Ever find yourself crying for no obvious reason?
Just know human beings don't make up pain.
There's absolutely no evolutionary advantage for crying without reason.
There is however, something you can do about it.
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The worst thing you can do when you're crying and you don't know why
If you're berating yourself every time you're having a crying fit, please know this will merely back up your tears for another time . . . things like "oh, this is silly", "What a cry baby I am", "I'm just making a big deal out of nothing" are making your situation worse.
What you're doing is triggering your body into a negative state.
It's actually the cumulation of your negative states that are reducing the buffer zone you need to have some distance from what ails you.
A good buffer zone puts distance between you and the difficulties you're facing. It gives you "room" to consider how you want to react.
Not to mention, a good buffer zone helps to "contain" your emotions so they're not spilling over uncontrollably.
A good buffer zone comes from a healthy nervous system.
And the numero one worst thing is to fret anxiously about why you're crying because you don't know why:
"What if something really bad happened in my childhood and I don't remember it".
This last thought is just fueling your fears.
You're actually missing a huge opportunity here. You're not using these tears to your advantage.
I know what you're thinking . . . "opportunity?"
"I'm in pain here."
Please bear with me.
Dr. LaCombe is a 20-year veteran Psychologist and Psychotherapist whose passion is leveraging the power of the autonomic nervous system for managing anxiety and depression.
It's healthy to cry. Here's why.
At the top of the list of reasons why you're crying (no matter the reason) is that tears release pent up energy from your nervous system.
You need to release. Releasing keeps your nervous system healthy.
Tears are just one way—among several ways—the nervous system lets go.
Your nervous system keeps a running tab of how much stimulation (both stress & excitement) that you face daily. If your nervous system isn't releasing regularly—you're backing up!
A backed up nervous system leads to anxiety (with body tension, hyped up energy, easily triggered into anger) and eventually - without an intervention - to clinical depression.
Now at an emotional level, there are countless reasons why you might be tearful—and a good chunk of those reasons may be below consciousness—at least for now.
Biggest benefit to crying—even if you have no obvious reason
If I were to guess the number one benefit to the pain and suffering of too many tears is that it helps to open your heart.
An open heart allows you to feel (not think) a connection with what's meaningful in your life. That applies especially to your significant others.
An expansive heart can feel a connection to everyone. (Consider the Dalai Lama.)
So while this suggestion isn't an immediate solution, do try to take comfort in the knowledge that you are growing internally. You are learning to feel.
The pain comes from the heart being closed . . . typically, for much too long.
There is often valuable information in those tears. If you can stay with the discomfort, you can discover what the tears are about.
Even better, you'll have a clearer idea on what type of healing is needed. (More on that below)
Not being able to cry is a problem
My therapist always said she never had to worry about having a kleenex box next to me in my sessions. I never cried.
That, as it turns out, is a BIG problem.
The impulse to cry is often taken for granted. People who cry when touched by emotion are doing what is natural, emotionally.
It may surprise you to learn that being able to cry is a gift.
Not everyone can cry when they need to.
Some people hold on for weeks even months at a time with their tears just below the surface.
In fact, these folks may actively seek out tearjerker movies or listen to hurtin' songs for the release they get from crying. (It's actually a good idea to get some of that release going when you can't let go on your own.)
Some folks aggressively avoid that kind of entertainment ie. "No, no, we're not watching that crap".
They may not even be able to say "why" they don't like those movies. So their reasoning my seem superfluous.
Unconsciously, they know it'll open a door they may not be able to hold back.
Keep in mind that an inability to cry is often associated with clinical depression. In this numbed out place, the nervous system is 'holding on' in a freeze state.
In fact, when the individual is able to start crying again, it's seen as a positive sign for the reason that they're now feeling their feelings.
"I can't stop crying"
So you're here because you have trouble in stopping the flow of tears. Your emotions feel raw and unprocessed.
Crying is certainly distressing when you don't know why you're crying. As I mentioned earlier, spending time on the "why" though is wasting time.
Rather, allow any reason to surface naturally. If it's meant to come to you at this time, it will**.
"Thinking" your way to an answer preemptively is a recipe for false positives and confabulation (the brain easily makes up stuff that may or may not be right).
And the opportunity? It's a chance to do some deep inner repair work.
It's moving through the tears in a way that's healing where you'll eventually find an end to them. (This is how you start and how it'll eventually end the sudden flood of tears).
Tears are a sign deeper levels of your psyche are available to you.
Those "raw" feelings can't help but access the vulnerable side of you. Due to the way the brain is structured you might not have a clear set of memories to show you the "why". The pain though is real.
You can trust in the fact that human beings do not just invent sadness; tears are an expression of our real emotions without even knowing why you're crying.
** Learning to trust the wisdom of the body helps to reduce the discomfort of not knowing where the tears arise from. Not to mention, sensing into your body often reveals insights that are difficult to access otherwise.
We don't always know why we cry
Chronically depressed individuals do not spend hours crying. They're too numb. They don't feel anything, and that's the problem.
Life is grey and all emotions are flat. (Which is related to why being able to cry is linked to finding meaning in your life.)
In fact, it's not unusual for depressed folks to become tearful as they recover.
If this fits for you, it means you've started to feel.
- So if you're currently depressed and you still cry, try to see tears as a resource for you. It's a way for you to vent your emotions and a way for you to find your way out.
- If you're recovering from depression try to see your tears as a way for you to access emotions for deeper healing.
Here are my personal experiences with tears. I wonder if you've felt the same....
