Free to laugh and free to cry February 1, 2018 – Posted in: Advice, Personal Development – Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Free to laugh and free to cry

If I had a pound for every time someone has apologised to me for crying in a coaching session I would be a very wealthy woman!

“Oh God! Jo, I’m so sorry to cry.”

“Sorry for the tears, Jo.”

“How embarrassing – I’m crying! I’m really sorry, Jo”

“I promised myself I wouldn’t cry and here I am!  Sorry!”

and on and on…

My response to this is the same every time. “Tears are the same as laughter; they are an expression of an emotion.  If you cry in coaching I know we’ve stumbled across something important so your tears are a sign that the coaching is going well.”

This usually evokes more tears – often tears of relief…

What I find astounding is how much shame we feel over our tears.  As a culture, the ‘stiff upper lip’ has been firmly embedded in our collective psyche to the extent that we equate tears with weakness, which is frankly ridiculous!  We are all human and, as such, we tend to laugh when we feel happy (or tickled!) and we tend to cry when we feel sad or overwhelmed.  It’s just how the body expresses what’s going on inside a person at that given moment in time.

I know from experience that some of the bravest people on the planet are those who have allowed themselves to cry, to feel their pain and, in doing so, move past it.  Those who refuse to cry are often those who refuse to heal – it’s the stuff of neuroses, bitterness, and apathy.

So, the next time you feel like crying remind yourself that you are just expressing physically something that is happening to you emotionally.  You might even take this further and reassure yourself that a quick cry now will allow for the emotion to be expressed and therefore prevent it from festering unhealthily inside you.

When I was a young girl we went on our first foreign holiday as a family and I remember a commotion at the hotel pool, which my mum (a nurse) ran towards to offer her help.  It turned out that a man had had a heart attack there and then and died in front of his poor wife.  After the ambulance left I asked my mum why I’d heard manic laughter coming from the bar area in the moments after the man had died.  “Oh, that was his wife,” she said. “She was in desperate shock and sometimes people laugh at death because it’s easier to laugh than to cry. It’s the mind trying to deny what has happened.”

I’ve often wondered about this woman.  Did she feel guilty for laughing? (I definitely remember people tutting and shaking their heads at her).  Did she wish she’d had a more ‘culturally appropriate’ response to her husband’s sudden and very public death?  And, isn’t it odd that we have decided when we think it’s okay for a person to laugh or cry and when it’s not.

This incident has always stuck with me – that we judge people for expressing their emotions and have made up all kinds of rules for when and how people should feel their feelings. It’s nonsense when you think about it…

So, please stop apologising for your tears and for your laughter!  Be real, be authentic and allow others the same privilege.

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