are allowed to cry openly when their team wins, and that’s about it.

There’s a lot of information out there about how crying is good for you, but this article from The Daily Mail (UK) is interesting because it describes how crying has evolved over time. For example, prior to the two world wars, crying was done openly and often, even by men. Now it’s limited to the football stands or funeral parlor for men, and even women retreat to the “powder room” if they need to cry, especially in work/professional settings.

This is a really good article.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1361214/Dont-fear-tears-Embarrassed-good-howl-Dont–crying-good-you.html

ETA: Right after I posted that, I found this other article from the website, The Art of Manliness, which goes into even more detail about male tears. I never knew any of this!

http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/06/19/when-is-it-okay-for-a-man-to-cry/

Oh, and…I guess I lied. It’s my second post tonight. That’s all. Goodnight.

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Tears of beauty.

Most people associate crying and tears with sadness or grief. Yes, it’s true that you see tears when people are upset, grieving or sad, but it’s not really due to the sadness itself. Crying has nothing to do with the negativity or positivity of an emotion; instead they indicate the strength of an emotion. Crying occurs whenever a person is overwhelmed by any powerful emotion, be it sadness or elation. In western society, tears are seen as shameful and “weak.” Why is that?

Most pregnant women report they become more emotional during pregnancy and shed tears at the drop of a hat. This hyper-emotionality continues during lactation, when a new mother is bonding with her infant. I believe the marination of a pregnant or lactating woman’s brain in a bath of female hormones accounts for this, and is nature’s way of ensuring a strong mother-child bond. It happened to me when I was pregnant and after giving birth, and I’m not much of a cryer under normal circumstances.

I’ve mentioned my friend Shannon before, who is one of the most mentally healthy people I’ve ever met. She is also one of the most loving and joyful. But she cries all the time, because she has a huge heart and feels everything from empathy to joy so deeply. Shannon is as strong a person as I’ve ever seen, not a weak bone in her body. (She also laughs a lot).

I think tears are regarded as weak because we instinctively know they lead to and indicate strong heart connections between human beings, and emotional connectedness with others and our need for communion with other people is becoming increasingly thought of as a weakness, even for women.

Here are some photos and gifs I found on Google that show how beautiful genuine emotional tears (not the narcissistic, manipulative kind!) can be.

tears_1

baby_tears1

tears_2

crying_girl

crying_anime

manly_tears
Manly tears.


More manly tears.

crybaby_depp
Johnny Depp in “Crybaby”

crybaby_depp2
From the movie “Crybaby” starring Johnny Depp.

black_boycrying

muslim-girl-crying

tears_laughter

And of course, there is this famous video: