Someone recently told me they hate crying in counselling sessions.
I was kinda surprised by this. Yes- my clients have apologised for crying, and i’m quick to reassure them that it’s ok- but this time I stopped to think about how this ‘hate crying’ feeling might really impact someone while they’re trying to tell their story.
‘Almost everyone cries in therapy, it’s normal’ I said to her.
She said ‘But i’m sitting there blubbing all the time. Why do I cry for no reason? I feel mortified every time.’
That mortified ME.
To think that people are feeling ashamed of crying ON TOP OF trying to express the biggest hardest emotional stuff of their lives.
While I do not want anyone to feel pressure TO cry (you do not need to cry in therapy folks- just to be clear) it’s certainly not right to let anyone believe their tears are faulty in some way.
Therefore I’ve written a handy list of reasons people cry in therapy.
They cry because they’re:
- Exhausted (cor LIFE, it’s tiring sometimes)
- Frustrated (at: themselves, a partner sitting next to them, someone in their lives, a situation, me, desperately wanting to be understood)
- Relieved to be telling their story
- Being REALLY listened to
- In some kind of physical pain
- Overcome in a particular moment by a range of emotions, sometimes which conflict
- Remembering something from a very long time ago
- Remembering something from 5 minutes ago
- Terrified (of: another person, things never changing or things changing too much, illness, parenting, losing a partner, loneliness, getting old, their ‘oddnesses’, losing a job, death, life, someone who is no longer around but still feels powerful, losing their grip, society, their feelings, climate change, world leaders, being forgotten)
- Recounting a bad dream or recurring nightmare
- Experiencing the space between where they are and where they’d like to be
- Missing someone
- Hormonal (from: PMS, PCOS, menopause, stress, transgender hormone therapy, pregnancy, trauma, being male, being female, being non-binary, being a human. Tip: All of your feelings are real and valid, but the information they’re giving you isn’t always true)
- Filled with love (for: a particular person passed or living, the environment, a passion and/or a passion project, art, an animal, themselves)
- Recognising a strength within themselves
- Connecting with a truth
- Describing a physical sensation relating to an emotion or experience (it’s heavy in my stomach; tight in my chest; there’s a dense inanimate box; a Dementor is sucking my life away; stuck inside big black hole)
- Making sense of something for the first time
- Realising they don’t have to ‘be’ anyone different from who they are
- Feeling a sense of possibility or hope
- Acknowledging, deeply, an action they took as an ‘enough’ (I’m only just ‘getting’ that I did my best to be protective/loving/kind)
- Acknowledging, deeply, an action they took that wasn’t ok (I’m only just ‘getting’ that what I did was not ok and I am committed to being more in control, introducing CHOICE into my actions)
- Feeling The Guilts
- Banishing The Guilts
- Really pondering a question that opens up a new way of thinking they hadn’t considered before (“How did you know how to do that, given your lack of examples growing up?”)
- Making a firm and felt Statement of Position (‘I Am Not Ok With That Problem Ruling My Life Anymore’)
- Being Seen
- Being appreciated (By: me, their partner/s, their kid/s, a family member, a friend)
- Feeling enabled to express themselves in any way
And guess what? This list is by no means exhaustive.
Tears can be a sign of all sorts of emotions and experiences, many of which you are likely to go through in therapy.
Furthermore, crying is not self-indulgent, you don’t need to be self-conscious, it’s not for ‘no reason’ (even if it seems that way it’s still ok), and it’s not a problem. Tears are generally only a problem if you’re experiencing them as constantly uncontrollable over a period of time and getting in the way of your life. But they’re always welcome in the therapy room.
Having a box of tissues at the ready isn’t an afterthought, it’s a health-and-safety requirement of any counselling space!
Most importantly: if you’re online and at home for therapy then embrace your teary space and stock up on the tissue boxes or fresh hankies- coz there ain’t a damn thing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about when it comes to crying.
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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash