The following was syndicated from Quora for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].
What is extremely common advice that you entirely disagree with?
I see parents and caretakers telling children not to cry. I see kids, teenagers, and adults telling each other not to cry. I see this in my day-to-day life. I see this in movies. I see it on the television. I see it everywhere.
Deep down inside, I wouldn’t want anyone to see me cry. Allowing others to see me cry is choosing to be vulnerable in a world that seems to tell me to toughen up, to be invulnerable. Allowing others to see me cry is letting go of control and self-image in a world I perceive as controlling and image-obsessed.
Allowing others to see me cry feels … unsafe.
My daughter is 18 months old: A tiny, tottering and intrepid toddler. If she bumps her head, falls, or has something snatched from her, or does not get what she wants, she might cry. If she is allowed to cry; if she is held and cocooned and given the opportunity to process her emotions; if she is not judged; she will, in little time, get up and move on as if nothing had happened.
Are not we all like that?
If she is not allowed to cry, the feelings will bottle up inside of her and turn into frustration, anger, irritation – one day perhaps erupting with aggression. If she is not allowed to cry, she will learn to suppress what she is feeling; her capacity to love and feel empathy, sympathy and compassion for others will diminish; she will be unable to participate fully in the emotional grandeur and poignancy of life.
Are not we all like that?
I’ll be honest. Sometimes, I don’t want her to cry. Her piercing wail makes my ears ring. She thrashes, accidentally hitting me in the face. And although I know that I mustn’t take it personally, there are times when I do.
But that’s when she needs me the most – when a pragmatic solution is neither feasible, nor relevant; when she needs the only thing that is appropriate to give – and, ironically, the most difficult to give – my unwavering, unjudging, and fiercely loving presence.
Perhaps we try to inhibit others from crying because we were not allowed to do so ourselves. Perhaps we fear the emotional intensity of seeing someone crying — especially an adult, not to mention men — losing control, appearing helpless.
We assume that they have broken down, lost their center.
And maybe they have; but if allowed to go through, will find stable ground, perhaps even higher ground, on the other side.
When crying is sincere and uninhibited, it is an effective way to process emotions. Crying, whether from joy or sorrow, is an entirely natural and human thing to do.
Conversely, emotions, when unprocessed, stagnate and fester; acidify, become corrosive. Emotions, when unprocessed, become harmful, dangerous.
I firmly believe that if we allow ourselves and others to cry without judging, then we will have more emotionally engaged human beings in the world, ready to lend their hearts to those around them, ready to face and take on the intensity of love, loss, and the whole glorious gamut of human emotions in between.
Ben A. Wise is a writer. Read more from Quora below:
- What’s the best way to expose your children to different cultures?
- Why do children seem to experience their emotions so strongly, as well as switch between them so quickly?
- What should I do if my child won’t stop screaming because I don’t buy him some toys in the store?