Request for waterworks manual
February 14, 2006 12:01 AM   Subscribe

How does one cry?

I've been under immense stress lately, and it seems to just be balling up in my head. When my mind is least clear, I get an overwhelming need to cry. That feeling one gets at the sad parts of movies, in the back of the throat. But, stronger. However, I cannot seem to get to crying, sobbing, or even tears. It has been years since I last cried. As a guy, I wonder if there is something I'm not aware of. Maybe there is some method, or technique that I never learned or maybe I forgot. I've scoured the internet and only found things for crocodile tears and acting, or worse, research telling me of the benefits of crying. I've wanted to ask friends and family, but I feel they'd think I've fallen insane. Crying isn't much talked about. Are there tricks? Tips? Anything? I think I could function better or just let some of this stress out if I could just cry. Help.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure if this will help you or not, but when I'm a stressball in need of a good deflate I do something until physical exhaustion sets in. I push myself as long and hard as I can and when I think I'm about to break is when it usually happens.

I've also been known to throw in a copy of City of Angels too, but that's probably not going to work for you.

Good luck.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:18 AM on February 14, 2006

I'd suggest music. I have trouble with the emotion thing too, but sometimes the right song will mess me up but good. Check out this recent AskMe thread; not all of the music mentioned there will be helpful, but there's some good tearjerking picks.

Personally, I'd suggest Neutral Milk Hotel's In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Sufjan Steven's Illinoise, Iron & Wine, Will Oldham, but that's just what my tastes lean towards. (The Clash's Straight To Hell wrecks me like an abandoned warehouse too).
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:40 AM on February 14, 2006

Have you tried actually watching sad movies? Sometimes when I have that "about to cry" sense, I just need a bit more to tip me over the edge, and most often that bit tends to be cliche or overwrought. Long-distance ads. Sad movies. Certain heart-tugging Gilmore Girls episodes.

When I was in high school I would lie in bed obsessing about the should-make-me-cry things that had happened, and sometimes just some weird phrasing in my head would almost trigger a crying jag, so I'd keep repeating it and embellishing it until the tears started.

Heavy drinking can also help with the maudlin.

There can also be a point at which the fact that you can't cry can be misery-inducing enough to make you cry. But I generally get this when I'm out walking around and feeling sad, and trying to hold in tears because I'm in public.

And yes, I do realize this post makes me sound like a basket case; I will say only that it's been a very difficult year.
posted by occhiblu at 12:42 AM on February 14, 2006

Do it alone. As a guy, I may get the lump in my throat and the teary eyes, but I absolutely will not cry unless I'm completely alone (and things are really, really fouled up). My social inhibition against crying is very strong. Beyond that, I dunno, watch a really sad movie, and try to get emotionally invested.

But it's quite possible that you've just discovered that your actually a cyborg. Sorry.
posted by teece at 12:46 AM on February 14, 2006

I find the opposite of teece: I only actually shed tears when I'm around other people crying. Funerals and weddings work.

I can make my eyes tear with wind (by biking fast), but that doesn't seem to lead to the emotional outlet of crying.
posted by aneel at 12:54 AM on February 14, 2006

I second sad movies and affecting literature. Works for me, provided I have solitude. Also, you get better with practise.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:55 AM on February 14, 2006

Watch the movie: Death of a Nation - The Timor Conspiracy. its on . I'd reccomend watching it alone, as its easier to get distracted when you have someone to talk to. I cried very hard. I get choked up and teary eyed thinking about it. This movie will make you feel awful about our society. Then show it to your friends. Also its a little sappy but Ive cried listending to neutral milk hotel whilst under an influence just because its so beautiful.
posted by psychobum at 1:10 AM on February 14, 2006

Get alone, have a few beers, listen to "More than Rain" and "Strange Weather" by Tom Waits, think about all the sad shitty stuff in your life... works a charm every time.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:29 AM on February 14, 2006

Do you have someone to talk to? Sometimes I find that spilling everything that's going on to someone who's listening attentively and with interest--well that'll turn me into a mess. I'll never really cry otherwise.
posted by stray at 1:29 AM on February 14, 2006

Same as the above, really, only I tend to sway towards a copy of It's A Wonderful Life and, if in dire need, half a pint of scotch. You do get better with practise and, yep, do it alone.
posted by Jofus at 1:45 AM on February 14, 2006

