Do narcissists ever cry? (article from The Narcissistic Life)

I believe I wrote an article a while back with the same title (my conclusion — yes, they do)  but this article is better and I like the way it doesn’t stigmatize narcissistic tears or the reasons why they cry as always insincere (it’s not always crocodile tears meant to get supply).   Sometimes they just cry because they hurt.

My  own article about this, written when I was still  enraged at my own narcissists, took a much more negative and cynical view of the reasons why narcissists may cry.

Do Narcissists Ever Cry?

By Alexander Burgemeester, for The Narcissistic Life.

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Whilst narcissism is often characterised by bombast and a seemingly unwavering self-belief, there are times when even a narcissist may cry. Do Narcissists cry? It seems impossible but it is true. So how can someone who is so tied up with their own success, self-image and the presentation of themselves in their everyday lives suffer the kind of emotion or tearful outburst that is more characteristic of us other mere mortals?

Read the rest of this post here.

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Breaking through and the emotional power of music.

This is what’s going on with me now.

The Crying Game – Part One

I found this post both beautiful and heartbreaking. This blog’s author has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and really struggles to feel any kind of genuine emotion…

Knowing the Narcissist : HG Tudor

Tears. One might consider them the ultimate embodiment of emotion. Tears appear when you have experienced some kind of extreme emotion. I know because I have watched on so many occasions as I have sought to understand the circumstances in which somebody cries and why it is that they do so. I understand that when tears appear, whether it is a welling-up in the eyes, the single full teardrop which slides down a cheek or the cascading waterfall which leaves the eyes red-rimmed and blurry, it is as a consequence of you experiencing emotion in a huge dosage. What I had to learn was which emotions were associated with the emission of water from the eyes. The first emotion that presented itself for my understanding as to how it caused tears was pain. I remembered as a child that my younger brother was somewhat accident prone. If there was tree…

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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.

Another brick in the wall…nuked!

crumbling-wall

How do I even begin? What happened tonight in my therapy session was a little thing, objectively speaking, really a very little thing. But to me it was a huge, HUGE deal, maybe even a breakthrough of some sort.

I refuse to write a separate post about this, but when I got home from work, my mother called. She had gotten my phone number through my son and I took the call because it was coming from a New York phone and my mother lives in Illinois so I had no idea who it was. Normally I don’t take phone calls if I can’t tell who’s calling but for some reason I took it this time. When I heard her voice, it was like being transported back to being a five year old again. All my mindfulness skills and everything I know about narcissism and No Contact went flying out the window.  I won’t go into detail because nothing of any consequence was said. She told me she just wanted to hear my voice and proceeded to ask a bunch of personal questions. I felt like she was checking up on me for her own benefit, which is probably the case. I put on my fake-nice act and answered her questions as politely as I could, telling her nothing too personal, and finally made an excuse about having a sore throat (which is actually true because I’m still sick) and had to get off the phone.

I brought up the phone call in therapy. I asked my therapist (rhetorically) why I can’t just tell her to bug off. Rationally I know nothing would happen if I did that. I know she’s read my blog so surely she knows how I feel about her. Sure, she might get mad, but really why should I care? What could she do to me? Nothing! He suggested (correctly) that I was programmed from an early age to always respond to her in a certain manner, and that programming is hard to break, and that’s what’s making it so hard for me. I started laughing about the idea of myself being a computer that could be programmed. I looked at him and told him to debug me. He laughed at that, but really it wasn’t funny. I felt a little hysterical.

I’m always a little more emotionally labile when I’m ill, and so this illness he gave me last week acted as a kind of emotional lubricant–or maybe I was just ready and what I’m about to describe was going to happen anyway.

I said I was tired of talking about my mother and I wanted to talk about my transference feelings instead. It’s what I’d been planning to talk about but my mother, even in my therapy sessions, always has a way of drawing all the attention to herself and I wasn’t going to let that happen tonight.   Recently we have been meeting twice a week instead of once a week, but I won’t be able to afford to do that for too much longer, or at least for the next few weeks. I explained hard it is for me to only be able to meet him once a week because of my strong feelings of attachment. He wanted me to elaborate on this and describe how it felt. I had to think about that for awhile. The closest I could come was that it’s a little bit like limerence but without the sexual and obsessive aspects and has a more infantile quality. (There’s also a kind of mindfulness to it that’s impossible to explain but that keeps it from getting out of control.) It’s the way I imagine a baby feels about their primary caregiver. That I’m this little baby and he’s the only person who ever mirrored me or accepted me unconditionally for me. Because of that I feel extra vulnerable with him, too close to my raw core and fearing rejection while at the same time being able to let my guard down in a way I normally can’t. When I was asked to elaborate on the vulnerable feelings I had to think about it for a long time.

Finally I began to explain (in what I felt was a very childlike manner) and to my surprise I started to cry. I’ve come close to crying a couple of times recently, but this time my eyes actually filled up and a couple of tears spilled over (which I wiped away quickly). Sure, I didn’t sob and there weren’t many tears and it all ended quickly, but it happened. For just a minute, I shed real tears in front of another human being! Even more astounding to me than that, I felt no shame doing so. In fact, I was very proud of myself and even while I cried, I knew exactly what was happening and felt really, really good about it. So my tears turned to laughter and he laughed along with me. It was a real, bona fide emotional connection. How can that be? I don’t have those! I don’t connect with people! This was surreal.

