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October 18, 2018 6:04 PM   Subscribe

How to Stop Yourself From Crying: Crying is a natural human response to joy, stress or sadness. But what if you don’t want to let the tears fall? (SLNYT)
posted by not_the_water (35 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I rehearsed how I’d react when we’d have to put our dog down for months. I still wept like a child at the vets office this Tuesday. I wish this worked for me but it doesn’t.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:14 PM on October 18, 2018 [12 favorites]

From the comments 😭🤣:
I seldom cry any more because I have Sjogren's Syndrome which has caused my eyes to become so dry that they produce no tears even when I cry. Somehow the emotional release of crying doesn't work without tears. The funny thing about it is that having Sjogren's makes me very sad.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:18 PM on October 18, 2018 [12 favorites]

Cry before you face conflict. If you’re going into a meeting you are dreading, or know a conversation will turn nasty, deal with your emotions before the fact. “Maybe allow yourself to cry it out beforehand,” Dr. Bylsma said. “You’ll be more likely to keep your composure if you’ve already done that.”

I always loved the scenes in Broadcast News where Holly Hunter's character set aside time for her daily cry. Given the stress of her job and her life, it seemed so perfect for her character.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:22 PM on October 18, 2018 [12 favorites]

Also, I love the title of this post.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:24 PM on October 18, 2018 [22 favorites]

What if you've stopped crying altogether? It sucks to want to cry and not be able to.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:30 PM on October 18, 2018 [17 favorites]

Agreed, shapes that haunt the dusk. I have a pretty flat affect but a good amount of stress and confusion going on in my life. I'd really like the release of crying, which I remember from childhood and my teenage years.

I wonder if there's some kind of meditation or something for this.
posted by ikea_femme at 6:55 PM on October 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Have Sjogren's, can confirm. "This content is relatable," she said drily.
posted by fritillary at 7:00 PM on October 18, 2018 [23 favorites]

Practicing breath control while speaking helps a lot. Breath control when silent is easy, but you are likely to be nearest tears when making an apology, an accusation, a difficult explanation, or some other emotionally taxing utterance. Keeping one's voice from breaking when what one is saying is what is upsetting one is hard. Practicing speaking on a slow, controlled exhalation helps. It makes one sound inhuman at first, though.
posted by ckridge at 7:00 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't need a NY Times article to tell me how not to cry, I can figure out how to do that on my own, thank you very much, East Coast Liberal Elite Fake News. You just be born a male with an emotionally distant, demanding father who forces his outdated gender ideology in you and live in a culture where men are shamed for any displays of emotional vulnerability. It's not rocket science, people.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:40 PM on October 18, 2018 [29 favorites]

I definitely get the powerlessness and helplessness cry. I was able to turn the tables on an executive with whom I have daily contact. He is bizarrely, irrationally combative at least initially in his interactions with others and I've seen it happen repeatedly with a variety of employees, first when he joined the company and since then with every new employee who joins -- even when he has lobbied strongly for their hiring.

So this guy is an interrupter, is confrontational, and is, or can be, condescending. I cried from powerlessness and frustration in the first maybe five meetings with him. Maybe 7 meetings. It was AWFUL and what made it worse was that we were sure when he joined that he was was a force for good in a very difficult work environment and was going to calm down the other two execs, who are irrational and confrontational themselves.

Then I discovered that he had written a contract without including me (I'm the only lawyer in the small startup). And I discovered that he had revised our template (it was an employment contract) by copying a heavily negotiated clause from his own employment agreement, and that he had also made revisions by including a promise of a later raise under specific circumstances not under the employee's control. We do not make those promises and he knows it. So it seems obvious that he didn't include me in drafting because he didn't want to be caught out.

The next morning at the beginning of our daily meeting, I confronted him with the issue and when he tried to change the subject or move the goalpost, I wouldn't let it happen. It was a remarkable exchange, and he hasn't made me cry since. I had to check him on being condescending to me and not listening to me after an exchange in front of the entire team in which he belittled me and explained that I didn't understand what he was talking about when the truth was that he didn't understand what I was talking about -- because he wasn't listening. But I drew a line in the sand on that one and told him that he was NEVER to be patronizing with me again, and now I have a good idea of how to tamp down the stuff that would otherwise make me so frustrated and angry that I would involuntarily cry.

