Tears come easily for me. That means that tears are right on the surface and ready to flow for almost any emotion–happiness, sadness, meaningful conversation, the warm familiarity of my partner’s face and body, a client’s story, the beauty of ordinary things outside my window, a client’s struggle with their story, the pain of the world, most any Mary Oliver poem. You get my point.
For someone who has tears so available I learned how to cry only about 7 years ago, during the divorce from my partner of 27 years. Before that crying was mostly a drawn out sort of dripping process with lots of wet accompanied by clear and rational words if there were any words. Except once. I sobbed wordlessly when my mother died.
Now I realize the conditioning and shame I had towards expressing emotions and tears. I learned early to be rational AND emotional at the same time. (Being both at the same time has been a fantastic life skill when used carefully) It made my emotions more acceptable to my parents who were Southerners and physicians, i.e. doubly trained to keep most every emotion at a distance. Unless they were intoxicated, that is, which was often, and then there was lots of loud and painful expression…but no tears…ever. Except once. My mom cried when her mother died.
So about 7 years ago it just happened. Though I still loved and was devoted to my ex, I could not continue in my destructive pattern with him one minute more. I broke open in a new way from the pain of this awareness.
What do I mean by broke open? I just began sobbing uncontrollably. There were tears of course but this was more. It was the full body, shaking, gasping-for-breath-inhalation kind of crying. No thoughts or words but wide open mouth breathless like you see in babies. And, less than 5 minutes later it was over!!!! I mean really over something deep had changed. My body felt completely relieved, released. Emotionally, I was calm. My mind was at ease with the new reality.
All levels of my Being were completely at peace with the most difficult decision I had ever had to make. I had thought about divorce before but that was just an idea. I could never actually DO it. I didn’t know then how difficult actually getting divorced would be but it didn’t matter. My body, mind, emotions, spirit were calm and knew what was true was true.
What broke open and how is crying involved in that? I don’t believe anyone knows exactly. There are all kinds of science and psychological data exploring the functions of crying.
But I now know that this kind of deep knowing, where a big shift happens, requires all levels of our Being to be included. Not just mental/conceptual understanding, but full body experiencing. We need to include any vibrating, soundless heaving, shaking, pacing, etc. that the body does plus knowledge of full body calm to have a complete knowing experience of ourselves.
And with this knowing comes a shift, some deep personal change in our views and feelings.
My whole life has revolved around my own and other people’s personal change. It’s been one long psycho-spiritual-self-exploration-expression, including 38+ years being present to the broke-open-tears of others.
There’s lots to consider about this broke-open thing–my own ‘aha’ moment about the broke open experience, breaking open to flow on all levels of our being, being beautifully broken. Stay tuned.