Tears are cleansing
I always feel good after a "good" cry.
As I was saying earlier, it has always been difficult for me to cry, especially when others were around. I was aware that I was working hard to control and hide my tears. It didn't help that I had over-developed shame pathways.
I was embarrassed at being emotionally touched by what I felt in the moment. This is ironic since I sincerely believe it's inherently human to feel deeply.
But this thought had little impact on my emotions. My primitive lower brain (that controls the nervous system) - where the tears arise from - takes no orders from the conscious and intentional me.
Crying takes me to a place that's childlike for I feel exactly as I did when I cried as a child. I feel vulnerable and afraid.
Yet, this childlike energy helps me know myself better. Tears helped me get to the core of me. For instance, a good cry usually gives me a better sense of what's a priority in my life (and where I might have gone off track).
I learn why some of my behaviours serve little purpose.
I grieve. Maybe for a part of me that's not being seen . . . a part that I haven't attended to.
It's possible I heard this too often: "Don't you be crying or I'll give you something to cry about!" It could have been just the catalyst though.
I've learnt that to open my heart invites pain. But I also know that in the end being open is the only way to lose that pain and to feel joy in my life.
As my feelings of shame diminished, my tears gradually felt less scary. So now when I cry I have mixed emotions.
I am sad for what made me cry, but happy that I can cry!
Feeling joy in my tears is a new experience for me. I feel this especially when someone else is crying with me. This kind of connection feels warm and at the same time, a little scary.
Yet it feels real. It makes it okay to cry . . . and to feel deeply.
I believe that tears are heaven sent because they lead me to a spiritual place. So when I cry today I also quietly rejoice. I know that my heart is opening and that I've taken one more precious step on the path to inner peace.
Dr. Susan LaCombe
Can't cry in therapy
Thanks so much for your article on "Tears". I read it with much interest. I have been seeing the same kind, caring therapist for six years. We've worked through many intense, horrifying issues from my past, and I've come to a place of healing and forgiveness for the people involved.
Yet I feel like an aspect of this work is missing - I've never shed a tear or grieved over the loss of love, sense of self worth, identity, and almost my life, several times over. Many times in session the tears have been just below the surface, but something always stops them. I feel a sense of heaviness, like this unexpressed grief is always there, but my tears have been frozen for a long time.
I trust my therapist with my feelings, I have no problem being vulnerable with him, so I can't understand what is holding me back. I'm the same way with family and friends - I might tear up when sad, but that's as far as it goes.
Any insight would be greatly appreciated. This has been very distressing and frustrating for me. Thank you.
Linda (Pennsylvania, USA)
Consider this Linda.
Your nervous system is too much in fear mode.
You may feel comfortable with your therapist, it's likely your lizard brain is NOT.
To be fair to your therapist, it's the emotional content that's too scary for you to let go into.
Without that 'letting go' you're not getting the most value from your sessions.
You would do well to learn some body based techniques. You'd learn how to titrate the emotional content so it can be processed at a deeper level. That's the secret to real change.
These tools will also give you a in-the-moment gauge for the level of fear and "hold back" in your nervous system.
Hope things improve for you,
Tears of shame, tears of vulnerability
Hi Suzanne, Thank you for your words in Tears are Heaven Sent. Sometimes when you know someone else feels and does things exactly like you do it helps so much.
One day I hope I too will be able to feel joy in my tears. I can feel how they are (would be) 'heaven sent', but for now I think I have still to work through feelings of shame.
My sister Katy feels the same way, but for her she feels more vulnerable than shamed.
Thank you for for sharing how it was and now is for you. It is comforting to know we too perhaps can reach that joy. Maybe one day. At least we know it is possible for you, and we are both really happy for you. Your website is so helpful, and thank you.
Oh you're so welcome Sandra.
We're all just learning from each other eh.
It's like I don't have any tears left
Recently, I've been feeling so... tired, I guess. I get this way on and off, and I always feel like I need to shut down, and lock myself in my room. I always get up and go to school, but my friends are noticing it more and more.
I feel so close to just falling apart into tears, but it's like I don't have any left. It's like there's this hole in me where something's missing, and I can't find it, and I can't even fill the hole with tears anymore.
Tears are like rain in a drought to me, and the fact that I haven't shed any scares me...
It may be Ashley that you're just tapped out at present. You need "room" to cry actually. You might be a bit numb.
If so, it means your nervous system is too full.
Try to find an activity that lets you go into a deep state of relaxation. Then sense into your body. If a few tears rise to the surface, that's a good sign.
Then move through gently doing some healing work as you do so.
Is there any hope for someone like me?
I have cried a lot these past three years due to my once-frozen grief coming to the surface as I worked through memories of severe child abuse, including rejection, neglect, and abandonment.
I often believe that I have been depressed all of my life. Is that possible? I learned to dissociate as a child in order to cope with severe abuse, but I often didn't want to continue living, even when I was a young girl. I just didn't want to hurt every day or be tormented each and every day. I think my body is totally worn and exhausted, probably have adrenal fatigue among many other physical maladies.
What does a person like me do? I mean, all of this started for me years and years ago, probably preverbally. I am "triggered" very easily.....by things I see or hear, by sounds, by cars backfiring, doors slamming......hearing a child crying.....all of these bring flashbacks which leave me feeling terrified and sobbing.
I have grown very tired of life. Very, very tired of continuing to live through all the sadness of my life. Growing up I cannot recall one kind word from either parent. I never heard that I was loved, that I was special, that I was wanted. On the contrary, I heard the opposite. I was never hugged or tucked into bed. No one ever read to me.
