Why you should cry more: the dangers of suppressing emotions


Melissa Nie

A good, long cry can leave you in a much better place, allowing you to grow and face new challenges.

“Are you okay?” someone asked. I could feel the tell-tale signs: my eyes were beginning to sting, heat was rising to my face, and my vision was suddenly blurry.

Instead of responding, I burst into tears.

Crying: it’s something that we’ve all done since we were newborns, an instinctive response when things don’t go as we want them to. Children cry when their parents demand that they eat dreaded vegetables, when they scrape their knees on rough cement, and when they feel the first stings of betrayal after a classmate insults them behind their back.

As we grew older, we learned not to cry so much at the risk of being ridiculed as crybabies. The people in our lives taught us to hold in our tears and toughen up — the real world won’t be so forgiving.

There’s something painfully vulnerable and almost shameful around crying, especially in a place where others can see. People rarely know what to do when someone turns on the waterworks, often looking on concernedly and perhaps offering an awkward pat or hug. And if you’re the person who’s crying, all the well-meant but overwhelming attention can just add a new layer of stress to an emotional mess.

Students shared their perspective on how comfortable they are with crying.

“I’m not super comfortable crying in public because it shows vulnerability,” junior Libby Cohen said.

I’m most comfortable crying over things that are really surface level.”

— Lucia Granja

“Usually I don’t feel comfortable crying because especially in public, it makes me feel vulnerable. I’m most comfortable crying over things that are really surface level and that other people are crying at, like sad movies. Dark movie theaters are great to cry in,” sophomore Lucia Granja said.

As it goes, most prefer to cry alone where they are free from judgment. They can scream into their pillows and use as many tissues as they want without fear of social retribution.

Another aspect of why we don’t cry more often is that it’s often seen as a sign of weakness and a ploy for attention. Society has made its efforts to drill the old rhetoric of “boys don’t cry” into our minds. This idea is not only ridiculous, but it also has harmful results. If boys and men never learn how to properly express themselves, they might end up hurting themselves and those around them because all repressed emotions will eventually resurface.

The other side to this saying is that girls are overly emotional and volatile — and this can end up making girls feel like they must hide their hurt so that they won’t reinforce a negative stereotype. Both of these cases result in emotional suppression.

Returning to my situation at the beginning, the reason why I reacted so unexpectedly to a simple question was the direct outcome of me trying to compartmentalize and dismiss my feelings, as well as my anxious state of mind.

At the time, I was being bombarded with so many tests and essays that I struggled to keep my head above water. All week, I was shutting down my emotions in order to increase my productivity and building up a wall to block out any distractions. As it turned out, this was not a good idea: my mind resembled an overfilled pressure cooker, on the verge of exploding.

This is not an uncommon experience for students. With the academic rigor that St. Paul Academy and Summit School prides itself upon, many people find themselves in a situation where they have too much on their plate, creating an environment of stress — especially around finals.

It gets out all of my feelings and I always feel better after a good cry.”

— Ananya Narayan

But that question — “Are you okay?” — forced me to acknowledge that no, I was not okay. I have never been good at lying to people. The emotional walls came tumbling down: cue the waterworks.

There is no good reason why a stigma against crying should exist. Studies have proven that it is a good way to release all the pent-up stress in your life. In fact, emotional tears are said to have health benefits: they get rid of all the toxic hormones that accumulate when you’re anxious and they also release endorphins, which make you feel better.

As junior Ananya Narayan put it, “It gets out all of my feelings and I always feel better after a good cry.”

If that’s the case, then why fight back when you think you’re about to cry? Maybe it’s embarrassing to you. No one likes to be seen as weak. But arguably, facing your emotions head-on is the strongest thing you can do. The next time you get a hard lump in your throat and tears are pricking your eyes, don’t just bury it inside you. Find somewhere you can sob your heart out in peace. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.