Crying was not an option.
As a child, I was not allowed to cry. From my father’s perspective, it was a sign of weakness. There was swift and vigilant punishment if I cried. My dad was quite heavy handed and his solution to my perceived wrong-doings was to swing an army utility belt across my legs and back, or a swift smack upside the head. I learned early on not to cry while being hit, though I do believe he became more angered and not being able to break me.
I had a ritual. I was a closet cryer. Literally. I would bring a bowl of water with ice cubes in it and a washcloth into my room. After whatever punishment my dad doled out, I went into my closet, closed the door, cried and screamed into a pillow, then applied the washcloth to my eyes to remove and post-cry swelling and redness. I had it down to a science.
Throughout my entire adult life, I have fought against shedding tears and even more so fought against letting someone hurt my feelings. Not only is that ridiculous, it’s impossible. I am actually quite easily hurt. I am actually very sensitive. Most people see me as a very strong woman that has overcome many things and can handle anything thrown her way. True on both counts, however, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel hurt along the way.
I recently discovered while working with my therapist, that the anger/rage reactions I have to stressful situations or crisis is a way for the child in me that was not allowed to cry to rely on a tried and true set of emotions for survival. If I dig deeper, beyond the anger, the truth emerges. My feelings were hurt and the only way I could work through it was to define my strength through anything but my true emotions. It ’s quite liberating to understand the things that make me tick. It’s also liberating to realize I can cry and feel sad without feeling weak or incapable of managing situations. Crying actually feels good. It’s a healthy release. It certainly feels better than being angry.