“I write emotional Algebra” Anais Nin
If I could tell you the number of times that I have been told to not be “too emotional” about things I would be a rich woman today. And for years I have struggled with my character and the fact that it doesn’t take a lot for me to tear-up, both good and bad things make me cry. Crying is not a hobby for me or my favorite past time. For many years I have been annoyed with myself for crying so easily.
Someone who is deemed too emotional is understood by all to be generally irrational, erratic, someone who lacks control, who is both mentally and emotionally unstable, too weak to cope with stressful situations. In other words someone you generally can’t rely on because their emotions are too unpredictable, they are like a ticking time bomb. I don’t think anyone would like to be described as “too emotional” in light of the above.
So where am I going with this? Because I am a naturally sensitive person – I cry a lot. I feel deeply and I am deeply moved. I am moved by other people’s pain and suffering just as much as I am moved by my own pain and when that happens, tears come out. So being a journalist I figured that being tough means that one must never under any circumstances show signs of emotion, and crying would be showing excessive emotion in this case.
I think people assume that I decide to cry. But I don’t. I never decide that when I hear this persons’story or that person tragic loss that I will cry, and there have been times when I have not cried in situations where crying would have been acceptable. It’s not something I turn on and off at will, it is something that happens in spite of me. And no I don’t walk around in tears all day, every day though there was a time when that was true.
Believing that my crying was a sign of weakness, and not wanting to have that label attached to me, especially as a journalist, I thought the best thing to do was to hide it, avoid crying at all costs. To do that I would just have to act like I don’t care, pretend to be unmoved by any pain or suffering, or love including my own. But that almost killed me. Because hiding my emotions and burying them was tantamount to killing myself and hiding myself under the carpet until I couldn’t keep it all in anymore. All the pent up frustration, angers, disappointment, hurts had to come out somehow.
Then one day a kind soul told me something that saved my life. There’s nothing wrong with you she said, you are allowed to cry, crying is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. What? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I am strong because I cry? Yes she said. But all this time since childhood I have been told never to cry, to stop crying, why are you crying, if you cry we’ll give you something to cry about and would be beaten up because of that so that I could have something to cry about. “Promise me you won’t cry” was always a promise I could not keep.
But this woman told me that crying means you are strong; because you are willing let go of control, to be vulnerable and to allow yourself to feel your pain, and open up to the healing waters of tears. Really? Yes you are not weak because you cry, it’s not crying that makes you weak or feelings or emotions, it’s the opposite. Really? Yes she said. When cry and feel it is out of control it’s because you haven’t allowed yourself to cry for a long time and ultimately the system will collapse. There’s a reason for everything, and we have tears for a reason and that reason is for cleansing. Just as you wash your body every day to get rid of excessive dirt accumulated during the day, to be fresh, clean and rejuvenated whether the dirt is visible to the naked eye or not, so tears do the same for our emotional and mental well-being. Kanti? I’ve been thinking that people who don’t cry are the strong stable ones but they’re not? No they are not any stronger or weaker than you, we all have our ways of dealing with stress, some are constructive and others are destructive, but our feelings and emotions including especially tears, are our inbuilt tools to help us release all kinds of tensions. Wow. I didn’t know that.
And I think many people in our country didn’t know that either: that it’s okay and natural to cry. We all reserve our tears for “special” occasions at funerals and at weddings. Because we have been taught that must not be “too emotional” we suppress our negative and positive emotions until we can’t anymore keep it all in anymore and we lash out, through aggressive behavior, stabbing our neighbor, shooting our wives, raping children and infants, engaging in brutal acts of violence, hatred because we can’t feel anymore. We don’t feel our own pain and therefore can never feel for another for their pain or loss or tragedy. We become callous, hard; we lack empathy because we have never allowed ourselves to feel compassion for ourselves first. So then with dry eyes we walk around blind to each other’s pain and we bulldoze our way through situations, hurting each other in the most unimaginable ways because we’re too afraid to stop and feel and cry. Why do we have such high crime rates in South Africa? Violent, brutal murders? Raping infants, children, girls, mothers, grandmothers? Why are we blind to other people’s suffering and pain? It’s because we don’t feel anymore. We’ve gotten so used to not caring. Because we don’t acknowledge our own pain and suffering, we don’t feel compassion to ourselves first, therefore we can never expect to feel for another person. We can say sorry, shame, too bad, but until you feel the pain you can never truly empathize with another.
To be empathetic with another does necessarily mean you must cry like me (that’s just how I am) but you must allow yourself to feel. Feel for another person, and you can’t feel for someone if you don’t feel for yourself. And if you truly feel for another it will show through action, you will do something not to hurt someone, to help where possible and maybe you will just cry with them where it isn’t. Heres the thing, people often say what’s the use of crying? It won’t change anything? But crying is not meant to change the situation or circumstances which are causing you pain. Crying is meant for you, so that you can release those negative emotions, so that compassion can replaced hatred, anger, feelings of revenge, of wanting to hurt someone because they have hurt you back. Crying softens your heart, because when you cry and feel the hurt and the pain, you are less likely to want to inflict the same pain to someone else. You become more compassionate with another. You don’t wake up and say what’s the use of bathing, it won’t change anything when you wake up in the morning or after a hard days work. You wash everyday anyway because if you didn’t you know you will start smelling, collecting germs – eventually you end up looking like a hobo, someone who chooses never to bath. So you bath so you feel fresh. So you should cry to feel fresh emotionally and mentally. But society has taught us crying is bad, so we suppress all the pain until we explode. Until the sadness, becomes pain, becomes anger, and becomes rage, a blaring furnace that is expressed through cruelty to everything and anyone. Most of the tension can be diffused if we cried a lot more. Because that softens the heart and we can think more clearly, better after we have cried. Feel. Cry. Many of these violent crimes are because we say and believe things like, I won’t allowthem to see me cry. Crying is for Sissies, I want them to suffer like I am to inflict the same pain on them and it becomes a vicious cycle. Instead of acknowledging those feelings for yourself, the pain, the hurt, the anger, the disappointment and allow the tears to cleanse you of them. You do something that hurts you and the other even more.
Yes it’s not an exact science but I know that our emotions drive what we do, motivates us to change something, do something for ourselves or another. Without feelings we become callous robots. In-humane. So because we are human, who feel all the time all manner of things, we need to constantly cleanse ourselves as we do to our physical bodies, by allowing ourselves to cry and be more balanced human beings. You don’t have to wait for something gruesome or violent or bad to happen before you can cry because many of those huge catastrophes can be avoided if we allowed ourselves to cry when we experience small little hurts. We don’t need to pile it up until it becomes an irreversible volcano. Cry Baba, Cry brother, cry my sister. We cry not because we are weak but because we feel pain, we hurg, and that hast to be expressed by a biological self-help mechanism called crying, when you feel the sting allow the pain to come out in tears, that’s healing. That’s why it happens, your body says “this is so Hurtful it has to come out you can’t keep it in, that’s why you’re eyes tear up, it’s necessary. Cry. There’s no shame in it. It’s another way to show love. Some of the strongest and most loving men I know cry. It doesn’t have to be public – just like you don’t take a shower publicly for all to see, but you do take a shower every day. It’s human, natural, like taking a piss or a dump. Honestly.
My mother tells me that I should never wish that I didn’t cry. She says being able to cry, release negative emotions through tears is a gift. Because it’s healing, it’s a good thing she says. Because many people wish so much that they could cry but their eyes are dry and that is a very sad thing.
Yes too much of anything is not good, and that includes crying, but if you asked me I’d say we don’t cry nearly enough in this country.
Cry My Beloved Country.