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What to Do When Crying Feels Like Giving In

In a recent PC blog by Erika Krull explores a personal journey with the act of crying and how she has come to a more accepting place with it. She writes about her past:

I also spent some years crying in private shame from depression that no one really understood or knew about. Perhaps because of that, I’m both more easily triggered and more ready to be open about it.

Many of us have grown up with the messages that crying is shameful and others have had so many tears in connection with depression that the simple act of a tear making its way through the duct triggers fear of depression’s return. We now know that thoughts, feelings and emotions are inextricably tied together and the event of one can trigger another. So when we cry or feel sad, the past negative depressive thoughts (e.g., I am worthless, hopeless, unlovable) come screaming back even if the crying has nothing to do with them.

Erika writes about the potential that these tears could have other meanings:

Some of these are tears leftover from grieving a death, some of these are tears of joy for passing on traditions, and some of these are tears of nostalgia for happy experiences that shaped my life.

However, as a result of these strong associations of tears with depression, shame, or other negative moods, many people don’t allow them to release and just hold them back. In a recent interview in Therese Borchard’s blog, Beyond Blue, I explore how to cultivate the ability to cry in a healthy way.

Our culture has a lot of judgment about crying and many of us learn from a very young age, especially men, not to cry and just to “stuff it.” It’s unfortunate and I think this is changing little by little. Depending on a person’s situation, I support going to a therapist who can act as a guide to discussing some of the wounding that may have occurred earlier in life. There will be a lot of fear covering up the tears as they may seem foreign and be riddled with judgment from earlier years.

That voice that says “crying is giving in” is really trying to be helpful. It’s trying to save you from experiencing something that may be really painful. What usually happens is we either believe that voice or we judge it from keeping us back from experiencing feelings. A third way to go about this is to really recognize that it is a part of us that is trying to help and to thank it for trying to keep us safe. Then let it know that you can handle it and are going to try and feel this feeling for a while. The non-judgment piece here is important because it allows you to send more loving energy inside rather than damning energy.

In relationship to our tears, we can try to notice judgments as they arise and label them as Mind Traps. Then holding that crying part of you in your mind like you would a little baby, say to it “this is here anyway, let me feel it.” The tears may come and still last awhile, but this more compassionate and gentle way of holding the experience can be healing rather than damning. Letting go of the struggle can have positive reverberations for future experiences down the road. And after all, as Erika says, maybe some tears need to be relieved from some prior experiences in life.  

As we learn to become more present in our moment to moment experiences, we are more likely to catch these mind traps when they occur and to gently guide ourselves toward a more accepting stance and allow the tears to flow, knowing that tears can be a healthy and courageous way of “being with” a very human emotion.

As always, please post your comments and questions below. Your interaction here provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

What to Do When Crying Feels Like Giving In

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is creator of the six month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion, The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind, the premier eCourse Basics of Mindfulness Meditation: A 28 Day Program, the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations. Join The Now Effect Community for free Daily Now Moments and a Weekly Newsletter. Dr. Goldstein is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles.

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APA Reference
Goldstein, E. (2009). What to Do When Crying Feels Like Giving In. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 19, 2019, from


Last updated: 13 Apr 2009
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