Yeah, so no more crying apparently. I had no idea that this would be a side effect of laying down the law on contract negotiation protocol, but the icing on this cake is luscious.

Prior to this, I had to resort to drinking water -- which is another trick along the lines of pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth or pinching yourself.
posted by janey47 at 7:58 PM on October 18, 2018 [22 favorites]

You just be born a male with an emotionally distant, demanding father who forces his outdated gender ideology in you and live in a culture where men are shamed for any displays of emotional vulnerability.

Haha laughing so hard I’m not crying at this.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 8:32 PM on October 18, 2018 [8 favorites]

So, Saxon Kane, a typical American male? Got it. I'm not just the president of the only emotion is anger club for men, I'm all also a client!
posted by evilDoug at 10:18 PM on October 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

What if you've stopped crying altogether? It sucks to want to cry and not be able to.

This was my first thought upon reading the article as well. Like most other people my age who grew up male, my emotional expression was policed pretty harshly from a young age, and I often found myself, as an adult, wishing I could cry to release pent up emotion.

Crying while laughing has helpedme a bit. Sometimes I try to remember the sad things I wished I could cry about, while laughing at funny movies. The tears flow and it's quite cathartic.
posted by ethical_caligula at 10:40 PM on October 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

“You can also apply Afrin — a popular nasal decongestant — topically to the skin to reduce redness,” Dr. Klein said. “The active ingredient in Afrin, oxymetazoline, works by constricting blood vessels, blocking blood from traveling to them and therefore reducing redness.”

Would this not irritate your skin?
posted by ellieBOA at 10:42 PM on October 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

After starting treatment I could finally cry again and unblock years of pent up crap.

I also have a new hobby in that I can cry (even weep) with joy about good things and it's just great. Hell, I've happily cried about how floofy our cat is. Or how many trees there are and how pretty it is at our new place.
posted by loquacious at 11:08 PM on October 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

“Simply push your tongue to the roof of your mouth and you will instantly stop crying,” said Janine Driver, chief executive of the Body Language Institute in Washington.

Oh, that sounds useful in a heated meeting.
irritant: "Could you repeat that?"
me: "Ah thaid ah don agee iff diss aa all!"
irritant: "Ah. Noted."

I met up with an old friend last night and we briefly talked about loving our kids so much that it makes us want to cry, and on cue we both teared up... and then we went back to "How 'bout dem Leafs?" stuff and talking about vaginas. I'm not saying it's a strategy that will work for everybody, mind you.
posted by pracowity at 12:00 AM on October 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Crying is a natural human response to joy, stress or sadness.

...and (for me, anyway) anger, including justified, and all types of righteous indignation, which unfortunately tends to weaken my position.

Do any of the "if you feel tears coming" tricks actually work? I'm skeptical.

Kinda related: it seems that most TV (and film?) cries are tearless these days, which I don't believe was the case a generation ago, e.g., I remember reading that glycerin served as fake tears. True or observation failure on my part?
posted by she's not there at 12:09 AM on October 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

I used to channel all my sadness into anger. These days, I meditate regularly. Strong waves of sadness often come up during meditation. I've learned to recognize and just go with them, crying hard for a few minutes (or longer sometimes). It's like wringing out a soaked towel or opening up a pressure valve. The sadness disappates and life goes on. It's easier alone but it'll happen when meditating with a group too sometimes. Lots of sadness to make peace with.
posted by kokaku at 1:09 AM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

How to Stop Yourself From Crying...
posted by not_the_water...

posted by Wordshore at 1:44 AM on October 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I cry when I'm sad and frustrated, but my most embarrassing crying is always done... at concerts. For some reason, live music makes me cry. I have absolutely no idea why, but I think there's a wire crossed in my brain somewhere. It's really stressful and embarrassing. The last time I was at the symphony, I went with my 4-year-old to see Carmina Burana, and as soon as the choir started O Fortuna I burst into tears and really freaked my kid out. And this summer David Byrne came to my city, and I really really really wanted to go see him with some friends. But they're not good friends, and just the thought of crying in front of them about literally nothing filled me with such preemptive embarrassment that I found an excuse to be busy that weekend.

