Tips for crying

by TekhneMakre 8 min read22nd Sep 20191 comment


Say that you want to be able to cry, but for some psychological reason, you can't. Crying, like thinking, is a significant psychological function, and deserves your time and full attention. Here are some tips for accessing some of the psychological effects of crying and expanding your range of motion for crying. They're pretty much just what worked for me, so they are me-specific, not-well-tested methods; in particular, I don't know how to cry with other people, so here there aren't any tips about that. Do you have any tips to share? Do you know of cleaner, more elegant, more general, more efficient, more potent ways to enable crying and crying-like functions?

When you notice that some thoughts or feelings you're having might lead to there being a push or pull in you towards crying (i.e. might be lacrygenic), try some of these and see what does or doesn't change. This is the maximal list I could generate, not a minimal list; there's a lot of possible actions on this list, and you might already know about many of them, and many of them are mutually incompatible. Maybe just skim the list, and pick a couple to remember for the next time you encounter a lacrygen. Most of these take longer to describe than to do, and sometimes just one is enough to loosen things up. Don't let this list distract you from facing what's already there in you and what's already true, if that's your aim.

If you expect or worry that something bad might happen if you change your emotional landscape in this way, then listen to that worry. Make sure you have a friend or family member who you have the option to talk with.

1. Environment: Make space and time.

  • Pause what you're doing, and set it aside for later, perhaps for a few moments, minutes, or hours.

  • Prevent interruptions and distractions. E.g. put away your devices with screens for the moment, and go to a place where probably no one will interrupt you.

  • Go to a place where you can be alone, where probably no one will hear you or see you. There might be a part of you that doesn't want anyone to pay attention to you if you're crying.

  • Go to a place where you feel safe, e.g. your bedroom. Crying can include feeling vulnerable, i.e. unusually open to damage.

  • Go to a place where you feel grounded in what's real or what really matters, such as a forest, hilltop, or spacious sanctuary. Spacious environments might put you in a different mode, maybe one that's less agitated and more open to the transitions involved in crying. Mundane environments might be continually stimulating a need in you to appear normal.

  • Go to a place where you can be around other people without having attention drawn to you, such as public transit or a mall.

  • Get something to absorb your tears, like tissues or a towel or a shirt. You might not let yourself cry if you're worried that someone will get mad that you made a mess with your tears, or that someone's attention will be drawn by your tears to the fact that you cried.

  • Get some water to drink. Sometimes you feel better if you drink water after crying.

2. Things to try with your body: Simulate crying, and see what catches on or responds or amplifies in you.

  • Lie down.

  • Let your body (limbs, torso, head) move around and push or pull on the surrounding objects as they want to.

  • Curl up.

  • Close your eyes. Or open your eyes.

  • Cover your face, e.g. with your hands or a shirt, blanket, or pillow.

  • Moan. Perhaps vary the pitch, duration, and volume, and perhaps vary the positions of your lips, jaw, tongue, and throat (producing different sonorants, like vowels or "mmmm" or "nnnn"). Notice if there's something in you that resonates with your moan, or can express itself through your moan. Modulate your moan to more strongly resonate with or express that thing.

  • Sob. That is, breathe as though you were sobbing, even if you aren't shedding tears. For me that's like a series of forceful sighs of relief, with my stomach tensed and moving in and out to push air out of my mouth or nose in short bursts, maybe a few in quick succession, and with my shoulders a bit tensed and forward.

  • Walk.

  • Repeat and amplify physiological alarms until you can access the alarming thing. I'm generalizing from one example here so this is likely to be the wrong idea, but: for a week or two, most nights before falling asleep, I'd startle awake a few times with a slight gasp, as though part of me had been trying to stay awake or remember something, though I wasn't aware of trying to do that. Then one night I sort of opened up to and leaned into the startle, and I startled awake a number of times in quick succession, with a sense of something shifting and building, and then I cried, and then I felt a lot of relief and fell asleep.

  • Physically comfort yourself. For example, rub the center of your chest and your collar bone, or use your left hand to rub your right shoulder and upper arm and lower arm and hand, or vice versa (right hand and left arm-assembly).

  • Just pause right where you are when you sense you might cry, and let happen whatever will happen.

3. Things to try with your mind: Create mental space. Feel into the lacrygen. Notice, accept, and investigate blockers.

3.1. Create mental space.

  • If you have a mental motion for creating internal, mental space and quietness (e.g. from mindfulness meditation, Focusing, Circling, IFS), try doing that. In particular, try holding the intention to be open to letting the lacrygen unfold in you if that's what it will naturally do, and the intention to not push it away or distract yourself from it.

  • Brace yourself to notice blockers. Make a mental loop in the background that checks if there's an active blocker. If you know about some of your blockers are, remind yourself what they are and/or how you can notice them.

  • Promise yourself that you don't have to tell anyone about what happens (if you'll keep the promise of giving yourself the option not to tell anyone). Even if you're alone, there might be a part of you that's worried you'll tell people what happens, or there might be a part of you that will try to orchestrate what happens if it expects other people to find out about what happens.

  • Remind yourself that no one can hear or see you right now (if that's true), or remind yourself that people probably won't pay attention to you or bother you (if that's true). Even if you're alone, there might be a part of you that's still worried about other people paying attention to you.

  • Notice your body. Are there notable sensations, how is it arranged, is there tension?

  • Notice the setting. What can you see and hear, who and what is around you, what's the space like, what's the air like, what's the light like?

3.2. Think about or feel into the lacrygenic mental content (the thoughts, feelings, felt senses, or memories that might lead you to cry or feel sadness, grief, loss, hurt, confusion, overwhelmedness, fear, despair, etc.).

