I'm both surprised and saddened when a client starts to cry and then says, "I'm sorry." As crying is as much a part of life as the creek running through my backyard, it takes me a half a second to catch up to the concept of apologizing for tears. Do we apologize for laughing? Do we apologize for feeling excited? Where, oh where, did we learn to apologize for crying?
Well, it's not a difficult question to answer. The vast majority of my clients—and the human population—grew up with the very clear message that crying wasn't welcome or even tolerable. "Get over it" was the message that most kids were—and still are—raised with.
Because if you're a parent who hasn't embraced your own pain, who still views pain through the lens of shame that you absorbed when you were a child, you can't possibly create an environment in which your child feels safe to cry. So the message of shame is passed down through the generations until someone's anxiety becomes so intolerable that they must break open and find compassion for their pain.
Among the many gifts of anxiety, learning to embrace your pain is among the most potent and far-reaching in terms of the effects it has on one's well-being, relationships, and current or future children. For it's the stored pain that often underlies the pervasive anxiety and intrusive thoughts that torture millions of people in our culture. When you can access the pain and allow it to bring you into your heart and body, the mind-chatter naturally quiets and eventually falls away completely.
But in order to access the pain you first need to examine the messages that have been downloaded about crying and then ask yourself if you believe that those messages are true. Do you believe that "crying is weak"? Or do you believe that, perhaps, there's a profound strength in allowing yourself to be touched enough by life that it opens you to tears? Do you believe that you'll cry to hard that you'll never stop? Or do you trust that crying, like all forms of grief, has its own timetable, and that once you've emptied the well you'll be able to get up and go about your day?
The well may fill up again the next day, or even the next hour, but you will not fall into a depression because you've let yourself feel your pain. In fact, it's when you squash your pain that it either silences into depression or wiggles out through anxiety. The beliefs you carry about pain are old, false, and need to be discarded before you can allow yourself to open to what's living in your heart.
There's such richness and beauty in crying. When a client feels safe enough to open those floodgates and allows me to witness the most vulnerable place in her heart, I feel honored. There are no words in that place. I sit and breathe and allow and hold the space for the tears to move through at their own pace. It's sacred space. It's real space. It's some of the most fulfilling and interesting work that I do as it's energy that arises directly from the center of a person's soul. The mind chatter is gone. The quest to explain this or that falls away. It's raw, honest, and alive.
Never, ever apologize for your tears. Do you work so that you can blast through the veil of shame that tells you that crying is weak or bad in any way. Your pain is your strength. When you apologize, you dam up the current that's trying pass through. Let those waters flow. Allow someone to be witness to your pain. It's how we heal, and it how we find our way to wholeness.