Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A POWERFUL KEY TO HEALING FROM TRAUMA

We are designed, deep down in our genetic structure, to heal naturally from emotional injury, including trauma. Amidst all of the focus on modern invention and discovery, we are missing the oldest, and for most people the most powerful, route to emotional wellness: deep crying.

Crying is the most misunderstood aspect of human experience. If we could get this one right, we could get everything else right; our failure to grasp how crying works is in many ways the core of the difficulties faced by our species.

I read a book a few years ago about crying that went on for chapters and chapters about what a mystery there is about why people cry. But there is no mystery about tears; they exist to make us well. From the time we are born until we grow as old as the ancients, we cry to relieve our pain. There is no more effective pain-killer on the earth, and that’s what it’s there for.

But crying does much more than make us feel better; it literally heals grief, and does so more deeply and powerfully, and in a way that is much longer lasting, than any other emotional healing approach we know about. Tears literally wash our grief away.

So why are we putting so much energy into trying not to cry, and to trying to stop each other from crying? Here are a few of the reasons:

• We confuse the pain (the grief, for example) with the healing of the pain. We think that when someone is crying, that’s a sign of how much they are hurting. But it isn’t. It’s a sign that some of their hurt is getting out of them. We mistakenly believe that if we stop them from crying (by “cheering them up” for example, or by “getting their mind off of it”), that we have made them feel better. But we haven’t. We’ve stopped their healing process, and left them with all the same pain they started with, which will come up to hurt them another day soon… So remember, the sadness is the pain, and the crying is the healing of that pain.

• We’re afraid that people will feel sorry for us if we cry, and it doesn’t feel good to have people feeling sorry for us… So stop feeling sorry for people who are crying, and just love and support them, and hope that people will learn to do the same for you.

• We believe that crying makes people weak. But it doesn’t, it makes them strong, especially if they cry long and hard. (It’s true that hours and hours, or years and years for that matter, of shallow, hesitant, lonely, weepy crying can sap your power. But deep, gut-wrenching, cleansing crying will leave you with more strength than you started with.)

• We don't cry long enough and hard enough to discover its benefits. If you cry only a little bit, keeping it shallow and short, which is what most people do, you’ll come out thinking that crying doesn’t really do much. But watch how babies and young children cry; they cry with every fiber of their being, their heart just pours with grief as if the world were ending. And then – if no one makes fun of them for it or treats them unkindly – they keep it going for quite a while. And finally, they get the cleansing of their pain that they needed, and they are in high spirits and high energy for a long time afterward! Why are we denying children a healing process that obviously works so well? Just watch and see what happens when you love a child while he or she cries, and let them – in fact encourage them – to cry as long and hard as they need to. You will see what I’m describing.

• We’re afraid that we’ll get ridiculed for crying. And tragically, that is sometimes exactly what happens.

A study years back found that 80% of women and 70% of men said that they felt better after a “good” cry – meaning a deep and extended one. You will not find it easy to unearth any other healing approach that is successful with three-quarters of the population. Participants in that study also described numerous additional benefits, including that they found that they could think more clearly after crying, that they were capable of finding solutions to problems that previously had seemed impossible to overcome, and that they felt more loving and understanding towards other people.

And we are born to do it. No one has to teach us how to cry. It's in our biological programming.

Rather than being seen as a sidelight in the healing of trauma, we should come to recognize deep crying as the key.

This is the first round of a series of posts I am going to write about crying. In the weeks ahead, I will be answering questions such as: 1) How come some days I can cry my pain out and other days I can’t?, 2) But what if I’m one of those people who feel worse after crying, not better?, 3) How should I deal with my children’s crying?, 4) What should I say when a friend starts to cry?, 5) Does crying have to be a lonely activity?, and 6) How can I bring more crying -- and more deep emotional healing in general -- into my life?

In the mean time, I would love to have people write in with stories of transformative experiences you have had through crying.

