Accompanied by her 30 year old daughter, my 55 year old aunt came home suffering from great pain in her heart, both literally and figuratively. She was holding back her tears at her daughter's insistence "Amma, don't cry! Don't cry! Is your crying going to help you in any way? Don't cry! Don't cry!" I could easily imagine a situation where, about a few dacades ago, when the little daughter must have gotten hurt or felt abandoned and cried aloud, and the mother must have told her to not cry. She was not to be blamed. She was only telling her mom what she had been told by her then.
I held my aunt's hand tightly and said, "If you feel like crying, please cry! Please cry!" Even before I finished my sentence, she exploded into tears uncontrollably. Her daughter was watching quite baffled by what I had just done. I could see her asking herself, 'What kind of a person would ask someone to cry!!' In the middle of all this, some first aid, massaging, comforting, crying and all, I explained to the daughter why it is helpful to release one's emotions by crying. I don't know how much of it she was able to digest! After a few minutes, my aunt visibly calmed down and thanked me with her tears and a little smile.
Like, all of us, I'm a survivor of many many messages about 'Do's and don'ts' of the collective unconscious of our society, our culture. One of them is 'Don't cry! Be bold', 'Only the weak cry!', 'Good girls don't cry, bad girls cry'. There is also another subtle way to suppress the tears - the one where we are quick to distract the crying child with a toy, a goody, or something! It is the result of our society's collective mandate to "be positive, whatsoever". Plenty of laughters and smiles is a sign of a good person.
But think about this. When someone (baby or adult) feels like crying, it is because they are overwhelmed by a feeling of sadness - from hurt, abandonment, loss, etc. - and they are trying to release it in the form of tears. If they don't let the tears out, what will happen to the emotion? Where will it go? It can either bloat up the 'pain body' that we carry with us everywhere, making us explode in unhealthy ways whenever triggered. Orl like psychologists and physiologists are now saying, they can get stored in our cells as biological memory and manifest as serious diseases and disorders, and sometimes as physiological symptoms which have no apparent diagnosis! Child psychologist Dr.Aletha Solter swears by the fact that, allowing children to cry (with or without any apparent reason), accompanied by compassionate holding and reassuring words, helps them grow up into happy, healthy, compassionate adults. Training them to control their crying because it is 'not the done thing', makes them grow up into hurt, unhealthy adults not capable of much compassion in their hearts. I agree with her not only because it makes intuitive sense to me, but also because I know it from my experience.
I'm a survivor of some 'strange illnesses' without any proper diagnosis. A couple of psychic healers who read my energy told me that it was my childhood trauma that was manifesting as these. I had no (still don't have any!) memory of trauma during my childhood years. I had thought I'd had a very happy childhood indeed. But may be I was a very sensitive child and controlled my tears a lot? I don't know. But once I gave myself the license to cry with a deep acceptance of my sadness, I made use of some opportunities to cry, to wail it out like a baby. It is not the kind of crying, where you wallow in the pain telling yourself 'Oh poor me! Look at what's happened to me. How miserable I am! This is unfair. This is terrible!' This kind of crying can add layers of dirt to cut through, when you are ready to begin your healing. The crying I am talking about is a very different kind, where you feel so empowered that you have no need to wallow in your pain anymore; so confident that you are ready to tear off the happy-face mask; so in touch with yourself that you don't need to hide behind masks. I have found it most empowering and healing when I have looked at myself into the mirror while crying, sincerely asking "Who is feeling the pain? Who is crying?" questions that the mystic Ramana has taught me to ask of myself. These questions that I ask as I look into those glistening red eyes, as I savour those salty drops sliding onto my lips, hold the magical power to healing and liberation from the suffering. With practise, the ease with which we cry this way increases, and the need to cry itself comes down. Until one day, we are all smiles and laughter. The kind that is real, and that springs from the pure joy of being, not from the happy-face mask that we have trained ourselves to wear.