Is it a surprise that I feel utterly and completely alone in the world? What are triggers and why do they happen?
And my biggest question is this: I've spent a long time today reading your information here, and it has helped me immeasurably, but is there any hope for someone like me? I've merely survived, not thrived. Can a person like me learn how to find joy in life? People will say to me, "Well, you're a MENSA member....surely you can figure out how to 'get over' all your depression and grief......Just 'DO IT,' like the Nike commercial says." I want to scream in their faces.
All I've ever done for years is go to therapy, read hundreds of books, journal, practice cognitive therapy.....to the point that I'm tired of trying. Please tell me that there is still hope for me. Don't I deserve to feel good, without my nervous system being constantly revved, for once in my life before I die? (Oh, and to top it all off, I find that I am a right-brained person, and I fit the criteria for "Highly Sensitive People.")
Can you detect my level of desperation, ShrinkLady?
Dawn (Tennessee, USA)
Haven't cried in months
I don't know how long I've been depressed, but I know things have been like this for at least 5 months now. I don't think my symptoms are as serious as clinical depression, so I'm guessing I have dysthymic symptoms? Anyway, I'm only 15 and I'm way too scared to go to anyone about these issues.
I used to self-injure but then I found out that it didn't work for me, so I have all this anger, frustration, and sadness bottled up inside me all the time and my parents constantly have this impression that I'm really bratty and irritable, but I can't explain and I feel alone. I wore a lot of black but I put on a good show and my friends thought I was the happiest girl on earth.
I can't cry, and it's been so many months that it's scary. I would like to consider myself as in recovery, but I still have a low self-esteem and I don't want to go into remission even though it seems so easy. I've been alone every step of the way and I'm so tired of shoving my feelings aside. I don't know what's wrong because nothing traumatic of stressful has been going on. Please help!
JH (Toronto, Canada)
How can I help my friend?
well i have this friend and she is constantly up and down. and within the past few wks she's been more on the down...she's overly sensitive and says that nothin is going right in her life as far as her job, finances, and being lonely....im running out of things to say to her cuz she is never taking my advice...what is it that can help her because i feel like she is really depressed....
lashon (north carolina, usa)
Hi Lashon, I can imagine how hard this is...to see a friend go through mood swings and not have any control over it. And that's the reality - we don't have any control over how others feel. So please remember this. You can only do so much.
You might have already encouraged your friend to see a therapist. If not, I'd try suggesting this. If your friend is willing to consider this option, you could offer to help her so she doesn't feel overwhelmed at the prospect of finding a good therapist on her own.
From your post I wasn't sure if you had told her that she might suffering from depression and that it might account for her mood. Not everyone is receptive to hearing this kind of suggestion though. And I can appreciate you wouldn't want to alienate her at this point.
But you can always ask her if she thinks it might be a possibility. That might prompt her to consider therapy or at least call the crisis lines to see what they think.
Remember that people go to therapy all the time for all sorts of reasons. Just going to make your life better is reason enough. So recommending therapy as an option from that perspective can sound more appealing and less threatening.
It might also be helpful for you to understand the nature of depression.
When we're depressed, we don't feel much of anything.
You see, depression numbs our feelings and experience of the world. And without feelings, we can't feel that life has any meaning. Then we end up projecting onto our lives as if the things outside of us are the problem, when the real problem exists inside.
You're probably seeing this with your friend. She seems to be experiencing her life from "the glass is half full" kind of place. When people do this it's not their fault. It's not so much that people are thinking the wrong way, it's that the nervous system is depressed. And when the nervous system is depressed, we tend to interpret our lives from that place.
In any case Lashon, there's one area we do have control over and that is how we are with others. In other words, consider how you are with her. Maybe there's a new way just to be with her that might help.
Our connection to each other is often taken for granted so one area could be in bringing the fact of your mutual friendship to her awareness. Try sharing from your heart - from a genuine place...you know, from a place that's often hard for us to get to unless we are called upon to do so.
For instance - if you haven't told her this already - you might share with her how much she has meant to you in your life. You would describe the moments when you enjoyed her company the most.
It's been my experience that when we risk ourselves in this way, by making ourselves vulnerable, others feel and respond accordingly.
I'll caution you however: it's a risk to put yourself out there because owing to her depressed state, she may not be able to take in what you're saying. And that can hurt, so be prepared for that.
And by the way Lashon, if you find you're having a hard time letting go of worrying about your friend and it's bringing you down, consider seeing someone for yourself.
Learning to be with your friend in a way that's supportive without taking on her stuff (i.e. having good personal boundaries) is an emotional skill that has benefits for many areas of one's life. A good therapist can help you develop this ability.
Finally, your friend has one thing going for her, that's for sure: she's been able to attract a loyal and sincere friend!
I'll leave a few articles below that may be helpful.
All the best,
Mood swings got you down?
The Holiday Season and Being Triggered
Thank you, that was a brilliant article on Tears, really wonderful and helpful.
I need 'to learn' to let go, to cry. Virtually impossible for me unless I am on my own.....and then only rarely.
Is crying every week natural?
I am breaking down in tears nearly weekly because people are stressing me out.
Is this natural?
Sorry to hear how it's going Nathan. Being tearful on a weekly basis is certainly not healthy. I can imagine life is a bit of a struggle right now.