33 comments:

  1. When I was younger, something bad happened, someone whom I loved has died, and I kept crying every night. The bad thing was that no matter what I did during a day or how happy I was, at the end of the day, when everyone was gone, I felt a sudden immeasurable pain sweep across me, sitting down on my chest, and I started to cry heavily. It was such a powerful strong emotion, I cried into the stage when there was no more tears left, it felt as if something really heavy has been lifted away with every single tear. And by God, did I shed some tears! It took several years to clean myself of my sorrow, and now I haven´t cried for that person in a long time - as I came to understand that I don´t have to feel sorrow for him any longer, my understanding of death is much more profound now and I accepted it. The feeling of hopelesness was simply being replaced by powerful understanding of things and coming to terms with life in general. I feel joy now whenever I think of the person I cried for for so many years...and I´m grateful.

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    1. I was in an abusive relationship for thirty years. Somewhere around the tenth anniversary mark, I stopped crying even when both my father and brother died.

      About a year before leaving, the tears came back with a vengeance and I found myself crying uncontrollably at odd times and for no reason-- sappy commercial showing mother whale swimming with adorable offspring, stupid movie with cheesy ending.

      Really appreciate you writing about tears. I've been wondering what happened and how I wound up under the kitchen table so many times that last year.

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  2. I love everything Bancroft writes and give his books as gifts. However, statistically only about 25% of people feel better after crying the rest either feel neutral or worse. Crying is not a universal cleansing mechanism, although it works for me.

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  3. I'm curious where you saw the 30% figure. The study I saw, by William Frey, found 80% of women and 70% of men feeling benefits, many of them profound. These higher figures are much closer to what I find when I ask people directly whether crying hellps them -- the overwhelming majority of people say yes.

    In any event, I'm glad you're one of the people it works for.

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    1. Ah! Now I'm reading the other responses in this thread and I see someone else is familiar with the work of William Frey. Cool! :)

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    2. Lundy I just want to say that I am so thankful for you, your books, and in general your wisdom and support of all who are oppressed in this world. You may not want to hear this, but you are one of my heroes. Thank you!

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    3. Having gone through the death of my husband AND after that being in an abusive relationship for years...which I have just ended.....talk about trauma bonding....I know for a fact you are right Lundy......crying helps alot.

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  4. I'm going through healing process right now, and even though I've had those deep crying episodes where I absolutely feel better afterwards, for some odd reason(shame, pitty, etc.) I feel like I should have one of this deep crying episodes and then it all should be better for at least a few months. I'm glad I read this bc it encourages me to let it be and know that it is a part of my process, so welcome tears and welcome healing!!

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  5. I love everyone of your books, Lundy Thank You so much. I have a mother thats is the opposite, she thinks that control is the key to it . If I don't think about it it will dissapear. I told her that when the top is just about ready to blow that i would make sure that i'll be right there at her home. what i mean by that is if I don't cry about it it turns into extreme anger in me. I have had much healing with my crying and it has always ended up with me becoming aware that it goes way back.so the healing process of crying for me has become so much more rewarding than i could have ever imagened. im finally getting to the root of the healing. Thank God. That little little girl thats has been so damaged and abused and hurt. I can now nurture her. Long process not simple but is finally happening. I wish I could afford to go to one of your retreats Lundy but I just cannot afford the cost of them. Maybe one day. there is so much more for me to learn about me. Thank You again for opening up this forum. great subject.:)

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  6. Thank God for tears and thank God for you Lundy
    My tears came to me one day of realization three months ago that I could leave an abusive husband and the father of my child. Tears, were, like leaving him a matter of choice
    And I let the tears role down my cheeks that day I walked out of the court house that day of his arraignment where he would face criminal charges for violence against me. That day I decided however subconscious it was, I was no longer a victim.

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  7. I am fascinated by tears, Lundy. I am guessing you are probably aware of the scientific studies on tears, such as those by biochemist William Frey, to do with the chemical makeup of tears.

    For example, there are differences in chemical makeup and the purpose of the tears that lubricate our eyes, the tears that are emitted in response to something that irritates such as onions, and the tears we cry in grief.

    There's lots to it, but I just wanted to mention this in case anyone else who is reading finds this as interesting as I do, and might want to do a little research to find out more.

