So why am I crying all the time?

I suspect some of you may be wondering why showing myself self-compassion has resulted in frequent cry-fests. Isn’t the point of being kind to myself to feel better?

I practice self-compassion when I’m in a situation that is conjuring strong emotions. Usually I’ve had a really draining altercation with my husband, or struggled to manage my kids challenging behaviors, or gotten a biting, blaming email from a parent, or identified some way in which I’ve failed to meet a goal. Before self-compassion I would either get angry, or resentful or guilt-ridden or some combination of the three, and then ultimately I would push down my negative feelings and go on my not-so-merry way.

Now, instead of getting angry or resentful or guilt-ridden, I validate the difficulty of the situation and how it makes me feel. Then I show myself kindness, assure myself that I’m worthy of love, and remember that all humans struggle. Suffering is a share human experience–the ultimate common denominator.

You might expect I could inform this little ritual and move on, but most of the time those steps are only the beginning. For some reason, validating my struggle and showing myself compassion usually touche some deep, long-ignored pain. It turns out I’ve spent a lot of years berating myself for not being the person I expect myself to be, for not sucking it up, for not being grateful enough, for not putting my suffering into perspective. I have belittled my feelings by comparing my circumstances to the truly unfortunate, found my own struggles lacking, and felt shame for my lack of emotional fortitude. Clearly I was told (or it was modeled) growing up that the acceptable course of action was to suck it up, and get over it.

All this denying my shameful feelings has led to a lot of repressed hurt. When I acknowledge my pain and disappointment, it activates similar pain and disappointment that I pushed down, and in some cases the activation is profoundly deep. Right now, showing myself love and compassion requires the lancing and irrigating old wounds. In the moment it’s an excruciating exercise, but it is also allowing deep, fester hurts to finally heal.

And healing does happen. I am starting to experience situations that always triggered a certain response in surprisingly different ways. I’m starting to see entrenched behaviors for what they are, without a bruised ego making excuses or blaming others. Hurts I didn’t know I was harboring are healing. Patterns are changing, or at least being recognized. Yes I am crying a lot, but they are ultimately productive tears, and I have faith that soon touching those old wounds won’t cause quite so much pain, and eventually practicing self-compassion won’t trigger a sob fest.

6 Comments

  1. It really can, and does, get better, naming the names helps because then you really see what is, what hurts, why it hurts, and what is today and what really was a lot of yesterdays ago.
    Sometimes we need to see where we were and to know where we are, and sometimes that brings tears from long ago, tears of self understanding, tears of moving forward differently, tears of new beginnings.
    You are fine and today is both new and the achievement of many yesterdays.

  2. This makes perfect sense to me. Self examination is difficult and painful a lot of the time.

    ” I have belittled my feelings by comparing my circumstances to the truly unfortunate, found my own struggles lacking, and felt shame for my lack of emotional fortitude”. I’ve always felt this about you, that you belittle your own experiences by comparing yourself to people who are worse off. I’m glad you’re trying to stop doing that to yourself. Having compassion for others is wonderful, but you need to allow yourself your own reality. It took lots of counseling for me to fully understand that I was living in the reality my parents created for me, and told me was mine (“so you’re infertile. Your poor mother is pre-diabetic. It could always be worse.”) instead of the reality that was my life. Owning and valuing your own reality, in my experience, allows you to move on faster. Allowing yourself to feel everything you need to feel, without comparing your challenges to others, is very liberating.

    Cry away!

  3. Wow, this sounds so incredibly familiar. Especially this: “For some reason, validating my struggle and showing myself compassion usually touch some deep, long-ignored pain. It turns out I’ve spent a lot of years berating myself for not being the person I expect myself to be, for not sucking it up, for not being grateful enough, for not putting my suffering into perspective.” I feel like this is something we were TAUGHT to do, especially as girls and young women. I thought it was just in Christian circles but apparently it’s much bigger and deeper than that. I feel bad for you, and for me, and mad as hell at the same time that this is what we were taught.

  4. And, I should say, it’s profoundly hopeful to me that you’re working at this, at changing these thought and emotional patterns and that change can be achieved!!

  5. I do understand this. In reading your last few posts, I’ve realised I haven’t been giving myself much self-compassion lately either. (Do as I say, not as I do. Isn’t that always the way?)

    With the death of my mother, a lot of anger has surfaced, after months (no, years) of sucking it up. But I’ve actually been more comfortable with the anger than by the emotions that come up when I’ve been showing myself some self-compassion. I’m so glad you’re being so open and honest about this. It’s reminding me to be true to myself, kind to myself, too.

  6. It is the old “do unto others” thing with the twist of also treating yourself as you try to treat others (adults). We are acculturated to demand and expect more of ourselves than we do others, and to punish ourselves for failing to achieve perfection. I am not certain if men get this message to the same degree that women do. Perhaps some of you can speak to that.
    We do that often to our children too. ……..Really hard stuff.

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