I am delighted to share this guest blog post from Eleanor Edgar, who works with The Rose Remedy.
“So, what name would you give to this problem of overly active tear ducts?” I was asked.
“Crybaby,” I replied without hesitation.
I have always been a very sensitive person, and this sensitivity caused me a lot of grief for the first 27 years of my life.
I was often shamed by my family for “crying at the drop of a hat.” Over time, I learned that crying was a sign of weakness and that, for anyone to respect me out in the world, I would have to “grow a thicker skin.”
The lack of control I felt over my tears stopped me from doing anything that might bring to life the dreaded Crybaby that lived inside me, in order to avoid the shame and humiliation.
My psychotherapy practice is guided by a few models of talk therapy and energy psychology modalities. The one that I first learned nine years ago is called narrative therapy.
Narrative therapy tells us that our sense of self is made up of certain narratives, or storylines, which inform us of what we’re capable and incapable of. These narratives are co-created during our lifetimes by us and our relationships to people, culture and the media.
Early on in my narrative therapy training, we were put into pairs to practice what are called “externalizing conversations.” Through a particular use of language, problems are talked about as separate from people and, therefore, are easier to manipulate and change.
It was during that practice that the partner I was paired with asked me that question about my overly active tear ducts. As we started this exercise, I never would have guessed how the power of a single curious question can have the potential to change the course of a life!
During the practice, I shared with my partner how Crybaby got in the way of me living the empowered, self-assured life I wanted, and had me seeing myself as weak, with nothing of value to say.
Then, my partner asked me the next question. “Tell me about a time when Crybaby tried to get the better of you, and you kept the upper hand?”
My efforts to answer this question felt strange, as I connected to the fact that Crybaby showed up when I wanted to speak up about an injustice and felt frustrated or angry.
A new question then arose within me: Why would I want to shut that voice down?
In that moment, I realized that voice – the one I named Crybaby’s voice –had so many valuable things to say, and that I was so often ignoring it in order to avoid other people’s shaming judgments.
It became clear to me and my partner that Crybaby was not the problem. The shame that I had been made to feel about crying was the real problem!
This was the pivotal moment when Crybaby transformed into Fierce Tears.
Finally I was able to begin to speak up and share the valuable things I had to say connected to challenging social norms, taking bold risks, finding my power, and truly helping others find theirs.
This has made it possible for me to step out of the safety of the known and familiar, to explore different social communities, and find the courage to leave the comfort of salaried employment and start my own business.
Shaming our expression of tears is so common in our society that many of us become disconnected from that part of ourselves.
Do you have an inner Crybaby of your own that you have learned to shame when it shows up? Or do you find yourself feeling angry, frustrated or disgusted by the tears of someone you love?
Next time this Crybaby shows up, try to be curious about it. You can ask it questions:
“If these tears had words, what would they say?”
“How are these tears trying to help you (or the person they’re coming from)?”.
“What kind of injustice are these tears pointing out?”
After answering these questions, check in with yourself on whether your perspective on the tears has shifted.
Perhaps by seeing the wisdom within the Crybaby in your life, you might transform into your own version of Fierce Tears!
Eleanor Edgar is a social worker and psychotherapist whose private practice is guided by the theories and principles of Emotional Freedom Techniques, narrative therapy and the Satir model.