Yesterday, I cried.
Well actually, if I'm being honest, I had what can only be described as a good old fashioned sob. Think snot bubbles coming out of your nose and a sound that is probably something like a hump back whale performing a duet with an alley cat (both of whom are asthmatic). You're welcome for that image.
It feels like a big thing to admit this, for two reasons. Firstly, I'm a guy, and as we all know, men are genetically different from women in that we don't have tears ducts in our eyes, and instead of feeling sad we just find the closest guy to fist bump, call each other bro and then we pretend everything is okay (disclosure: this isn't how men work). And secondly I'm a therapist, and the common belief around therapists is we have everything sussed and therefore we don't get upset about anything, we just pull up an inspirational quote around the paradoxical theory of change, preferably with an image of butterflies or sunrises, ask ourselves how that makes us feel and then we're all sorted (disclosure: this isn't how therapists work).
In all seriousness, me having a good ol' cry over the weekend does feel like a big disclosure, because of the beliefs we hold about crying and how acceptable, or unacceptable, it is. Even if the above paragraph is a little tongue in cheek, it is still true that there is still a stigma about men and crying, and some people will have a strong reaction to the idea of a therapist crying. For them, the therapist is a role of strength and calm and needs to be that stable other they are looking for. The idea of a therapist crying can shatter that important illusion, and so it does feels like it's a professional risk to disclose it.
So why the spontaneous waterworks? Well at the time I was watching TV, and I'd love to tell you that I was watching something sad, and so my tears were explainable and justified. Except I was watching Battlestar Galactica, and it was an episode that was very heavy on big shooty explosions in space. And generally speaking those things very much appeal to the 8 year old in me that loves seeing big shooty explosions, especially if they're set in space.
The truth is, I don't know why I cried.
Sometimes I cry when something sad has happened, sometimes I cry when I hear something sad about someone I care about. I can cry at funerals, or weddings. I cry when I bang my little toe on the corner of the bed in the middle of the night (is there anything more painful other than stepping on a lego brick barefooted?). There's lots of things I may cry at. But sometimes, there isn't a reason for it.
It may be that my subconscious is processing something out of my awareness. or it might be that I've been going through various things that have left me feeling sad but not overly upset about, that have just built up enough that I need to have a collective cry about them all. There could be a dozen reasons why, and that's okay. Because I don't need to know.
When I feel the need to go to the toilet, I don't have to question why now, when I last went to the toilet, how much I've drunk since then or the rate my body is processing my intake; I just go to the toilet. It's a natural bodily function, no different to breathing. It's the same with emotions. We don't often question why we smile at something, or laugh, or why we find something exciting, but we can often get swept up in needing to know why we feel sad, or why we might need to cry. Wanting to know gives us a rationale for it, a reason, and makes it easier to endure what is an uncomfortable feeling. Not knowing often makes the feeling worse. It's bad enough that I have to feel sad, worse that I have to cry about it, but to not have a reason for going through that?
Sometimes however, there might not be any obvious reason. I couldn't tell you why I cried yesterday, and honestly, afterwards I felt better, and today it doesn't matter to me why I had to have that moment. It was enough to just allow myself to feel it and to allow my body to do what it needed to. We often get caught up in the reasons why, but sometimes the answer to that is "I don't know why", and the challenge is to accept that as a good enough reason, and allow ourselves the space just to feel it.