When we're breaking down in tears on an ongoing basis it's likely that the source of the problem is coming from within yourself. For instance, you might examine what's happening in your life and to ask yourself, in times before, could you have managed the stress that these folks appear to be causing you now?
It's very possible that your nervous system is too activated and you're moving from crisis to freeaze states. There's no buffer zone for you to manage the activation associated with stress. So, it's a "natural" state when the nervous system is "maxed" but it's not a place where we want to be for very long.
BTW, if you haven't already seen the movies Inside Job Parts I & II, you might find them helpful in understanding why you're not doing well. (You'll have to login the Myshrink Members area to see them.)
Briefly stated, if you think of your body as a container that holds emotions then consider that the container is too full. There's little room for you to manage emotions. By "emptying" out the container you'd find it easier to manage stress and your emotions.
In other words, your activation level is too high and you're running on empty. By lowering your activation (I describe how to do this in the Brain Coaching Program), you'll find it easier to live your life.
Hope things improve for you,
Scared to see a therapist / professional
I think i may need help but im unsure :S When i was 2-4 cant quite remember.. My parents split up.. I apparently went through a weird stage and collecting things etc.. Then when i was in year 4 mum and i had an argument that led my to my Fathers.. I lived with him for 6 years after that! ..
Dad started to work away and i was left with my step mum for weeks at a time.. I had had enough of pretending to be someone i wasn't and decided to move back to mums.. I moved in then 2 weeks later My step Dad passed away in a car accident..
I blamed myself for his death because i was supposed to be in the car at the time! I struggled through losing him, he was considered to be my dad and i loved him dearly.. I then just fell in hole, crying myself to sleep, death thought although I'm afraid of it, i lost contact with friends, i never go out, i either over eat or refuse to touch food.. I bottle my emotions up until i burst and hurt some i love 🙁
People try to tell me to "cheer up emo kid" Im not emo and all of a sudden ive become obsessive over things eg: A band.. I have often thought why do i spend so much time up at night so i try to go to bed before 3 am but fail and become miserable and irritated because i cant sleep..
Then i sleep untill 11 am before getting up and mopeing all day.. I wish my life would end.. Sometimes i feel numb and cry sometimes i cry because im annoyed..I think now is the time to add, mum attempted suicide before... my sister has post natal depression my 2 oldest sister has it and i have a feeling my dad has depression..
I dont know what to do im lost i hate life and ive tried everything but im scared to see a profeesional.. i dont want to be in hospital and i dont want to admit to having depression to my family..
Are you able to help me? Please.. x
Sorry alot of this text is just all over the place but im shaky and im not able to concentrate.. 🙁
Afraid of losing control when crying
Tears scare me. No matter how often I break down and cry - it never gets any easier. Last year I was hospitalized because I could not stop crying. Well, the crying is resurfacing and I am doing all I can to hide this from my family. I do not want to find myself back in the hospital.
Sometimes I sob, other times I whimper like a lost child. I never seem to be able to make a connection with the tears - I have no idea where they come from or why they are there. I do not like to cry for no reason... Well, yesterday the tears returned - full blast! I cried for hours and felt worse when I stopped. I feel as if I have no control over my tears. I try really hard to not cry around people - but I have this desire to just break down and cry with my therapist. I want her to hold me, make it safe and allow me to cry. I turn my tears away and hold on to this "I have no feelings" attitude. If I can not name the emotion, by God I am not going to feel it! (At least, not in front of another person!) I wish I could feel some release from the tears...
What you wrote in "Tears are heaven sent..." makes me want to allow myself to feel or to release my feelings - but I can not break down the walls around me! A part of me is very afraid that if I really cry (especially where people could see) I might lose control. Tears are just so frightening and here I go again - the tears are falling and I just want some one to hold me and make it all better! Tears can not hurt me - so why am I so afraid of them!?
KS (Texas, USA)
Yes, tears can be enormously scary KS. They make us feel vulnerable when we are usually already in a shaky place. In my case, holding it all together was a matter of emotional survival. To cry meant losing that safety. However, in reality the lack of safety was the reason for my inability to cry. I wonder if this same scenario fits for you?
It caught my eye when I read your post, "I just want some one to hold me and make it all better". This is exactly what you need during tearful times. I recommend this to clients often when they get into those places. I suggest they ask a friend to hug them for as long as they can "tolerate" the good stuff of a warm connection - it could be for a few seconds or several minutes.
It's really what many of us need when we are in a sad, tearful place. This idea can't replace it, but if you can imagine the best hug you ever received while you're in the midst of your tears, it might help you to move through them a little easier. It's also a way for you to heal what's behind the tears.
It's also possible that there's a connection between the tears and what's happening in your body. I remember working with someone who would cry "for no reason" and although there were difficult historical issues awaiting resolution, the tears were a way of discharging the overwhelm that she was not consciously aware of in her nervous system. Just a thought...
Your post also reminds me that you know with all the invasive therapies (e.g. drug therapy, electro convulsive therapy), probably one day we'll figure out that what we all needed to heal were just more hugs.
Did you know there is a hug day? There are volunteers who stand in front of public buildings and offer hugs for free to anyone who asks...revolution comes in the smallest of packages!
Hope that helps KS,
Can you become too open, too honest?
Hi ShrinkLady, I am glad that I found this article. I had been in therapy for about six months - the good kind (holistic- integrated) While I was in therapy the numbing - flat feeling slowly dissipated, and I feel more emotions than ever. Before therapy - I held my emotions tightly, and like you, would not, mostly could not cry-especially in front of others. Now I understand that early child trauma - hurts are what caused this.