    I look forward to reading your future posts on the subject of crying!

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  8. Dear Lundy , THANK YOU so much for teaching all of us how healing the deep crying is. I thought i had really cried when going thru the worst of the healing from the abusive relationship(s) etc. And then I met THE Love of my Life , Dave Barr, and after just a few short months together when he had finally convinced me that he really truly loves me and we had committed to each other.....he suddenly, with no warning at all.......had a massive brain hemmorage and died !! I was/am devastated !! Finally a really "nice" guy loved me !! and now he is "gone" !!! Could have easily fallen back into the trap of thinking myself "unworthy" or being "punished by God", but thankfully thru many supportive friends and the wonderful community that I am a part of .....as well as your teachings Lundy, and the wonderful support of my Sisters of Strength (which grew out of our week-end retreat with you Lundy, the Life that Awaits You ! ) I am slowly walking/working/crying my way thru this deep grieving process. My healing this way would not be possible without Lundy Bancroft in my life. Bless you Lundy. And bless you for encouraging all of us .....as we reach out to others. Hugs! Carol D. in Florida

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  9. After serious abuse/assaults in an isolated work environment - that could be described as domestic violence situation inflicted upon me at work - I read 'why does he do that', joined womens aid and Iv been in counselling for over a year. Has helped me understand so much, about me and him, and let me see that it wasnt my fault at all. But the trauma was stuck, and new manager and casual staff at work started bullying me to make matters worse (I have since been unfairly sacked so he could give my job to his daughter, to add insult to injury!). Something that really helped though, alongside visiting friends to get away from the agro I was getting every day, was craniosacral therapy - strange, doesnt do anything physical but I think it allowed me to trust someone to touch me (feet and head) and for me to just let go - i cried quietly as memories went through my head. Im going back for another session after this most recent setback.

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  10. I recently read Why Does He Do That to support a close friend in leaving her abuser and discovered within its pages the story of my parent's marriage and my relationship with my first serious boyfriend.

    In my family crying was not considered to be an appropriate or legitimate way to express emotion and healing (crying meant opening yourself up to ridicule and mocking). Interestingly enough, over these last few weeks of coming to terms with the reality of my parent's abusive marriage I've naturally been doing a great deal of deep and extensive crying and have found it to be very healing. I would love to hear more about how to bring more crying and healing into my life.

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  11. sooo happy to read Brittney's story of discovering the truth about her parents' abusive marriage relationship. I currently have a daughter that has nothing to do with me, because of my divorce from her step-father (who adopted her when she was 18) as well as her biological father, who had nothing to do with her most of her life. I wonder if she too is living in an abusive marriage. At least now I have hope that someday she will "discover" the truth.

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    1. In order to support your daughter I would recommend reading the book Helping Her Get Free by Susan Brewster. It's what I've been using to support my friend and it's made a world of difference. The book walks you through how to be an 'anchor' for the person in the abusive relationship.

      It's powerful and effective because it forces you to examine yourself and any biases that you might have so that you can be a support not only to the woman in an abusive relationship, but to everyone in your life. I hope that someday you'll be able to reconnect with your daughter!

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  12. I have been divorced from the ex-abuser for 3 1/2 years. Still waiting to cry...

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  13. I wish I had a story of transformation to share. I used to be numb as a way of coping and putting abuse into perspective. This allowed me to survive. Now my worst nightmare has come true: My former abuser won custody of my son and moved him across the country. I am an incredibly strong woman, but this has brought me to my knees. It's only been a few months, but losing contact with your child is heartwrenching and now my son is being alienated from me. I cry and I wonder at times why I don't die from heartbreak. I cry and the world is the same. I cry and I live to work another day, to support my son, to meet the needs of others and to finally try to find something for myself.

    I am well over the abuse - who cares anymore - but this unbearable pain of being separated from my son is slowly killing me.

