The Healing Benefits of Crying: Repressing Your Emotion is Slowly Killing You

We’ve lost the power of healing through mournful songs, dance, and crying out our pain. 
Photo by Lucxama Sylvain on

Crying garners unique yet universal responses from individuals. It can make us uncomfortable. We either want it to stop or to provide comfort. Unlike any other emotion, genuine tears can be quite difficult to control, and almost impossible to fake, it basically says, hey, I need you right now

There we were, at my grandmother’s funeral, 13 of her kids, and several dozen of us grandchildren. 

The priest was trying to complete the reading of his passage- but my one aunt had a moment. I’m not gonna lie it was a little nerve-wracking she poured out her pain through crying and weeping. It kept interrupting the service.

The priest said a few words-she’d cry out.

He’d say some more-she’d wail until she was comforted and gently ushered out by one of her brothers.

I realized that I was holding my breath the entire time, only exhaling a sigh of relief when she sat down, but why?

We were in a safe, comfortable place. I was back home in St.Vincent and this form of expression was more normal than not. People were expressive, you knew if they liked you, you knew if they didn’t, they sang when they were happy, they cried when they were sad without fault.

After the funeral, there was the traditional wake, the celebration of life, filled with singing, dancing, crying, and exorbitant amounts of drinking.

I was uncomfortable because subconsciously I’d told myself that crying- no wailing out loud wasn’t socially acceptable. It made people uncomfortable. It was a feeling I didn’t know how to handle so I thought it should be subdued, that other people should filter their crying.

We’ve lost the art of sharing to our pain, longings, and disappointment through unrestrained expression.

We hold back tears when we want to cry uncontrollably. 

We pretend we’re fine when we want to run into the streets and scream our heads off.

We get angry when we really want to be held and comforted.

We’re all trying to practice socially acceptable behaviour, but we’re killing our natural human instincts.

Crying out is therapeutic, it’s a kind of Primal Therapy, which suggests that some raw behaviours, like screaming, can help us reach repressed emotions, actually releasing and processing them.

Go ahead, find a quiet place in nature, maybe in your car, and scream out the mixed emotions of the year, the frustration of losing a job, having your wedding canceled, not being able to see your friends, that relationship that didn’t work out, the passing of your loved one, and everything in between.

The number one killer in the world today is not cancer or heart disease, it is repression.-Arthur Janov

Crying, weeping, and mournful song are the acts that bind us together, that keep us resilient through otherwise unbearable times. 

When we don’t express our pain we create room for mental and physical illness within ourselves.

What’s The Purpose Of Crying?

Crying Soothes Your Pain

Crying is a natural pain killer that we’ve turned into an act of shame. We’ve made it acceptable for women to cry yet an area of emasculation for men.

Crying doesn’t discriminate. It has a self-soothing effect. It helps decrease stress levels, calm distress, and balance our emotions. 

Sometimes our tears seem to shed down without our approval because our bodies know that we need to shed dead ends, that we need to heal.

Allowing ourselves to cry is an act of self-care. It shows our compassion, vulnerability, and strength. It’s our deepest self saying, hey, I know you’re overwhelmed right now but I’m going to take care of you.

Crying Let’s You Know That Something Has To Change

Sometimes you need to breakdown to get your life back.

I was on the tail end of a relationship that ate away at my self-esteem when a big dutty cry came out of nowhere. I prided myself on keeping my shit together for the outside world, especially when it came to work. This day was different, I went to work, as usual, but the moment I stepped into the department it was like the world was in slow motion, the weight of my pain and suppressed emotions buried me. I had to go back home.

I ended taking some personal days to process what was happening. I wasn’t the type of person who let those emotions get to me at work. That was the day I knew something was seriously wrong, that something had to change.

Crying, weeping, wailing out, and uncontrolled tears, let’s you know that something has to change.

Crying Brings Community and Support

Sometimes our tears come down in front of other people unexpectedly because too many of us are crying behind closed doors. Crying is meant to bring support from our community. 

We’ve been crying since birth. It was our primary way of communicating our needs to our parents, as adults, crying is still a behaviour about connection. It’s a survival tool to let others know that we need social support. 

A 2016 study suggests that crying is a survival skill especially for those of us who have a high avoidance attachment style. It’s the style where we suppress our emotions, our need to be seen, heard, and validated. It’s when we are experts at taking care of others but refuse to let others get too close to us for fear of abandonment or getting hurt.

Crying is a defense mechanism against attempts to withdraw ourselves. It physically draws people near to us, to alert them that something is wrong, to garner support, or share in our joy.

Let it Out. Cry. 

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Hallelujah for the joy, Hallelujah for the joy. Hallelujah for the joy, joy comes in the morning!” 

I grew up hearing, especially the women in my Caribbean community joining hands, clapping, and singing this upbeat song until their collective pain was a little less. Each verse louder, each conviction stronger.

Crying out our pain, weeping, mournful song, and dance, especially in front of others can be uncomfortable but it’s a primal behaviour that helps us release, even process repressed emotions. When we don’t release our pain we create room for mental and physical breakdowns.

Crying helps us to heal, it soothes our pain, it helps us know that something has to change, and it brings community support.

The next time you feel overcome with sad or happy emotion don’t be afraid to pour out your soul for healing through your tears.

xox Thanks for reading, Arlene

Originally published in Carefree Magazine

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