Boys Don’t Cry… But should they?

No, this is not a blog on The Cure; I wish it was, but this is far more important.

In the past couple of months, this topic has come up, professionally and personally. I am Mexican American, and although my dad has recently demonstrated an openness in expressing his emotions, I have noticed that many men in my extended family will rarely shed a tear, even in the most socially acceptable events. I have also spoken to friends and they too have recognized that although it was not directed towards them as they grew up, it is something that is assumed. Boys don’t cry. 

Crying is a healthy human response to sorrow, frustration, and pain. It is a natural way to reduce emotional stress and when left undone, it can create a dysregulation of emotions in your body. This emotional imbalance is typically left unnoticed until one day, you soon recognize that you’re snappier than usual, you get annoyed by others quicker,  you might verbally aggressive, and/or you may even succumb to physical aggression.

Neuroscientist and researcher Dr. William H. Frey II, PhD, the director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul Minnesota, has spent over 15 years studying crying. His research shows that on average, women cry about 47 times a year whereas men cry about 7 times a year! That’s a ridiculous difference!

Unfortunately, this drastic difference between men and women is one of the main reasons why it becomes very difficult for me to simply tell my male clients to cry it out in my office. It may not be socially acceptable for a male to cry in front of others, it may be felt and seen as a sign of weakness. It can be a daunting and embarrassing experience for a male to cry in front of others, it may even be unacceptable in his family. They might even feel so uncomfortable because they’ve never truly cried in front of anyone as an adult. This is all very common, even now at this day in age.

So how do we resolve this issue? We grow up to believe that boys don’t cry, whether it was indirectly through societal expectations, or directly through family practice. So what do we do now? What can you do as a supportive partner and/or loved one?

Boys/Guys:  You can’t change the way people react to your tears, but you can let them out in a place that you feel safe and able to.  Go to a secluded place. Go in the shower. Go to your empty office or room. Just let it out.

Partners/Loved Ones: It’s okay if they don’t feel like crying in front of you or they’re not crying at all. Stay supportive. Don’t take it personal. Give them their space but check in every once in a while. Offer company without mandatory conversation.

Now I’m not saying that it’s as easy as telling men to cry more because it’s healthier. I’m simply saying that it’s important that if you FEEL like you need to cry, that you just let those tears roll on down, even if you have to step aside to do so. Simple as that, just let it happen in the comfort of your own privacy if need be. Now, realistically, something I tell my clients is that even if you need to go take a shower or go to your room to let it out there, even THIS is far more effective than trying to push down those emotions, distracting yourself, or ignoring them. Don’t do yourself a disservice by not crying. Cry in a comfortable setting and you’ll notice the sense relief you experience afterwards.

Why am I putting so much emphasis on crying?

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If you were to use the visualization of a cup of water, the more and more you fill up the cup with water (bottled up emotions), the more likely it is for the cup to overflow (for you to implode and/or explode with negative emotions).

Typically, this is when you begin to see explosive behaviors of anger and even symptoms of depression and anxiety manifest. The longer it takes for you to begin to regulate your own emotions, the more likely it is for your cup to overflow and for these behaviors to negatively affect your work, school, and relationships.

What are the benefits of crying? 

  1. Research has found that emotional tears contain higher levels of stress hormones. A clinical psychologist at UCLA named Stephen Sideroff, PhD said, “Stress tightens muscles and heightens tension, so when you cry, you release some of that..”
  2. Once you have cried, you will feel a sense of relief and relaxation since your body has began it’s process to return to a calm state. Stephen Sideroff, PhD best puts it as, “[Crying] activates the parasympathetic nervous system and restores the body to a state of balance”.
  3. Crying clears out dust and debris in the eyes which can help with maintaining healthy unbothered eyes. Tears can also help lubricate the eye in order to reduce irritated and itchy eyes. Therefore, crying is a valuable regimen that should be incorporated for ocular health.

 

…So next time you feel like you need to cry because you’re overwhelmed, stressed, sad, etc. Go somewhere you feel safe and comfortable, and just LET IT OUT.

For more information visit this webpage via: [WebMD]

 

 

 


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