I use some of the tactics from the article, like pinching myself and controlling my breathing, but, honestly, what's the point of going to concerts if I'm preoccupied the whole time with trying not to cry?
posted by lollymccatburglar at 1:57 AM on October 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

I get the crying at music bit, and also at country songs, youtube videos, Hallmark cards, beer ads, and the existence of puppies. I think it is some kind of payback for it being impossible to make me cry out of frustration and very difficult to make me cry out of pain. Something re-routed, and now I'm a sap.

My theory is fuck you. I get to have an emotional life even if it's dumb. I control my face, control my breathing, work on controlling my voice, and let the eyes leak.
posted by ckridge at 3:48 AM on October 19, 2018 [6 favorites]

I cry a lot - I think I said here before but it’s something about having an 11 on my feelings scale. My emotional state is a dynamic seascape rather than a static landscape. The waves come into in constant rhythm, most of the time they break gently but every so often some external breeze will whip up one or two that break in the form of tears. It’s fine, it’s over quick. I’m not upset, I’m just feeling strongly. This is useful knowledge.

The big issue for me is not that I cry, but that other people are effected by it. Better education on the biological mechanisms that cause tears (as opposed to tantrums) is needed here so that people aren’t so terrified and hostile towards a natural and benign function of the body. Like sneezing, if it gets disruptive I will discreetly take a moment until things have stabilised.

Also, on the male socialisation thing, a recent BBC radio 4 programme about Winston Churchill’s passions focused a whole episode on his famed lachrymosity. It starts from 00: 40:30 and is a fascinating listen. He was an unapologetic public weeper!
posted by freya_lamb at 3:52 AM on October 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yay Winston! (from a person who has wept on subways, in parks, walking down the street)
posted by kokaku at 4:40 AM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've found the effects of drugs on crying really interesting. When I was taking an SSRI I couldn't cry for like 2 years, even when I was extremely sad. The tears didn't come. Instead of tears I'd get a constriction and weird taste in the back of my throat. Not being able to cry often made me angry instead. Before taking antidepressants I had frequently cried as a response to situations where I think I should probably have reacted angrily instead, but afterwards, the swap of anger for crying worked pretty well and now I cry much less frequently in general. Talking to other people who have taken SSRIs, I've found this is not uncommon.

Another interesting drugs and crying experience was when I tried LSD one time. Tears ran down my face for like 8 hours, particularly whenever I listened to music. But I wasn't sad. If anything, I was extremely happy. I just couldn't make the tears stop. Very strange feeling.
posted by lollusc at 4:44 AM on October 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

It's funny - I've never really seen it broken down, that the two main reasons adults cry are powerlessness/frustration and separation/loss (or empathetic witnessing of those emotions.) It explains a lot about the whole "women crying at work" phenomenon. Not sappy irrational inappropriate emotion. Completely normal reaction to a sensation of powerlessness.

I think this might actually help me get a handle on my tears in certain situations. Instead of "this person is making me feel bad-oh God, I feel like I'm gonna cry--what's wrong with me-i need to get control of myself--if I cry I'm gonna look even worse and they'll respect me even less--I'm a mess and this is all my fault..."

It could be, "oh, I'm getting that tearful feeling--that means I feel powerless--what are the power dynamics in this situation--oh, yeah, X is being totally disrespectful--this isn't about the topic at all, it's the way that he's talking to me... He's raising his voice, standing too close...'Hey, X, it seems like you're getting a little worked up about this, maybe we can take a break and talk about it in 5?"

I mean, probably not. But a girl can dream.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:23 AM on October 19, 2018 [7 favorites]

Hoo baby. Imagining the worst case scenario is something that a) does not help me not cry and b) has made me a much less happy person. I spend a lot of energy forcing myself to say "what if everything goes RIGHT?" these days. I think *that* makes me cry less.

I'm a huge crier. I cry and cry and cry, it is my physiological response to all strong emotions, and I have lots of those, especially lately (hello, year of regular therapy). People who know me have to get used to it. Because short of injuring myself to distraction, nothing stops it.
posted by wellred at 6:53 AM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Give yourself a pinch?" Really? Look, self, stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!