Upon reflection, it seems that the times I have cried, like really bawling, was when I was speaking out loud to someone I love and trust implicitly about the most painful things in my life. A good counselor works, too. You gotta dig deep. It's painful, but cathartic.
posted by wsg at 2:32 AM on February 14, 2006

Someone said (Einstein?) that the thought process isn't complete until verbalization. It makes sense. I find my real feelings when I talk about it.
posted by wsg at 2:39 AM on February 14, 2006

Have a beer or two, and invite a very trusted friend over. Discuss things a little with them, and others said above, just getting the words out might help, and might start the flow of tears. The only thing that's worked really well for me sounds weird, but - ask them to give you permission to cry. This is as simple as hugging you and encouraging you to let it out, or some other physical touch, and telling you it's okay to cry. It sounds dorky, I know, but having that outside 'permission' lets you bypass any social conditioning you might have, and creates kind of an insta-bond of trust.
posted by kalimac at 4:40 AM on February 14, 2006

Think about something that made you cry when you were a little boy. Any little kid sadness is always the most heartbreaking for me, so even reading a sad story about a kid I've never met can make me cry. The stories about kids being forced to abandon their pets while evacuating New Orleans did it for me every time.
posted by boomchicka at 4:55 AM on February 14, 2006

If you want to cry, but not around other folks, I'd try talking to yourself, out loud, about whatever is bothering you. Stress-related crying for me [I'm a guy] is a combination of frustration and anger and is usually initiated by extreme, unfocused, inarticulate yelling. Which is quite manly.

If you're going to go the sad movie route, just watch Old Yeller. Fucks me up every time.
posted by sciurus at 5:06 AM on February 14, 2006

From a totally different perspective, next time you are feeling the desire to cry and a need for release, consciously relax your body. Lay down. Let the stress leave. Then open your mouth, and put all five figers of a hand in your mouth, simulating a yawn. Breathe and think. Adding sad music might help. Maybe start to moan a little. Drool on your hand. See what happens.

I'm not making fun, seriously, I'm an actor, and that's how I get tears going. Once it starts, it's just as real and intense as natural method tears. Crying is crying.
posted by rainbaby at 5:41 AM on February 14, 2006

It sounds like making it your GOAL to cry is the surest way not to. Don't worry about shedding tears -- worry about de-stressing. Follow advice in this thread: do something physically exhausting, drink a beer, talk it out, listen to music, etc. It's fine if you cry, it's fine if you don't.

Oh, yelling and screaming can help destress. Go somewhere where you can't be disturbed and scream until you're screamed out.
posted by grumblebee at 5:42 AM on February 14, 2006

Field of Dreams.
posted by jon_kill at 5:49 AM on February 14, 2006

You should find a copy of this song (available on Itunes): West Virginia Mine Disaster, by Jean Ritchie (a pretty famous Appalachian folk singer). When its done, you can spend a little time thinking about the kind of life it describes. You'll have a good cry, then.

It is the saddest song I've ever heard.
posted by Chrischris at 5:53 AM on February 14, 2006

I agree about sad movies and music. Movies that work for me are Philadelphia, Dead Poet's Society, Life is Beautiful...

Think about dead pets.

Think about things that are really, really unfair. Imagine trying to explain WHY they're unfair to someone who just doesn't understand.
posted by lampoil at 6:28 AM on February 14, 2006

As a guy, I can say that in the last few (five or so?) years I've only cried around my immediate family -- my parents and sister. I've done it after an emotional argument with my sister; when she cried, I cried. I also did it once when describing something amazingly stressful and frustrating that happened the day before while telling the story. I would imagine it's because I have deep feelings for my family and feel safe enough around them to let them see me cry.
posted by mikeh at 7:08 AM on February 14, 2006

Go somewhere where you really don't want to break down into tears. If you can't cry somewhere, you're guaranteed to break down.

Then flee to the bathroom and get the crying done.
posted by anjamu at 7:12 AM on February 14, 2006

If you deliberately try to cry, it probably won't work. If you get to the point of being on the edge, chances are you were thinking of something else to get you there and the switch toward "ok, i'm there, let's cry now" will interrupt your momentum.
posted by vanoakenfold at 7:44 AM on February 14, 2006

Well, first of all let me give some general thoughts on crying, and then I'll talk about how that applies to your situation.