“How did you do that?” I asked, sort of gobsmacked.
“I did nothing,” he said. “You did that yourself.” He was smiling.
“Then I guess you’re just the facilitator!”
“Well, I do have a degree!” he said jokingly.
We laughed again. Then the tears almost started again.
“You’re getting emotional,” he observed. “What’s going on?”
“I DON’T KNOW!” I wailed like a three year old. And I didn’t. I didn’t know why I was so emotional, but I felt happy that I was. “I just feel fragile, that’s all.” My lower lip was trembling like a toddler’s.
“I want you to know I think you’re very strong.” His eyes were shining.

So, another brick in that f*cking wall crumbled tonight.
I put my shoes back on (lately I’ve been taking them off and putting my feet on the couch–it seems to help somehow).
As I was leaving, he said our session moved him. I wanted to hug him so much right then but of course I didn’t.

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.

A very unpleasant dream.

dontleaveme

I need to write this down where I’ll remember this later.

I just woke up from a dream. I must remember this one so I can tell my therapist. Right now I’m still rising up from the fog of sleep and my memory of the dream is still fresh but will fade away soon so I can’t delay in writing it.

I am waiting to see my therapist. But my therapist isn’t my therapist. He is my old therapist (the one I had when I was 22, the one who I fell madly in love with and had to leave because my emotions were too painful). But he is still my current therapist. (I know, but it made sense in the dream.)

Someone is talking to me and I’m crying. It’s not a bad cry or a painful cry. I think I’m crying in empathy. I don’t know what I’ve been told or what emotion I’m feeling, but my head is thrown back and tears are streaming from the sides of my eyes and down into my hair. My lashes stick together. I’m wearing non waterproof mascara; I’m vaguely aware the black tear tracks will be visible to my therapist even after they’ve dried. I leave them there, almost proudly, intending for him to see. We’ve been working on getting me to cry in session. I need for him to see the evidence of my tears.

His office is in some kind of art complex. Outside, patrons are walking around looking at and purchasing art. My handsome therapist comes out, as he always does in real life, to ask me kindly to give him another five minutes. But this time, his face worries me. He looks worried or concerned. He tells me there is something he needs to tell me. I feel the blood drain from my face and my heart curls up into a tight ball as if to protect itself from whatever’s coming.

“It might disturb you, but don’t worry,” he says. And then he walks away.

Of course I worry. In fact, I panic. I go back out into the art complex and walk around, pretending to look at the art. There seems to be a party going on. People are dressing in costumes. I think about what my therapist has to tell me. Is he sick? Going to dump me? Leaving town? Is he going to die? Dread and my old friend, Fear of Abandonment, holds me fast. I can’t escape. My breathing quickens and becomes shallow. My tears have dried and I can’t make anymore even as I will them to come.

Soon I see my therapist laughing with a woman, a beautiful woman. I wonder if that’s his wife.
My therapist turns, approaches me. I freeze in place, almost drop the raku vase I’m holding.
I start to cry when our eyes meet.
But pride takes over.
“You’re an asshole,” I say, rubbing my eyes with my fists like a spoiled child. I no longer want him to see me cry. I don’t want him to have the satisfaction.

He looks angry.
“I’m not going to see you when you talk to me that way,” he says. I look at him dumbly, stunned into silence.
“But what about–?”
“I’ll see you next time,” he says, and turns on his heel and walks away.

He might as well have just stabbed me in the stomach. I feel as if I could collapse onto the floor. I want to disappear. The shame and anger is overwhelming. And I have to wait to find out whatever horrible news he has to tell me. I think he’s trying to torture me.

I’m still in the art complex and people are walking around as if the world didn’t just end. All the therapists in the office are milling around too, drinking out of cocktail glasses with ridiculous little plastic umbrellas and other doodads sticking out of them. Someone has set up a cash bar at the far end. My therapist is over there, laughing with the other therapists. I feel like I don’t exist.

One of the therapists gets up on a podium and says we are having an animal costume contest. We will be dancing to “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in our animal suits. I don’t want to be there, but I feel obligated to participate. A huge box is pulled out from somewhere and everyone rushes over and starts pulling out costumes. All I can find is a chicken head and a silly cowprint suit. Somehow it seems familiar to me, as if someone in my past had worn this same costume before. I put it on and feel like I can be invisible in it. I just want to die.

I woke up and was overcome with relief when I realized it was only a dream and knew I had to post it right away. I haven’t worked out what it all means yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m skirting around the edges of the yawning black hole at my center, where my abandonment and early attachment issues live. I’m about to dive in there, I guess. It’s interesting that even though I trust my therapist more than anyone I’ve ever known, and he has given me NO reason to think he would ever abandon me, this fear I have of him abandoning me seems to be a recurring theme in our sessions. Obviously my transference toward him has been successful and I’m replaying some kind of abandonment/rejection trauma I experienced when I was a child.

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.