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    1. To Kathy (and others like you), I am so sorry for what you are dealing with. There is no greater pain for a mother than not being able to be with and care for and protect your child. My abusive ex husband is gradually but surely chipping away at me through the family court system and is on a mission to ultimately take my child away from me as well. If nothing changes in the way family courts in this country deal with Domestic Violence in custody cases then he will likely succeed in the near future. I too have wondered if I will die of heartache. I pray for you and all mothers who are affected by this. I pray for change and awareness. I am One Mom on a Mission for Change. God Bless You.

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  14. This message is in response to Kathy, and will hopefully be helpful to all who read it. Please find via PBS tv Dr. Wayne Dyer's latest program : Wishes Fullfilled and listen and absorb it as many times as it takes. I have read and listened to this marvelous teacher for many years and am still working at putting the methods into practice. As he says and teaches : "when you believe it, you will see it". There is currently a situation re: grandchidren and a daughter in my life that very challenging. I am really working at seeing it resolved in a healthy and life-giving joyfull way. Thanks to Dr. Wayne Dyer and his teachings I am doing better with this now. Know it is time for me to claim this. Hugs & Blessings to all who read this. from a Joyfilled Beach Dancer !!

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  15. When my first abusive marriage ended and I was heavily judged by people close to me who misread the situation and saw me as the one at fault, I had a sense that there was a deep, gut-wrenching cry in my belly. The cry sat there, un-cried, for many years. I did weep, sure, but not the gut-wrenching one, only lesser ones. I felt so angry and slighted by the secondary abuse from bystanders, that I couldn't process the deep wound properly. It was like there was a log jam.

    I don't know how it happened but this sense of a deep-belly-cry-wanting-to-come-out eventually disappeared. I think part of it went when I had an insight into the passage in the Old Testament which talks about how, when there has been a capital crime, and the report has been heard and assessed by the judges and the criminal sentenced for execution by community stoning, the persons who reported the crime are to be the ones who cast the first stone.

    Somehow, this passage said to me, "God understands your anger, your need for justice, your need for vindication. And vindication is not the same as vengeance. Vengeance is when the victim personally gets back at their assailant; vindication is when the community says to the victim 'Yes, this was a crime; you were horribly mistreated; we as a Community agree that the offender must be punished.' When the community gives the victim the right to cast the first stone, and then they pick up stones themselves to finish the execution, they are saying to the victim that she is not guilty, and they totally agree that the offender deserves execution.

    Now don't get me wrong: I'm not arguing for capital punishment today. But I am saying that I found it comforting that the Bible shows that God understands the feelings of the victim, and calls for justice for the perpetrator. Somehow, this insight de-compressed that bubble of crying (festering boil?) in my gut.

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  16. Lundy, you said you were going to write more post about crying. I've looked, but can't see any? Am I missing something? Or are they still to come?

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  17. Hi there, I am not sure how to start this but I was traumatised by the September 2010 and even more so by the February 2011 Earthquakes in Christchurch. I spent two hours of that fateful day trying to run to my two children aged 2 at the time who were at preschool that day. At the time I was running to them I had no idea if they were alive or dead but adrenaline and hope kept me going. When I finally got to them and found them playing in the sandpit I was so overcome with relief I dropped to the ground and burst into tears. We moved to another city as our home had been condemned and I am a solo mum so I moved up by my family. Over the following months I worked through my childrens trauma (screaming in the night, temper tantrums plus much more) and attended a victim support group, but unfortunately the government decided to stop the funding for the support group and we were left high and dry so to speak. I am now finding that if I get stressed it triggers memories of the day and I start crying. I also cry when I get really angry and its frustrating as it feels like I'm being weak so I stop myself. The other night we had an earthquake and once I calmed the children down and they had gone back to sleep, the memories came flooding back and I was once again crying. I also now look at buildings or tunnels basically any type of structure to see how safe it is. I feel like I'm going insane :( I really don't have any idea how to get past this.

