Did you ever hear these words when you were a kid? Have you said them yourself?
If you were told, “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about,” here’s what you learned:
1. The world is a dangerous place.
If Mommy or Daddy or Grandma or the babysitter threatens to make you cry, what might a stranger do?
Trust is necessary for healthy relationships. Children learn to trust others by experiencing safety with them.
How safe do you feel around others when you’re having strong feelings today?
2. You can control how you feel.
Why would someone tell you to stop crying, unless it was possible?
The instruction to stop implies that you have a choice.
If you were convinced that you could and should control your tears, you must have come to believe you could control your feelings.
Hence a lifetime of feeling bad about yourself for not being able to control your emotions — as if anyone can!
Control your actions if you want, but don’t waste your time struggling to control how you feel.
3. There’s something wrong with crying (and, by association, with being sad).
For some reason, others didn’t like it when you were upset enough to cry.
You were bothering them with your feelings. So much so that they threatened you!
You were either told, or you concluded, that tears are for losers/sissies/babies/wimps/people who don’t mind being totally inappropriate.
How is this message still affecting you?
* * *
If you were told to stop crying when you were small, all is not lost. You can still question the validity of the “facts” today.
What if there’s no real punishment for crying (e.g., you won’t be beaten or arrested)?
What if it turns out you simply can’t control your feelings?
What if it’s just not that big a deal if you’re sad, or angry, or scared sometimes?
If all of these were true, how might your life be different?