Here is the problem - is it possible to become too open, too honest with my feelings, too vulnerable, often feeling like a hurt and scared child? I feel too much sometimes and I am not sure if this is depression with tears, or am I just experiencing a greater range of emotions? I should add that there are circumstances - that at this point - beyond my control that may be contributing to this. I am by no means closing the door to therapy, just seeing how I can manage on my own for the summer.
Helen (NJ, USA)
Hi Helen, I'm really pleased you've been experiencing changes in your work and that, from the sounds of it, you have a good therapist to help you on your way.
As your heart opens up, you will feel pain - that's the reason why it was closed down - and you may experience this as grief. This is the normal course of events as we open up.
You're learning a great deal at this time Helen. You are stretching the edges of your capacity. Your nervous system is learning how to manage these deeper emotions. You see, as human beings we must learn how to tolerate the sensations of intense feelings. Hopefully, a good chunk of these pathways are laid down during infancy and fortunately, due to the plasticity of the brain, we can learn how to do this at any time across our lifespan.
As your emotions expand there will be times when you overshoot the mark - you will go too deep or share too much with another person. That's okay. This will happen.
Here's a few suggestions. Trust your body. Whenever you are feeling "exposed" by too much self-disclosure, find a safe comfortable place and pull inward in a self-protective mode. This might mean curling up in your bed in the middle of the day. It might mean sitting in a darkened room for a while. Both of these tactics reduce the incoming stimulation and help the reptilian brain to feel safe.
Notice how it feels in your body but be sure not to make any judgments or interpretations about it. You're doing exactly what your body needs. In time, you'll be able to tolerate more and more.
I suspect you will be on a learning curve in regards to how much is "too much" for some time. Eventually, I'm almost certain, if you continue your work chances are you'll look back at this time and notice that you are no longer feeling the vulnerable and scary feelings to the same degree.
Hello Again Shrinklady,
I just read my post and your response from the summer, and I am happy to say- that I really see some changes. I am still in therapy (almost a year) with the same super therapist and I am working hard. (oh you can let the new people know, the harder we work together- the more we get out of therapy).
I am also happy to report that I am feeling less vunerable, stronger, and less activated. But I have a question. I still can't cry in therapy. Is that a bad sign? When we do the hard work in therapy - I usually cry by myself in between sessions.
Trusting has always been an issue with me, but I don't think this is a lack of trust or attunement with the therapist, but rather being activated when doing the tough stuff. I then seem to process and feel stuff afterwards. That is just how it works for me.
Another question I have - If I stop therapy, will I go back to being the person I once was, or do the postitve changes stick?
Thanks for your terrific site.
Hi Helen, nice to hear back from you and to hear of your wonderful progress. It's true eh, the more we put into it, the more we get out of it. Sounds like this plan is working well for you.
You mentioned the difficulty you have in crying in front of your therapist. I think you pegged it right with the idea that trusting is hard. However, I wonder if it's not that you don't trust your therapist, maybe you're learning to trust yourself? Cause as you approach that tearful place, you're also learning that you'll be okay. It's just possible you haven't arrived there yet.
In time, I suspect you will be able to cry in front of your therapist. Maybe some time before - if not already - you'll find it easier to cry over movies with a friend or partner. Then it will grow from there. That's how it was for me when I started to allow the tears.
I'm glad you asked about keeping the positive changes once you finish with therapy. I think many people ask themselves the same question. Positive changes - changes that arise from the inside out - tend to stick unless a bad event pulls you back into an earlier place. However, my view is that it's like understanding that 1 + 1 is 2. It's pretty hard to lose that learning.
Neuroscience suggests that old neuropathways remain. That is, our old patterns remain in the brain. However, they're like cobwebs and with disuse the probability increases that they won't be fired up again.
Even when we regress in the face of unexpected bad events, if there's enough resiliency in the nervous system, we can regain what we lost in a much faster time. This is particularly the case when the probability exists of better regulated pathways being fired up.
In other words, the new neuropathways you're developing in therapy and are using today are improving your odds that they will be used in future.
All the best Helen,
Am I being punished??
i am suffering from depression and anxiety and its horrible , i am waiting to see a therapist , i have been through so much trauma these last ten years , long story , been reading on your site the last ten minutes and all i can do is cry , everyday you hope to wake up and feel better , but the dark days outway the better days and today is a dark day , i feel hurt and sadness all the time , through things i have done myself and boy am i being punished.
lynn (Cambridgeshire, uk)
Hi Lynn, I'm so pleased to hear you say, you're gonna be seeing a therapist. There is a way out and in time, as you continue your work, I believe you will find new meaning in your life.
I'd like to respond to one thing that you alluded to. You suggested that you have done some things that have hurt you and that now you feel you're being punished for it. I'd encourage you to veer away from looking at your current state as "punishment".
While, we are all responsible for our lives, being "asleep" during parts of our life, is not something that's easily avoided even with the best of intentions. And during those times, despite your efforts, you can find yourself doing things that you later regret.
That was certainly the case for myself. I know looking back I never attended to the things that would have helped me and so, in the end, I had a harder time of it because of that. Nonetheless, even these experiences gave something back to me. They taught me about myself.
Sometimes it's not always easy to understand our own motivations. I try to impress upon my clients that many of our behaviours are learned adaptations to traumatic stressful events. You see, it's easier to push the anger and hurts onto oneself through destructive behaviours than it is to face the reality of being treated poorly or not loved for who we are.