  • If there's a motion you have for getting into contact with your feelings, try that. For example, you can feel into your body, or you can ask yourself questions. For me there is sometimes a sense of "falling back into myself", back into the back of my head and the back of my torso where my feelings are kept. I sometimes ask myself a "wordless question", with the sense of "What's wrong, buddy?", or "What's aching?", or "In what way have I gone astray?".

  • Try putting your primary attention on your breathing, or your field of vision or hearing, and your peripheral attention on the lacrygen. Or vice versa. Or let your attention wander as it will, while holding an intention to not allocate your whole mind to a particular thing; sometimes important mental processes just happen on their own if there's an opportunity.

  • Imagine yourself in the third person, going through what you went through or what you're going through, and living in the world you're living in. You can imagine a different person in your place; you can imagine yourself as though you're a child, or as though you're an adolescent, or as you will be when you're much older; you can imagine that you are your own child to raise up, or that you are your own sibling to support.

  • Read books, especially memoirs.

  • If you know what the lacrygen is about, or if you get glimpses of it, let its details unfold in your awareness. What exactly happened, or what exactly is true? What inferences have you already drawn? Are those inferences right? What further inferences seem right to draw? How has what happened changed you, and how should it?

  • If you want to know more about what the lacrygen is about, ask yourself what it is, and then give yourself time. Look to see if something in you has something it wants you to know.

  • What's been hovering near the edge of your awareness? What've you been gradually learning?

  • What is it that went wrong or is going wrong for you? How have you been hurt or are being hurt? What do you need that you aren't getting? What do you wish weren't so?

  • Ask yourself what you're distracting yourself from. What are the thoughts you can't think? What are you hiding from others or from yourself? What simply cannot or must not be the case?

  • Are there any blunt force updates you've made in the past? Can you more fully process the information the update was about? Something might be released by doing that.

3.3. Blockers: processes in you that block you from crying. Most or all blockers are not to be ignored, suppressed, shouted at, shamed, dissociated-from, or even coped-with or routed-around; but rather fully felt and thought through, with a strong prior that they are there for a probably-beneficial reason.

  • Be on the lookout for blockers; notice if you repeatedly turn away from, suppress, push away, or back off from a lacrygen. Allow the blockers to be there in you, and allow yourself to have a perspective outside of the blockers. Attend to what different blockers feel like. Name them.

  • See if you can gently bring your attention back closer to the lacrygen, with the blockers in your awareness. See if you can avoid getting totally distracted from the lacrygen, while also avoiding charging right toward it and then bouncing away or getting damaged.

  • Ask: would something bad happen if I cried? What is it? See if you can get really clear about it.

  • Example: You might be distracting yourself from the lacrygen. You might distract yourself with fantasies, or with "trying to cry" and other self-conscious patterns, or with a task you need to do, or with a palliative like food or high stimulation entertainment.

  • Example: You might think that if you cry now and it's good, it means you were silly for not having already been crying earlier in your life.

  • Example: You might be using a fantasy to cope with from a bad reality or an unmet need.

  • Example: You might be afraid. Try fully feeling the fear. Take in the energy of the fear.

  • Example: You might expect crying to be like admitting or conceding something in a negotiation. Remember that, whatever happens, afterward you can reevaluate and do the right thing, including sticking to a negotiating position. You probably want to be able to see what's happening in the situation and be at choice about the negotiation. If you you've thrown out the steering wheel in the negotiation, then maybe you want to stick to that. On the other hand, maybe your procedure for throwing out steering wheels was constructed when you were a young child or an adolescent, and so you'd be better off rethinking your decision theory lest you end up in a car crash.

  • Example: Sometimes crying feels like you're surrendering to something, or giving something up, or releasing your hold on something, or weakening yourself. I don't know what to say about this. It seems important, and I still get stuck on it. Would something in you be overwritten if you cried? Can you tell what it is?

  • Example: You might be worried that people will know, or give you too much attention, or try to help, or be mad or uncomfortable.

  • Investigate what the blockers are and why they are there. Look under or behind them; is there an underlying drive, emotion, or model? For example, if you're distracting yourself, are you protecting yourself from something? What is it?

  • Double crux with your blockers. With a clearer picture in mind of what they're about, do you want to cry? It could turn out that in fact you don't want to cry. Maybe you want to process the lacrygen in some other way. Maybe it really would be bad if you cried, but you can prevent that bad thing, clearing the way for you to cry.

  • Recite the Litany of Gendlin. Remind yourself that it all adds up to normality: after whatever happens, no matter what, you can do the right thing anyway. Recall Vassar's Razor: preferences are about the future, not the present or the past.

  • Use courage. See if you can step closer to the lacrygen, paying attention to what happens, to explore just outside your comfort zone. See if you feel up for putting your blockers aside and going into the lacrygen, or just going ahead even with your blockers there.

  • Sometimes crying is like getting into water, like the shower or the ocean: the transition is scary, but it feels right once you're in / through. Remind yourself that this cry might be like that.

4. Additional things to keep in mind.

  • If you start deeply changing you relate to lacrygens, it's good to check in with yourself; how is this going? Is this getting you what you want?

  • No matter where you go in your mental journey, you always have the option to just go back to whatever you were doing before, like leaving an IMAX theater if you get cyber-motion-sickness.

  • Crying is just one aspect of complex functions like grief, and there might be important mental events that you don't expect and that matter more than any aspect of crying that you're aware of.

  • Don't get stuck thinking too much about "crying" and "how to cry". Think and feel about what matters in your life, in your friends's lives, and in the world, and give yourself space where whatever needs to happen in you can happen of its own accord.

  • Keep your phenomenal-black-box-recorder on, if you have one.