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On therapeutic crying

Updated: Apr 10

We grew up being told that we should not cry. Don't cry. Stop crying. Crying is for sissies. Boys don't cry. Especially boys were not supposed to cry at all. Even today, when you see a child crying, what do you do? Instinctively you tell her or him not to. Yet we have probably all made the experience of crying until we could not any more - and of the wonderful relief and calm that followed, the pain dissolved and gone. Once we have "cried our eyes out" over something, the emotions over the same issue will not return back with the same intensity again, meaning that that particular inner wound is healed.

By suppressing our tears, by not being able to cry, how many negative emotions were we made to stash away in our childhood? Where did all that suppressed negative energy go? We have probably carried it on with us into adulthood. In some way or other, it is preventing us from leading fully happy, carefree lives. How sad that we were taught that our tears were not wanted. How wrong.

I am convinced that Mother Nature has given us a powerful all-rounder healing medicine - our emotional tears. Emotional tears contain water, electrolytes, antibodies, oils, carbohydrates, many different metabolites and hormones, including a body's own painkiller. These tears are released by the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. That might explain why one can lose the ability to cry, even for very long periods in life. We can only cry if we get out of the sympathetic state, known as the fight-flight-freeze-dissociate mode, which is activated during stress, and into the parasympathetic state, characterised as the rest-and-digest mode, which is active when we are relaxed and peaceful.

Crying is the natural way of releasing and healing sadness and pain in our system. Tears are there to soothe the pain, to cool the burn, to wash away the hurts, to flush out negative emotions. And I believe that tears were given to us to help heal inherited trauma too.

Trauma is written into our cells in the form of reversible, epigenetic modifications, such as additions of simple chemical groups onto the DNA double helix backbone, which do not alter the genetic code, only its expression. It has been shown e.g. that fathers who had been to war pass on their trauma to their children in this way. I believe that we can heal trauma by crying ourselves out of it. (Not forgetting to drink plenty of fresh water while doing so.) I even suspect that something in the biochemical reactions underlying crying can lead to the splitting of the chemical bonds which attach the epigenetic "trauma junk" to the DNA. This would mean that crying would in fact "wash our DNA clean".

I have spoken to survivors of extreme suffering, such as the holocaust or Communist slave labour camps, and to their children. I learned that as a rule, survivors did not cry about what happened to them. Not after they returned, not until they left this world. The traumatised part of them froze away and remained so for the rest of their lives. Some have written books or created works of art about what they went through, outsourcing their grief to others, making their readers and spectators cry instead of them. While crying, the readers and spectators would be healing their own resonating wounds. And so in this way, the survivors would help to heal society, even if for them, sadly, healing may not have been possible.

The therapeutic power of tears has been known since ancient Egypt, probably even earlier. Mourning the dead was considered very important, so that the living could come to terms with the loss and move on in this life. The ancient world employed professional mourners and wailers to help the public weep at funerals. Some Mediterranean, Near Eastern and Asian cultures have professional mourners until this day. Professional mourners, usually women, existed well into the Baroque times in the Western world too.

I believe that we can heal from the hurts we experienced in childhood, and from the trauma that our ancestors passed onto us, by hitting the proper resonating chord in our inside and by letting the tears flow in a safe, empathetic, compassionate environment. It is called therapeutic crying. How exactly this is done remains a very personal and individual issue. However, there are ways to locate and carefully approach the painful places. I will be happy to share with you what I have learned on my journey. Ask for my mentoring.


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