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  18. in reply to "anonymous" about the earthquakes.... as we learned from Lundy releasing the pain and the trauma from any event thru deep and long sustained crying is a wonderful way to "get past" any trauma. It is definitely not "weakness" ! ! I am in the process of working thru a very deep grieving, having had to say "farewell" to the Love of My Life just a few short months ago in September. There have been several times since then that i have allowed myself to cry deeply. One particular day i labeled it "the 5 hankie cry day" ! I used my Dave's big cotton handkerchiefs and soaked each one, before grabbing another. When i had released all those tears, I got a big drink of water, washed my face and lay down for a very long nap. Felt much better after that. Still have some times when the tears get triggered and i do my best to find a way to release them, when and where appropriate. I believe we do a great disservice to our children not to teach them to release pain thru deep crying. I would think that doing that with your children would bring you all much needed healing. I have definitely learned that one must work thru any process of healing......not think that we must get past it or let it go. It is hard work, and well worth the work.
    Blessings to you and your children.

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  19. Please continue this series! I know you are very busy but the topics you listed are ones that I need to know about. Why can't I cry?

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  20. I had gone numb in my abusive relationship. I stopped crying. I stopped feeling. Every feeling I had got pushed down into the abyss. I just recently left him. And I'm just starting to lightly cry pretty much about everything. I remember my deep cries. I felt so good, so refreshed after a deep, long cry. My soul was cleansed with the tears. I wasn't sick and tired all the time. Because I stuffed my emotions deep down when I was with him, I've been very sick. Hospitalized several times, twice I almost passed on. Now, with things changing in my life I hope to cry, deeply, once again.

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  21. One of THE most devastating aspects of my abusive relationship is that I was mocked and ridiculed when I cried. My abuser was generally the passive type that "never would do anything" to hurt anyone, who smiled and played with his children, and proudly wore his "Promise Keepers" t-shirt to work, and said grace before dinner, but YET when he would hurt me, and I would cry....he would taunt me and say "What are you going to do, cry now?" "I wish I could cry?" "Women cry, to get their way..." Etc.. on and on until the tears would turn to a kind of quiet hate for him. I learned to hold the tears until he was out of the house. What was especially hurtful was in quiet times, before I understood that he was an abuser, I would tell him how much this taunting hurt me.....and still I would find, the next time, he would do the same thing again. The last time he did this to me was before our divorce, I was crying because I was trying so hard to pay off the bills without having to pay extra finance charges or penalties and had $200 to spend on my girls for Christmas and was trying so hard to get the best deals and spend it the most wisely and he kept calling me on the cell. I didn't answer because I knew he would be telling that I needed to come home and not be out shopping after work.....and I knew I needed to be out there looking and trying to get done. When he became angry with me when I got home for being "so heartless" for not answering the phone that he in his great generosity had "purchased for me" so that we could be in contact. As I began explaining why I didn't answer because I was trying so hard to do the best I could with so little money (which of course was due to his avoidance of certain bills), and I knew that he would argue with me to come home, because "I would have time to do all that later..." blah, blah blah, and that I was trying to do such a good job with the money that was left (after having paid off his local taxes which he refused to pay, after we had received a notice that if it went to the magistrate it would cost another $2K), and that it was stressful and it seemed like he didn't care about it at all, and as I was saying all of this I started crying.

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  22. I actually went down the basement to do laundry so he couldn't see me cry.... and he followed me down there and started with the "What are you going to do, cry now?" stuff and said "Cry Bitch Cry...." It hurt me so bad that I thought I would die. Instead of it turning to anger at how hurtful he was, I just looked up at him in and said "You must be some kind of monster. You're a monster." I swear it was like looking into the face of Satan himself.

    This truly is the face of evil...the absence of any empathy for the pain they have caused you. And when you face them with their behavior, they claim that you are trying to hurt them!!!!

    This man had stripped me of my tears with his taunting. He had taken from me the right to feel compassion from the one who was supposed to love me....and where there should have been compassion and love, and understanding from someone you were married to, who stood before a righteous God and promised to honor and protect you, who was supposed to care about your welfare as much as his own....instead there was this evil, gloating face, taking pleasure in the pain they had caused you and trying to do you in for good, to murder your very spirit and soul itself, by refusing their compassion.

