My parent’s divorce was tumultuous. Marked by anger and fueled by passion, they fought constantly. Roger, my birth father, and my mother Pamela were kids when they got married and had me. My conception and their union was their unconscious way of solving the problems that existed in their relationship. I don’t remember every fight or even how long the divorce took, but I recall the feeling of unease and uncertainty I felt. As adults, we think children are oblivious to the grownup problems that we play out in front of them. But that is not true; children are highly observant and intuitive. However, despite this, most kids do not realize what it is they are experiencing; the details of the fight, who said what, all of that is over their head.
What does translate for the child is the feeling of the situation. Safe versus unsafe, love versus anger, sadness versus happiness, these are the things children interpret at a very young age. The big fight that I remember the most took place when I was around two years old. It was winter, and the snow fell like an avalanche from the heavens. We lived in a small duplex in Eagle River Alaska. The place had course and dark short fibered carpet, the wood paneling on the walls had a golden urine tint to it, and the lights were always dim which left a depression in the air. It was not a cheery space, nor was it a happy home.
I was sitting on the living room floor staring in bewilderment at my mom and dad standing in the kitchen screaming at each other. Their voices, their words, they all just fused together in one loud, angry cacophony. I felt stuck and helpless. The image that sticks in my head the most is that of my mother pinned against the fridge while she tried to hit my dad. He grasped her wrists tight and slammed her against it to keep her from attacking him. My mother was fierce in her anger and my father steadfast and stubborn with his. Thunderous booms sounded as their fists made contact. I didn’t know what to do, or what was happening, but I was sad, so I started to cry. Something any child would do, something my parents were doing right in front of me through hostile screams and physical assaults.
But my crying was too much for my dad, he stopped fighting with my mother and got right up in my face and as loud as he possibly could, and with all the anger built up in his body from the fight with my mom, he screamed at me, “STOP CRYING!” He then dragged my mother into the bedroom, slamming the door shut and leaving me all alone to cry by myself as I listened to the thuds and wails of the two of them torturing one another in the other room. This fight was not the first time or the last time I would hear these words come out of one of my parent’s mouths.
My emotions just made my dad uncomfortable because he had been taught that men do not show their pain or feelings. At some point, I learned to stop crying around him. For my mother, who was hyper-emotional and overly caring, my tears caused her a great sense of guilt. She could not see me cry if it was something she could not fix for me. It caused her too much pain to not be able to relieve her child’s emotional burden. Either way, I was taught at a young age that crying was not okay at all around my dad, but okay in some superficial situations around my mother. She could handle a broken-hearted little me; she was accepting if I cried from a scraped knee or a sad movie. However, the thick emotional pain trauma from the fighting of theirs that I witnessed, the shame I felt around my sexual confusion at such a young age, the bullying that was happening to me by my peers where all things that made me cry and that she could not fix and therefore could not handle.
I remember many times in my life that deserved a therapeutic cry. My stepfather’s death was particularly heart-breaking for all of us, but the tears just would not flow for me. Of course, I was sad, mad, confused, and I wanted to cry; I needed to release the pain I felt but had no release. I can recount many other times that I wanted to cry, but could not. It was not until the second rehab I went to that my very insightful therapist pointed out to me the correlation between this memory of my parents fighting and the words “stop crying” that I had heard so many times. I explained to her that I wanted to cry about certain things, but that once the swell of emotion would start, and I would be on the brink of tears all at once it would end without a single drop of salty water from my sad eyes.
I thought about and processed what my therapist had said; it felt so right. She had pinpointed my inability to cry; traced it back to my early childhood, but I still had no solution to my crying problem. On my next phone break, we got thirty minutes a day if we behaved, I called my mom and spoke to her about my therapy session. She broke down crying, of course. She apologized for stifling my tears so many times when I needed to express my internal suffering externally. This conversation was healing and did open up an emotional barrier that had built up by the words “stop crying. ” All though, it was not until a recent trip to Mexico where I did toad DMT with a Shamen that I was finally able to demolish the emotional barricade that had been holding back years of tears for me. But that’s a story for another time.
Crying is healthy. Emotions are safe to feel. Feelings are not facts, but they surely need acknowledgment. We are too shut off from our emotions, and yet we let them run our lives blindly. If instead of stuffing your pain down inside, you accepted it and allowed yourself to feel it, the healing that would occur for you would be truly transformational. The pain body, both your own and the collective generational and global human pain body, feeds off of suffering and bottled up emotions. Placing shame on them, and not allowing yourself to cry and express them is what causes so much unresolved pain and ultimately disease in our bodies. Do me, yourself, and the world a huge favor, have a good fucking cry.