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It’s a Crying Shame

You know how therapists aren’t supposed to cry in sessions? Well, I do all the time. Not in defiance of this rule or anything. I just can’t help it. And it’s not like I’m sobbing uncontrollably–just a couple of tears that escape, despite my best efforts.

Like, if a client cries because they’ve told me something they’ve never admitted to anyone before, I cry, too. Or if they’re proud of themselves for taking some risk that they didn’t think was possible. I try to hide it, but not very effectively. I once had a client who said she was going to get a t-shirt that says “I made my therapist cry.” I think she thought this was a good thing, although I have no idea why.

And you know the other crying rule about how you’re supposed to be strong when you’re talking to someone who is sick? Can’t do that one, either. When my dad was depressed, I cried in front of him all the time. And while I was on the phone with him. And when we went shopping, because he was so indecisive, it would take him forever to pick anything out–which broke my heart. Sometimes it would be so bad I had to leave the room and sob and then come back.

He always knew, of course. Apparently he told my brother that he needed to get better because he was making me cry all the time. Which makes me cry right now, just thinking about it. But it worked; he got better. So maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing in that case, either.

Clients often come to session trying not to cry. I tell them it’s OK–that’s what the Kleenex are for. Then we talk about why it’s not a bad thing.

Who came up with all these rules, anyway? Crying makes you weak. You need to have a good reason to cry–like death. Maybe losing a big game like the Super Bowl. Boys don’t cry.

It was probably the same person who said that stoicism is the best remedy for pain. Probably some guy.

Why have tears if we’re not supposed to use them? Why not do something that is free, readily available, nonhabitforming, and makes us feel better?

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for stoicism. I saw “American Sniper” this past weekend, and it was absolutely necessary for Chris Kyle not to cry in order to do his job. He was supposed to be a machine. But if he had been able to cry when he was home and no longer on duty, I think his wife wouldn’t have been as worried about him.

But who am I to judge someone for what they do or don’t do when they’re in pain? I’m biased, too. So I don’t tell people that they should cry. And I try not to think less of them if they don’t.

All I ask is for other people to do the same for me. Just don’t try to shame me out of crying.