Am I Going to Cry Forever? What Happens When We Feel Our Feelings
I once had a student ask me, with tears streaming down her face, if she was going to cry forever. We had gotten to the part of the Taming the Bear class where I asked the question “What is a belief that you do not currently hold, but that if you held it, you would feel less stress?” I know. We gotta work on how to ask that question because it’s a brain warp. But anyway, I asked that question and when she tuned in with herself she was overwhelmed with sadness. It was right at the end of class so I released the other students (this was back when we taught the class in person) and she and I spent a few minutes exploring the sadness.
What poured out of her was a story from her childhood, a wound she had been carrying with her every day for over 50 years. As she spoke, she cried and cried and cried. We talked about the memory, the conclusions she drew from that memory, and how those conclusions were still shaping her life.
The sadness around all of it flowed from her along with her tears. She kept telling me that she doesn’t cry and at one point she asked me if, now that she was allowing herself to feel all this, would she cry forever?
We continued talking for a time, until things felt resolved enough for her to drive home. Over the course of the next few months I watched her continue to practice the Seven Tools with this memory and the beliefs she created from her experience. And I watched her life transform.
I love this story for a few reasons. First, it is a beautiful example of the Seven Tools at work (I didn’t really get into all that here because it isn’t the point I am writing about so you’ll just have to take my word for it).
Secondly, I think this story illustrates the wisdom of our inner wisdoms. At first when she started feeling her sadness, she thought she was doing the exercise wrong. I asked her about what new belief she could hold and instead she felt an emotion. The thing is, I think this part of her wanted to be healed so badly that when she asked herself the question it opened the door for the pain of what she was currently living to emerge. We can’t believe the new until we have released the old.
The old beliefs were ready to be seen and she was ready to see them. For years it had all felt too big to look at and she had felt too unprepared to look at it. Even as she was beginning to look at it, it all felt so big that she was worried she would drown in the sea of sadness, that she would never stop crying. I think we all sometimes feel this way when we are encountering our deepest wounds.
To be clear, it was a lot of grief on so many levels. This wasn’t a little matter to be resovled in a few minutes. All the same, she did not cry forever and she did not drown in her sea of grief. She emerged from those waters already changed and changing more and more by the day.
Our feelings need to be felt and once they are, they shift. Feelings aren’t forever. She needed to cry and to feel that sadness but it resolved itself when it was finished and with time she expressed a reconnection to joy and a letting go of fear.
Our inner wisdom knows when we are ready to do pieces of our work and even when it doesn’t feel like it, the work gets titrated into manageable chucks. When we are paying attention, we are presented with opportunities to do the work we are ready to do (well, we are presented with them whether or not we are paying attention but we are in a position to do the work when we are paying attention…). After over a decade as a therapist, I really believe this.
So when things feel overwhelming, or like too much, or like you will cry forever, remember that this too shall pass. I will tell you what I told her:
“You will not cry forever. You will cry as long as you need to but feelings are transient and will eventually move on. Allow yourself the space to feel this, cry when you need to (the tears may dry up and then come back again), practice good self care, get compassionately curious about your experience and allow the feelings to be present and heard without identifying yourself with them. Your feelings are yours but you are not your feelings. When you have felt what you need to feel they will shift. These feelings have been waiting for your attention so have patience with them as they express themselves. Lean in and listen.
Take gentle care of yourself during this time. This wound is ready for healing and you have the capacity to heal. You will get through this and I am here if you need help. You are not alone on your journey. Practice trusting yourself. In the moments when it feels too difficult, try to remember to be kind to yourself.”
You got this!