Why Can’t I Cry? The Importance of Self-Compassion
I’ve got the leakiest tear ducts on the planets. Seems like I’m always sniffling about this or weeping about that. If it’s not adorable videos of babies making my eyes well up, it’s videos of ecstatic dogs welcoming their master home from serving overseas. Any sentimental YouTube video can get me hullabalooing into my hankie in no time. It came as quite a shock to my husband when we married in 2012. Now he thinks I’m both hysterical funny and extremely soft-hearted.
There’s only one scenario where my tear ducts dry up. My own pain. I simply cannot cry for myself. Tried it. Made all the right noises. Huffed and puffed. Nothin’. Eyes remained dry as a bone.
And it’s a huge problem. Tears aren’t just salty water. Their chemical compositions vary depending on the emotion that stimulated them. Even their structure when seen under a microscope is vastly different depending on the scenario. Personally, I can feel my heart aching behind my eyes. It’s a kind of burning, kind of pressurized sensation behind my eyeballs. Only tears release the pain in both my eyes and my heart. It feels like tears purge the toxic chemicals in the tears, but perhaps I’m just being fanciful.
Which brings us back to the original problem. I can’t cry. And too often my original pain becomes translated into the secondary emotion of anger.
My heart goes out to the suffering of all humanity, except myself. I empathize for the wounded, but not myself. Child abuse moves me to tears, but I still struggle to believe myself abused.
You see, my abusers were very cerebral. Very intelligent. And they carefully explained why they were perpetuating each abuse and why it was both righteous and necessary. Oh, the thousands of hours I’ve wasted, staring catatonically at my parents’ scratched Formica® kitchen table while the brainwashing rose from a calm lecture to a crescendo of frustrated yelling.
The upshot was just this: We are doing right by you and it’s all for your own good.
My tears merely betrayed my foolishness, my sinfulness. My desire to participate in the sinful activities of my peer group, to wear their sinful clothes. My ungratefulness for my parents’ ceaseless efforts to protect me from my own wickedness and penchant for “dangerous” activities like moving out, traveling, driving highways, dating someone without doing exhaustive research on them first, staying out past dusk, etc., etc. ad nauseum. To cry was thus highly inappropriate, betraying both my evil and my immaturity, further reinforcing their conclusion that I was not “ready” to move out.
For the past twenty years, I’ve been haunted by a nightmare. It’s always the same. My parents have just handed down yet another edict that broke my heart. And I’m crying, sobbing, screaming, trying desperately to be heard. They stand above me, a condescending half-smile on their lips, heedless to my cries. The nighmare parallels real-life to the proverbial “T.”
After awhile, I learned to keep my dignity. I stopped crying. They never listened anyways and even tears failed to move them. And in an odd, perverse way, denying myself the release of tears almost became a release in itself.
But then it all went horribly wrong. Under my abusers’ roof, I chose not to cry. Now, I can’t cry.
It took months of online research before I stumbled across a parallel to my experience. It was a long shot. A little bit “out there.” And utterly fascinating.
Who can forget George Clooney’s brilliantly madcap performance in The Men Who Stare at Goats? Based on real life, the movie touches on the techniques used in mind control. Techniques I related to such as inflicting emotional pain, convincing victims that God approves of the abuses, telling the victim they are demonic, etc. But most fascinating of all, forbidding the victim to shed tears. Interestingly, these are the same techniques used in SRA.
Still with me? I know, I know. “It’s far out, man!” I mean, mind control!?!
But that’s what narcissists want, isn’t it? Absolute control.
Control of our minds.
Control of our souls.
Control of our hearts.
Control of our bodies.
Abuse gives them utter control of our minds, and the rest simply falls into place.
So what’s the solution, Lenora ol’ buddy, ol’ pal?
First, a disclaimer. You may have noticed that my articles are long on “reverse engineering” narcissism and narcissistic abuse, but short on tips for recovery. Well, that’s because I haven’t “recovered” myself. Oh, I’m well on the road, but frankly, I despise the term “recovery.” Subliminally, it implies we were once perfectly healthy and can easily return to that state.
Au contraire, mon ami. For those of us raised by narcissists, we shed our emotional health before we shed our diapers. It’s a state we can’t remember nor imagine. And, in some ways, our suffering has made us better, stronger, deeper people than we would have been otherwise.
Our suffering taught us empathy and kindness. It gave us a mind so strong, yet elastic, that it cannot be broken. It gave us boundless strength!
To me, “recovery” throws out the proverbial baby with the proverbial bathwater, implying that the very essence of who I am is completely inappropriate because it was formed in the crucible of narcissistic abuse. Yes, I need to unlearn the mind control. Yes, I need to grow a pair. Yes, I need to learn how to calmly yet strongly set boundaries. Yes, I need to lose the false guilt. But dang it, the abuse also gave me a lot of good attributes and I’ve no intentions of unlearning those.
Instead of “recovery,” let’s use the word “healing,” shall we? Oh, so much better!
Well, how do victims of mind control heal? Are there steps for healing from SRA? Perhaps the same would apply to healing from narcissistic abuse, I thought.
It took hours of research, but yes, I did find a few techniques for healing. And they’re not what you’d think. Ready?
- Great compassion and empathy for self
I know! Where’s the 12 Step Program? Where are the self-help books? Hang on a second! We’re talking about people who’ve been lectured, berated, critiqued and chastised for days, years, decades. The last thing we need is re-programming piled on top of our original programming. That’s merely mind control layered on top of mind control. Huge mistake! We need to un-learn and un-program.
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In compassion and empathy for self I found the key to unlock my tears. Sometimes, it’s hard to get it going alone. It helps to have someone who can validate our pain and show empathy for the abuse we suffered.
The turning point in my healing came when my husband said he had “great empathy” for everything I’d been through. This simple validation that I had a right to cry broke the dam holding back my tears. Thirty years of pain burst out in sobs so powerful the blood vessels around my eyes were burst.
I date my healing from that moment.
Did you like what you read here? If so, I’d be happy to contribute an original story about narcissism, narcissistic abuse (and its many rotten bedfellows) and healing to your site or guest blog. For details on the “whole package” deal I offer, please visit www.lenorathompsonwriter.com.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Under no circumstances should it be considered therapy nor replace therapy and treatment.
If you are feeling suicidal, thinking about hurting yourself, or are concerned that someone you know may be in danger of hurting himself or herself,
call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is staffed by certified crisis response professionals. The content of these blogs and all blogs written by Lenora Thompson are merely her opinion.
If you are in need of help, please contact qualified mental health professionals.
Thompson, L. (2016). Why Can’t I Cry? The Importance of Self-Compassion. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/narcissism/2016/01/why-cant-i-cry-the-importance-of-self-compassion/