Crying is something children do all the time, but as we get older we cry less and less. If you think about it from an evolutionary perspective, that makes sense. It's basically a distress signal that children give off for their parents to find them if they're scared or hurt or whatever. As we get older we cry less and less, and we don't really need to cry either.

The other thing to remember is that crying is fundamentally about communication there's really no reason to cry by yourself.

One thing you could try to do is try to verbalize, actually say out loud what's bothering you. I've found, and think this is true of other people as well, is that if I'm upset about something, near to the point of crying, if I try to actually explain what's upsetting me, then it will tip me over the edge and get me sobbing. That's another reason why it's good being around another person.

Also, keep in mind that crying won't make you feel better about something when you're done; it's not a 'release'. Dwelling on some negative emotion will only make stronger.
posted by delmoi at 8:36 AM on February 14, 2006

Nth to the alcohol/movie/alone recommendation. Rudy always does it for me.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:00 AM on February 14, 2006

Grave of the Fireflies. If you don't cry, you are not human.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:03 AM on February 14, 2006

Christ, I had to start reading the user comments on IMDB. Now I'm sitting at work with watery eyes trying to forget.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:09 AM on February 14, 2006

I forget which movie this was suggested in, but it's the easiest method: cut up some onions.
posted by Rash at 9:50 AM on February 14, 2006

What about Steel Magnolias? Seriously, I can watch about ten minutes of that one and I'm in tears. Also, Extreme Makeover Home Edition makes me sob every week.

I heard that song by Jean Ritchie on NPR during the mine disaster earlier this year and I almost had to pull over on the side of the road.
posted by sugarfish at 10:53 AM on February 14, 2006

Or, given the time of year, Olympic medal awards ceremonies.
posted by occhiblu at 11:31 AM on February 14, 2006

Do you like animals? This is what I use to make myself cry when necessary: The Rainbow Bridge.

(I used to work with glass, and worried about getting tiny bits of glass in my eyes. So I'd go to this site and make myself cry to wash out my eyes.)
posted by TochterAusElysium at 12:26 PM on February 14, 2006

"The Iron Giant." You get to watch a great movie about a boy and his gigantic robot, and you get to cry.
posted by kindall at 1:17 PM on February 14, 2006

Slow movements of Beethoven's 7th, Brahms' 3rd or 4th symphonies, or I'm sure a goodly number of other classical pieces I'm not familiar with. I also let it go in Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto's slow movement -- in this case, not so much sad as just achingly beautiful. Lie on the floor with a few drinks in you, and play it as loud as you can muster.
posted by rleamon at 4:25 PM on February 14, 2006

crying is fundamentally about communication there's really no reason to cry by yourself.

delmoi is wrong. Crying is just as fundamentally about *expression* as it is about communication, which helps explain why we feel better after a good cry, alone or not. Once you understand that, you'll understand that all of us have more than enough reason to cry if we feel sad when alone. It's a stress relief, for one thing, but also a way of acknowledging to ourselves that what we're feeling is indeed real, and powerful enough to demand physical expression.

So, for me, rule #1 in the "waterworks manual" is this: Give yourself permission to cry. Now. Here. Because it's ok. It's a blessing, even. Let the sadness show itself. Just say "yes" to sobbing out loud for a while. It really does help.
posted by mediareport at 9:04 PM on February 14, 2006

Well, while stressed out and doing research last week, this page about Huntsville prison set me off. Scroll down to the photos of the cemetary where they used to bury executed inmates with a plain white cross marker, with nothing but their inmate number and date of death.

Not the prisoner's name.

That one got me.
posted by sol at 10:28 PM on February 14, 2006

delmoi is wrong. Crying is just as fundamentally about *expression* as it is about communication,

What does that even mean?

which helps explain why we feel better after a good cry, alone or not.

Well, if you cry about something happy, like at a wedding, if you dwell on something happy it will make you feel more happy, I guess. I don't belive people would feel better if they cried over the death of a lovedone or something.

It's a stress relief

Eh, catharsis theory has been discredited. I don't believe there are any cases where dwelling in something negative will make you feel worse.
posted by delmoi at 11:21 PM on February 14, 2006

What does that even mean?

Just that there's no need of an audience for crying to have a useful function. You overstated the case ridiculously with that "there's no reason to cry by yourself" nonsense.
posted by mediareport at 5:37 AM on February 15, 2006

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