And this is what you need to remind yourself. You did get what you needed to do to survive.
Lynn, although it's certainly not always easy to see this at the time, sad states are potential healing moments. The healing comes when we are able to resource ourselves through it. Sometimes this comes from the care and love of another. However, sometimes we cannot even tolerate that much. So, our resources must be much smaller. You go with what works.
I watched Grease three times when it first came out years ago. There was something in that movie that helped me heal. It was what I needed. A therapist might have been an even better idea but I was "on the road" (both metaphorically and physically) at that time in my life.
And this is what I recommend to you. Find a therapist that's attuned to you.
I sincerely hope you find one that can be there in a way that you need and that helps you heal.
All the best,
Feeling tired and empty
it's been about a month that i've been having mixed emotions and i dont know how to control them. i am a highschool student and i have never felt so low and angry. i gained 5 more pounds and i am really hungry and i have a hard time to sleep. i scare my friends and now teachers are starting to ask me if im ok. am i ok.. i feel so alone...i have also been having mood swings, is that normal?
I dont know what to do, i've been having suicidal thoughts too and i dont know what to do. i've been feel tired and empty. what should i do...
alison (Ontario, canada)
Hello Alison I'm sorry that you're feeling so alone. I can so resonate with mixed emotions and how you feel with those around you.
Let me explain a couple things that might help you understand what's going on for you. When we're feeling so low and angry, the nervous system is shooting outside the optimal window of functioning. So one minute, we're hyper, the next we're crashing. (See the biphasic response for more information.)
Coping through eating is a way many folks use for comforting the nervous system. Yet - as you likely discovered - to no avail.
When we're as agitated as you describe, the brain is essentially in survival mode and we're feeling totally alone. The end result is that reaching out at a time like this can feel almost impossible. Yet, it is the best thing we can do for ourselves.
Alison, you have the potential for an expansive life ahead of you. Getting help now can free you from suffering and set you on a course for healing. It's your birthright.
It's clear to me that you would benefit from the care and guidance of a sensitive, grounded therapist. You needn't suffer in silence.
Take good care,
Am I depressed, or just exhausted?
I have been looking at your website and found it so helpfull. When do lots of bad life events and how I feel about them become depression?
I have had quite a few extraordinary things happen through life but have dealt well with them. Unfortunately life events have again tested my ability to deal with them I now find myself tired all the time mostly unhappy and to be honest just desparing at times.
I have always been a very happy balanced person ready to help others and I now feel exhausted empty and not sure if that's normal or depression! Thanks at least I don't feel silly about it but I do need to seek help.
TH(Essex, United Kingdom)
Hi TH, the sad thing is that we often don't know we're maxed out until symptoms show up. And when they do, we don't know how we got to where we're at. It just doesn't make logical sense. And that's the conundrum.
One of the messages that I'd like you to take home TH, is that it is so easy for us to consider that we are doing well. And for most part, we are. Yet, at the same time, something may be brewing unconsciously, comprising our life energy.
Luckily, the emotional brain provides us with some answers. I find it useful to think of it metaphorically...
Imagine we have a container inside, one collecting the negative aftereffects of extraordinary life experiences. For the most part, we're often not aware that the container is getting full until we fall into symptoms such as exhaustion and feeling empty.
(By the way, feeling empty is a form of dissociation. It's a way we disconnect from the charge underlying our conscious experiences. It's survival based.)
We notice it when the container tips and symptoms emerge. Often we're confused and in this state we lose touch with those resources that give us those happy, balanced feelings.
I hope you have considered therapy TH. It's been both my clinical and personal experience that therapy can help you empty the container and reembrace your joy.
I hope that clears up some things for you,
Scared and alone
i cant even begin to imagine whats going on in my life. i have no one to talk too. Well at least i dont want to worry the few pople i have in my life. i feel so scared and alone. i have always been a very strong individual. now i feel more nothing less than like a wet little kitten.
Theresa (Gardena, California, USA)
Hi Theresa, sorry to hear how you're doing. Sometimes when we go to these places of suffering it seems like there are no options. Yet, there are.
I wish you all the best,
Don't really feel anything
I haven't cried in so long, I don't know how. Presently, I don't feel anything. I am so numb to all my emotions. In certain situations I realize that I should feel this way or that so I just fake it. I don't really feel anything. I am trying so hard, but I feel totally lost in the emotions department.
Hello Kats, first let me say, it's been wonderful to see your participation in the Counseling Psych Cafe. I hope you're feeling supported by the folks there.
Numbing can sometimes occur when we have emotional outbursts such as crying. Generally, tears are a good thing especially deep, soulful crying.
If our crying takes us outside our window of tolerance however, it can over charge the nervous system. The result is a dissociative numbing to being flooded. It's like a part of us is shutting down to contain the charge.
In this state, it's hard to feel much of anything. There's no room. Fortunately, unless this has been a chronic state for years, the numbing is temporary.
I appreciate how hard this must be for you particularly during the holiday season. Meeting old friends and family and being in a state that's not really conducive to "being joyful" can be challenging to say the least.
Terrified of crying in the presence of others.
I am so happy to have come upon your site. There are so many topics that I completely relate to. I am surprised and very relieved that others have some of the same feelings that I have and have felt so much shame about.
My feelings and emotions are so confusing to me and I just never thought that anyone else would have or understand them. I feel as if I live a double life. The one that I portray to others and the one that really lives inside of me. Neither one would recognize the other.