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  23. When "Mr. Nice" came back into the picture the next day, all I could see from then on in was "Mr. Cry Bitch Cry" and that began a journey to the end. And I told him that was all I could see now was "Mr. Cry Bitch Cry" Of course there was no guilt, no apology following my words. All he wanted to know from me was "Why I wanted to hurt him?" purportedly for reminding him of his bad behavior I guess, for which he chose to blame me instead of feeling any remorse. There were other things going on that were just as bad, but I could not sleep with him anymore and slept on the couch.

    The soulless, heartless "Mr. Cry Bitch Cry." How could I continue to be with him? I cry as I write this, as a divorced woman, with no one left here to taunt me and hurt me for my tears... And the Promise-Keepers T-Shirt man has moved in with the secretary that he began a relationship with before our divorce was even filed (his second affair). I am sure, like me, she believes he is so charming and perfect with his raves about how beautiful his children are, and how he wants to be "a little man" to her and so non-threatening, and his "thank you, thank you" for having sex with me stuff.... but I wonder what he will do when she cries?

    I have no idea what causes this. Ms. Patricia Evans says that ridiculing boys for crying is the beginning of a trying or training of boys to disconnect from their feelings, supposedly to make them strong. I don't think it makes them strong. But I bet he would say this never happened to him.

    I have the freedom to cry now, now that I am truly alone. But, really I was alone with an abuser then. My family and friends don't get it. They all think I should be happy now, it's over, move on, don't cry anymore.... but now I cry for all the times that that compassion was stripped from me... I wish they understood and would not try to cheer me up or tell me not to cry. I try not to cry in front of my girls... when Dad is so fun... why would they want to be with this sad woman. Of course he would capitalize on that..."Is Mom crying again?"

    Thank you for your post Mr. Lundy. I needed to hear this.

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  24. When I get a trite response from someone when I tell them this story like "what a jerk" "isn't it good he's gone now" or a "he wasn't taking responsibility.".....all of which are true, it doesn't help because it doesn't reach the depth of pain which almost became physical, like someone's fist clenched around your heart. I swear it felt like my heart was going to explode when this would happen....my chest tightens as I type this.... I really need to talk to a physical human being who has experienced a hurt like this...who can understand it ...who could put their arm over my shoulder and weep with me and KNOW! I don't think I will find a person like this. Can EMDR help?

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  25. Dear Anonymous, only YOU will know when you have cried enough times and enough tears for it to release the grief that you have carried inside for so long. I know because I have "been there, done that" ! And believe me i get it that I will never really "be done" with it. The pain and grief gets buried very deep inside when we live for many years in an abusive situation . We do that to protect ourselves, all the while being so confused that we are having to do that......after all isn't this my husband who professed (and maybe still does ) to love me so dearly ???!!!! Please continue to seek and find your own healing paths. Embrace your Goddess SELF !! Look in the mirror everyday and look deep into your own eyes and say " I love YOU " !! until you truly feel it ! If you have never heard of Louise Hay, please google her and Hay House. Great resources for healing. Save your pennies, find more little jobs to pay you until you are able to attend one of Lundy's The Life that Awaits YOU week-end retreats ! After all......haven't you waited long enuf ?? A few "friend" tried to tell me that i "shouldn't be" spending the money when i did that a few years ago......in the midst of my divorce. I AM SO SO GLAD i didn't listen to any of that talk and listened to my own heart instead. It was/is a priceless experience. I carry it all in my heart and soul still and know i always will. And by the way......there are others out there who will cry with you, hold you while you cry and let you know they DO understand. Believe it !! YOU are a beautiful woman and you deserve to be treated like a princess ! Your children will grow up and know the truth in time. HUGS !

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  26. Thank you and thank you for your response. I will try to attend one of these. Money's tight, but perhaps someday.

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  27. Thank you so much. I noticed that deep crying can help me get over a positive relationship I had with my first love that will never be rekindled because he is deceased. Ithought I would never get over it because it has been 23 years but today I cried as Deeply as I have been crying in my healing from child abuse and neglect and today the sadness wasn't there when I thought of him after I cried. I never read any of your books; I found this website by googling "when you can't stop crying". I healed so deeply after this cry and felt so supported after reading your post. Thank you<3.

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