Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I'm at Burning Man, crying about a good bit of heartbreak, when my awesomely scientifically-minded friend looks at me, cock-eyed, and says in her British accent:

"I'm quite sure that you're the best crier I know."

"Ha! What makes for a good crier?" I ask.

"Well you do this thing where you let it all the way out. And then, consequently, you don't apologize for doing so."


I let her words sit with me for a few weeks, cried a bit more for research's sake, and then decided to do some actual scientific research, so I could report back.

The questions I took to the Google Machine:

I know that I feel awesome post-crying, but could this possibly be something that most humans experience? And if so, why?--Why does it feel so good to cry? Is all crying good crying? Also, why do so many of us avoid this thing that feels good, and what's the key to letting ourselves cry?


A study done by biochemist and tear expert Dr. William Frey, compared the chemical contents of emotional tears (the tears we cry due to sadness or grief), with those of reflex tears (the tears we cry to protect us from particles or intrusions).

The findings?

Emotional tears release multiple chemical toxins produced during stress as well as mood-elevating endorphins, while reflex tears are 98% water! (More here).

Frey claims that the body secretes tears for the sake of removing toxins from the body, similar to the toxin-removing process of urination. And while emotional processing is good and dandy, releasing the chemical composition of toxins, might be the deal-sealer for feeling better.


Usually, when we're trying not to cry, it's because we're attached to trying to do or be something other than someone who's crying. A master, a helper, a teacher, a winner, a maker, a mother, a father, a leader. We don't compute "crier" with any of these things.

Of course, some people have learned to use crying as a manipulative tool to increase getting what they want by eliciting sympathy or fear in others. To be clear--this is not the kind of crying for which I'm advocating. In fact, manipulative crying gives the healing sacred crying for which I am advocating, a bad rep.

But more than the argument of manipulative crying, our societal mindset is still half-way stuck in the Industrial Revolution paradigm of no-time-to-cry-in-the-factory, or the patriarchal paradigm of it's-weak-and-wimpy-to-cry.

And so, we deny nature. We hold in our tears, and it's painful. It's also unhealthy, clenching onto the toxins that our body so naturally knows how to release.

The facts are that the average female cries 5.3 times per month, and the average male cries 1.4 times (this, presumably, has to do with females having more prolactin than males--another hormone released in emotional tears)--but when asked to predict how many times they thought they'd cry over the span of a month, both sexes predicted lower than reality.

We wish our crying weren't so, but it's so, folks. And wishing otherwise is futile--an added stress to our already emotional lives.


First of all--You Were Built For Crying. (Just the same as you were built for pissin'.)

Now that that's... sealed in...

Three Tips for Crying, from The Crying Expert Herself:

1) When you sense you might want to cry, but your mind is telling you not to.

Try on these three sentences:

"It's healthy to cry. I want to cry. I am going to cry."

And then let your body move naturally into its most comfortable crying position.

Many of us are walking around with our default response to crying as, "Go away. I don't want you here. You're making a fool out of me. You're taking up too much space and energy. I'm not allowed to release you. People will think I'm a baby or brat."

Would you say that to your piss?

"It's HEALTHY to cry," reminds you that crying releases toxins and actually has physiological benefits.

"I WANT to cry right now," welcomes your tears as a healing and healthy release.

"I am GOING to cry," invites you to walk towards your experience.

After you whisper these three things, let yourself actually walk toward the position that feels safest to cry in, wherever you are. Get comfortable. Breathe. Exhale. Exhale loudly. Keep exhaling loudly until, perhaps, at last, you cry.

2) When you WANT to cry but feel unsafe or unpracticed or very very stuck.

Damien Rice. Joni Mitchell's Blue album. Put 'em in the dock and get out a pen and paper.

Answer this question:

If I knew and trusted that I was meant to cry, that it's allowed and safe, healthy, even, what would I let myself cry about? Pent up or fresh? Old or new?

A shorter prompt is:

I am ready & willing to cry about ______.
I am ready & willing to cry about ______.
I am ready & willing to cry about ______.

Write, write, write. When I write what I'm ready & willing to cry about, I usually end up dropping the pen, dropping my mask, and letting the tears fall freely.

3) When the crying feels too big for you and you alone, or too stuck to express without a little external compassion.

Phone a friend. I'd go with someone you've seen cry before. Or someone who often cries to you.

Here's your line: "Hi. I really need to cry. Can you be my witness right now?"

Or: "Hi. I really need to cry and I'm feeling really stuck. Can I simply talk about the things I want to cry about, to see if it helps me? I made a list."

If you still don't cry, that's OKAY--you're in touch with your emotions and deepening a relationship based on vulnerability and truth-telling. This is always a good thing.

If you DO start crying--give yourself the chance to Really Cry.

I once had a coach say to me, while I was amidst some mild-tears post-separation, "You know, in some cultures they go out into the field and they wail, loudly, as loud as they can." It was total permission to release it all. Expel. Free.


While crying doesn't expel all pain (nothing ever has or ever will expel pain from the human experience), it does move our energy and our toxins.

But most importantly, it's devotional presence to allow ourselves and our bodies the expression of tears.  And what follows that expression is the hidden magic of tears...

After we cry, it's like getting on a boat to the next stop of our healing journey.

We fall into a blissful nap, or we let out a big fit of laughter.
We know clearly what's true for us, or we have a new unwavering direction of inquiry.
We soften to the humility, the frailty of being human, and we experience our strength as a surrender to the truth.
We allow ourselves the treat of comfort food or a long hug from a friend.
We move deeper into the flow of our healing, rather than spinning on the hamster wheel of avoidance.

Releasing the tension, giving in to our nature, to our tears--this is the expression that frees us up to keep moving.

We were built to cry. Let yourself try. There's magic and brilliance in giving up on holding it together.


Rachael Maddox is a spiritual force of love who works with powerful people world-wide to activate and enhance their inner-magic. Professionally trained through the Coaches Training Institute and with a lifetime of teachings in the School of Stories and Providential Moments, Rachael fuses coaching, mystical ritual, somatics, radical expression, and fire to invoke healing and joy in those seeking to wake up and rise up. Check out her 17 day one-on-one coaching ritual, Magic 17, for a profound pivot toward a life of meaning and magic, or her online community Swing, Damnit, for a place to spark and share your inner artist.

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