I am terrified of crying in the presence of others. I never cried in front of my parents, I don't cry in front of my husband, and I don't cry in front of my children. Actually, I have always been very proud of that because I thought it was a sign of strength. When I start to have those feelings, I shut down. I do my best to change the subject, or flee from the situation.
I have been in therapy for two years and I have only just started to be able to let go with my therapist. I have very strong feelings for her and really wish that she were my mother. She is so gentle with me when I do let just a few tears slip out. Actually, last week as I was saying something very emotional to her, and letting a few tears fall, her eyes welled up. I couldn't believe that she was really feeling my pain. At that moment, I felt as if our hearts touched. I think this will help me to open up more to her and not be afraid that she will abandon me.
I am finding out that I have huge abandonment issues. I was adopted and while I never thought that was an issue as I was growing up, I am finding out now that there are a lot of deeply hidden feelings about it. My adoptive mother has passed away and I am realizing that I feel abandoned by not only her, but my birth mother. The fact that I have no family history is difficult for me because I feel alone and not connected to anyone. My therapist is helping me to get these feelings out, but it is going very slowly. In my head I trust her completely, but I always have that nagging voice that says she might leave me or tell me I'm done with therapy.
Thank you Shrinklady for giving me so much more to think about and the courage to start saying the things that are so difficult for me to say. PL
Puppy Lover (California, USA)
Thanks Puppy Lover for your post and your kind words about the site. It was nice to hear that it resonates with you.
It sounds as if you're doing wonderful work with your therapist. It seems that your heart is opening as your relationship with her is growing. I can believe how scary that is...it certainly was for me.
And, yes, baby steps are good. That's the way our body knows best.
I wish you well on your journey,
Want more info on 'discharging'
Hi Shrinklady, thank you. You gave a really clear explanation. I did try the exercise on the Discharge page. It seems that I had more difficulty doing the breathing in part. I'm hoping more practice will help?
I've heard breath is related to "life" so I was thinking maybe deep breathing and good breathing helps you to also live life more deeply and fully and the psychological state on that will also change. What do you think?
I guess singing or acting, writing, drawing can all be forms of discharge too. Although I've always wondered if the emotions you use in acting stay locked within your body/nervous system, which wouldn't be good or it is actually discharged?
Do you have any recommendations on where I can read more about discharges? I find it very interesting when you explain how sighs are a catch-up maneuvre. And how the signs lets go of carbon dioxide built up within the body. I never thought of it that way It's quite hard or I don't know where to find such information normally. Thank you again for your lovely article, I hope there will be more to read.
Hi JC, I'll post this one in the Discharge article and put it on the list for the next response I do.
Would sighs (sighing) also be a form of discharge?
I can REALLY resonate with this!! Thank you!! It's something I'll keep looking back at from time to time.
Would sighs (sighing) also be a form of discharge?
Hi JC, glad you like the article. Yes, sighs are a form of discharge. Sighs are like "catch-up" maneuvres. For instance, when we've been shallow breathing for a while and the nervous system hasn't let go sufficiently, sighs allow built up carbon dioxide to leave the body.
If you haven't already done the exercise on the Discharge article, you might try it and notice if you find one or the other hard to do. Some folks have trouble 'breathing in' and others 'breathing out'. For a healthy nervous system a balance between the two is optimal.
Still cannot find happiness
Well its actually me and my close friend who has depression, We're quite relieved when we saw this site. It's good to know that there are some people out there in the world that actually feel our pain and what we've been through.
For me, I feel like nothing really passes by, its like a never ending bridge. The other side is happiness, and I can never get to that. Yes, even though I smile. It may sound cliche but its not real. We barely show our emotions anymore, and when we see other people out there laughing and smiling all the time, it makes me sick. To know that there are people out there in our everyday lives, who are happy about things like poverty, starvation and more, that they don't even think about it once.
It's not only that, but when you think karma will go and get the people who despise you, but it never happens. You believe in it, yet it never does. It's true, you do lose some emotions and concentration. Because all the feelings you are keeping in your mind can't go away. It's killing me. I can never live a day without thinking about these things that I can never be. The things I can never have. The time that I already lost and how pathetic and useless I am.
Please, we need help. The name we posted on the comments isn't out real name because we wanted this to be kept anonymous. We need advice/help fast. We've been thinking about suicide atleast everyday, and the more we think about it, it feels like the pain is lessing in whether we should care about other people who will be ' affected ' by our death. When we tell people about our lifestyles, they don't understand and cover our names with lies and hate. Just because we're not like them, just because we can't appreciate the same things they would. Doesn't mean they are more superior, that they can just do whatever they want because we believe in karma. It doesn't make sense, how they are not judged, but we are. We hate being called loners even though we are facing the awful truth. It makes us sad. . . . .
AnonymousSadness (Edmonton, Canada)
Hello AnonymousSadness, I am pleased you found the site helpful. I also think it's wonderful that you have mustered enough courage to reach out as you have in this post. It seems you and your friend are suffering from a dark depression and it seems clear that you require immediate help. I wish I could say something to relieve your pain but I don't think I can offer any words of wisdom that could give you immediate relief.
As I have mentioned throughout the site, our emotional problems are best treated by a qualified therapist. It is clearly evident in your post that you need someone to help you through this. I know I would not be where I am today without the help of therapists and I want you to know that you deserve to get this support for yourself.
I wonder why you have not taken this option up?
Depression is treatable. You don't have to live this way. However, depression isn't something you can easily escape from by trying to change your thoughts, which from the sounds of your post, it seems you are trying very hard to do so. It takes time but with each baby step in therapy you get closer to the real you, the part of you that is yearning to feel alive and free.
