It’s interesting (and not in a good way) how strong social pressures are not to cry in public. Someone who does so might be called a “crybaby”, or if they’re male their masculinity may be questioned. In general, public crying is seen as a sign of weakness.
I say that’s a total load of BS. Not that society is going to listen to me, but I just wanted to put that out there.
I’m not the only one to feel that way. The site Young Minds has posted some suggestions for handling public crying. An article on Psych Central argues that embarrassment helps to build trust and crying promotes community. There’s some attention being paid to this, but I think we probably need to talk about it more.
I’ve cried in a variety of locales. I prefer to avoid ugly crying if I can, but that’s not really something I can control. By ugly crying I basically mean that there’s as much snot involved as tears.
At a wedding
I cried all the way through my brother’s wedding because I was so stressed out. It was outside, so sunglasses helped hide some of it. I also had a couple guinea pigs tucked into my purse for emotional support, and they probably helped to prevent the progression to ugly cry.
I’ve cried multiple times while on vacation. One time was at my hostel in Moscow. I was on the phone right next to the front desk wailing away, so I was very much on display.
When I was in Italy last fall I ended up leaving my hostel in Florence because of a pervy staff member, and I cried the whole walk to the alternate hotel I’d found. The guy at the supermarket deli took pity on me and gave me some free bread, which I thought was rather nice. Most people ignored me.
I also end up crying a lot of the time when I vomit, and a whole lot of this has happened when I’ve travelled because of motion sickness.
I’ve cried in multiple work-related settings. I walked out of a job interview once because I started crying and there was no hope of getting the tears under control in a timely manner. I cried at a team-building retreat. I’ve cried during meetings with managers. And on a couple different occasions at a couple of different jobs I have full-on ugly cried. In one case I was able to retreat to the washroom, but the other time was on full display (I was just lucky all the patients had already gone to bed).
There have been more, but that’s all the specific examples I can think of off the top of my head.
Tears are OK
Tears are actually kind of like laughter. They’re an external way of expressing emotions, and they can happen involuntarily. Yet laughter is socially acceptable, but crying is not. Perhaps in a way that’s representative of a more general tendency to select for the positive and shove everything else under the rug.
Sadness is just as valid an emotion as anything else. And whether we’re trying to suppress crying or the emotional experience of sadness, I don’t think anyone’s doing themselves any favours. Why shouldn’t we be able to experience all of our emotions as they naturally ebb and flow, and express them as we need to in a way that’s not harmful to others?
So I will continue to cry in public. And if people don’t like it, well, just wait until the snot starts flying!
Have you had experiences crying in public, negative or otherwise?
Embrace Acceptance: A Guided Journal draws on concepts from acceptance and commitment therapy to help you move towards a place of greater acceptance. It’s available from the MH@H Download Centre.