The worst for me is when your thoughts are wandering, you're not even thinking about feeling sad, and out of nowhere a sob pops out. There's no prepping for that one. You either shake it off or ride it out.
posted by Flexagon at 7:16 AM on October 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've tried some of these techniques (tongue on roof of mouth, pinch, etc) but I am a persistent crier. And I am an ugly crier. No precious tears coursing down my cheeks, I am a snuffly sobber and my face turns beet red. Even worse, I cry easily. I get the sniffles if I see a squirrel that may or may not be having a bad day. I cry at the drop of a hat because...that poor hat! Why did the person drop it?? I went to my BFF's dad's funeral and wept in the back pew, probably causing people to wonder "who is that woman? How did she know Ken? Does the rest of the family know about her...?". No, just Ken's daughter's friend. Who is barely holding it together.

I wish that I could just turn it off. Like right now I'm getting teary because I'm frustrated (another reason I cry!) that I can't not cry when I am sad or frustrated. It's vicious.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:38 AM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

I spent most of my life so depressed I couldn't cry, though at the time I thought I just wasn't a crier. When I started taking meds that worked then suddenly the tears started to the point I was crying at a Jeep commercial that featured soldiers reuniting with their families. But it is hard for me to be embarrassed by it because I'm so happy things are working. Actually, it's a pretty good signal that I'm not doing great if that puppy-rescued-from-a-ditch-and-is-now-happy story doesn't make me cry.

and that's my story about crying the end
posted by Anonymous at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2018

men are shamed for any displays of emotional vulnerability

*People* are shamed for any displays of emotional vulnerability. I nearly cried on the phone to my boss today because in one half hour phone call she told me 3 things that are stupid, impractical, non-negotiable, and will give me extra stress. I wanted to scream at her and instead I had to try and keep my voice steady and the effect was the beginning of the bottom-lip-wibble. If I’d cried she would have been disgusted, if I’d shouted I would have been fired. There is no moral to the story except that I’m now drinking gin. We should all be allowed to cry all the damn time, shove the techniques for stopping it. Have you seen the world? How we’re not in danger of a global fucking flood is beyond me.
posted by billiebee at 10:53 AM on October 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

oh except we are

posted by billiebee at 10:53 AM on October 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

I spent most of my life so depressed I couldn't cry, though at the time I thought I just wasn't a crier.

Yeah, I honestly don't think my lack of crying is related to male socialization, but just because of major depression. Tightness in the chest is a poor substitute. Thanks, brain: "hey, let me help you out by ensuring that you can't release pent-up emotions!"
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:09 AM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that permitting oneself to cry and being made to cry are radically different states of affairs, that the first is advisable in general but not in every single case, and that you want to avoid the second. If other people can make you cry, you can be made to breathe irregularly, speak unclearly, and suffer more than necessary. You don't want people to be able to do that to you. If it is easy to get an advantage over you in some legal way, there will be someone who will do it. I recommend breath control.

Incidentally, if you want to unlock tears, doing the exact opposite of meditative breathing works nicely. Make your breath ragged, the way people's breath gets when they are starting to lose it. Careful, though. It is also an excellent way to get very angry very quickly. Some doors are bolted shut for good reason.
posted by ckridge at 11:23 AM on October 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

Between abuse for crying and performative expectations for crying the right way, this is a no-win situation where I primarily share with a handful of trusted people.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:50 PM on October 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Like some other folks in this thread, I was never a big cryer past a very early age. However, as I entered my 30s I noticed myself being overwhelmed with "emotion" of some sort, and it would express itself by making me cry. Similar to the concert cryer earlier in this thread, I found myself moved to tears several times whilst (one of the first times i noticed this) touring the Hermitage. In one great hall with paintings on every wall up 30 feet to the beautiful ceiling, with sculptures all over the floor, i was just overwhelmed with ... something.. the beauty of it all, the history, the thousands of person-hours, the skill, the fact that the artists were all long dead... it was so powerful and not at all sad but all i could do to express what I was feeling was just weep. Happened again when I stood right in front of the original The Return of the Prodigal Son.

Also that one Bell Christmas commercial where the kid gives the schoolbus driver a bell phone card so he could speak to his son/daughter.. :'{

Once at work in a previous career I felt the onset of tears when I was pushed to the point of expressing outrage at the vast gaping chasm of incompetence and ass-covering on display, people banding together to stab me in the back when i was doing my damnedest to HELP THEM SUCCEED and IMPROVE their operations. I was also taking some experimental drugs that mess with your endocrine system at the time so that one was maybe an outlier.
posted by some loser at 8:35 PM on October 19, 2018

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