Depression distorts all aspects of our life, emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually and mentally. And, that's the conundrum. At a time, when we need to be clear-headed and "on the ball", we're not operating at our best because of it.
So for example, under the depressive spell, we often feel helpless in the face of it. And, because of that, it makes it hard to imagine feeling better or even in getting help.
That you find it difficult to experience positive emotions does not surprise me. This is one of the defining characteristics of depression. We can't take in the good things that are around us. We can't feel them. This is not who you are at the core, this is the depression as it is manifested.
As you have probably read, depression also distorts the way we see the world including our thoughts. I know from personal experience with depression that the world can look and feel pretty grey. It will also shape how you see others. Please keep this in mind, as you look at others, maybe even others that might like to help.
As you have probably read, depression also distorts the way we see the world including our thoughts. I know from personal experience with depression that the world can look and feel pretty grey. It will also shape how you see others. Please keep this in mind, as you look at others, maybe even others that might like to help.
It's true that some people don't understand how others folks prefer to live. I hope you will also permit me to say that the more that we stand up and be different in the face of those who judge, the stronger we become as a community.
You each have each other. That you care for each other is a wonderful gift. I hope one of you has the courage to reach out and make sure that you both get the help you deserve.
All the best,
I never cried before my children or anybody
I am so glad to come across this site. To me, it is not an accident as just opened my computer and found myself in the site. Everything stated is relevant to me. I am 43 years not and as a matter of fact I found it so difficult to cry especially in the presence of others even when tears were on the surface.
I was raised to know that crying is a weakness. For 21 years of marriage, my husband or my children has never seen my tears. When I am in circumstances that forces me to cry I hold back. The last 7 years I have gone through a stressful time of moving from one country to another with a husband and 4 children. We went through stressful time followed by separation. I never cried before my children or anybody. This has resulted to anxiety.
This site has brought me insight that holding back is dangerous. I am a born again christian. I cry in the presence of the Lord. The Lord has been with me and kept me and my children safe. I know that one of the God's promise if healing and health and that's what I am claiming. Soon I'm gonna write back with a testimony.
Thank you for being so helpful. I pray that God will give you more understanding as you pour to others.
NB. if anyone there has not let Jesus Christ in their hearts please do as quickly as possible as we are nearly to the end of time. Jesus Christ is coming soon. Please look for a bible based church and get help. Thank you.
Thank you for your warm sentiments. I'm glad to hear that you are learning to allow your tears. It sounds as if you are quite aware of how scary they can feel. You might find it useful to remember, given your history, it's okay to take baby steps...this is what my therapist reminds me in my own work.
This is one of the things that we learn in therapy. We learn, in the presence of another, that nothing bad will happen when we cry...in fact, over time you will learn that it can bring us closer.
You may find that as you "learn" to cry, your heart begins to expand in ways you didn't anticipate...that's been my own personal experience and I would wish the same for you.
I wish all the best,
...because it's all about connection.
Crying on the way to recovery
I am thankful for finding this site on a search engine. I find this site very interesting. It really describes me right now.
I think I have been depressed since I was 9 years old. I'm 21 now, so it's been for a long time. Whenever I think I'm not depressed anymore, something pulls me back in. I am so tired of being depressed that I searched for counseling online.
I'm intrigued that someone can know their own mind so well, not to mention, others minds. I find myself in tears a lot but only when I'm alone. I felt sorry for myself then but now I know that it can be a good thing to cry, it could mean that I'm on my way to recovering.
Thank you for helping me help myself.
Diana (Burlington, United States)
Thank-you Diana for sharing this. It's good to hear you've started your therapy journey...and being so young, should give you a good start in life.
I really wish I had started therapy when I was younger. Online counseling is a great beginning. I wish they had it when I was younger...I might have started sooner because it feels easier to start with...and maybe avoided some of my wrong turns!
All the best,
I cry every time in therapy
I think I have built up so much pain over the years that now, almost every time I go to to therapy, I cry. It's almost like I can't turn it off!
My therapist says I'm so emotional, and had me put on meds. I don't feel much different except that I'm not as emotional. I think I know the difference between emotions and feelings but I'm not quite sure. I hope I can acquire at least some emotional intelligence so I can make it through the rest of my life with out falling apart. (I hope this comment made sense)
Jeff (Willis, Michigan, USA)
Sorry Jeff, to hear how it's going. It made total sense what you were saying. I've had clients in the past that were very tearful. I often had the sense it was about grief although they never could identify anything they were grieving about. I've explained that this is normal because grief can arise from early experiences when we didn't have the kind of memory that lends itself to easy recall.
I've also learned that the best way to approach tears like this is to help clients resource themselves somatically, that is, through their bodies. I have them experience the impulse of where the tears start and then have them experience just a little. Over time they seem to be able to manage their tears better. It does take time however.
There's one thing you might take heart in knowing...in feeling the emotions as you are, your nervous system is actually "learning" something important. It's learning how to manage sadness and grief.
You see, we can't be open to connection with others and the world around us if our heart is too closed. However, once, you move beyond this period, you may benefit in ways you never experienced before.
Best wishes on your journey,
PS. Excuse the rant Jeff. I was sorry to hear your therapist suggested medication. In my view therapy is the way to avoid medication. Good therapy is about the therapist being emotionally available. It's about giving you the tools to move through the pain so that you're healing. In my view, capping off emotions derails your healing journey.