A blue illustration of a woman crying

Is it OK to cry? This podcast shares some fascinating answers

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Radio 4 Woman’s Hour host Jane Garvey put questions about crying to two therapists, and anyone who regularly cries should listen to their answers.

Crying is often considered a bit of a taboo. We all know that horrible feeling of “fighting back the tears” and no one ever quite knows what to do if you see a stranger crying in public. It gets even more complicated when it comes to crying at the office or in front of a romantic partner. And, sometimes, we just cannot put our finger on where that 10-minute burst of sobs came from.

There are so many questions to ask about crying, which is why Jane Garvey’s conversation with two experts on one of this week’s Woman’s Hour episodes is a truly fascinating listen.     

Is it OK to cry at work?

Garvey started the conversation by asking about how people perceive individuals when they cry in public. One therapist, Joanna, focused on the example of crying at work, explaining that someone who cries regularly in the office needs to address the root of their tears before it becomes a bigger problem.

She said: “If you’ve got somebody who seems to cry regularly, I think that’s not helpful for the individual, because then if they cry over something that really is important to them, they might not be taken so seriously, or they get a label. I do think crying is often a build up of frustration and undealt with situations, and it’s a bit of a final straw moment.”

Is society’s attitude towards crying sexist?

Garvey then asked if people have different reactions to men crying and women crying. She used the example of Ian Wright, who was recently praised for opening up and crying on his Desert Island Discs episode. In comparison, some people assume a woman is crying because she is “hormonal”.

“Yes,” agreed Joanna, “which is really frustrating and unfair”. 

Boss making employee cry at work
Crying at work: if your boss is making you upset, ask politely whether you can continue the conversation another time.

Why does confrontation make me cry?

Garvey then asked her second therapist guest, Susie, about a listener who emailed to say she avoids confrontation because it always makes her cry – which many people will relate to.

Explaining what she’d tell someone in a therapy session, Susie replied: “We’d ask her what she finds difficult about confrontation and would there be a way for her to process that?”

Describing why this is important, the therapist added: “She does need to stand up for herself [in confrontations] – crying, in a way, stops her from doing that.”

Am I weird for not crying?

Garvey wanted to know if it’s possible to complete therapy properly without crying, especially as a box of tissues seems to be an obligatory item in every therapy room.

“There are people who have a very different relationship to tears,” said Susie. “For some people it’s an accomplishment to cry, [because] they can’t cry. And being able to have those tear ducts open and soothe themselves with the tears, which is what it does, might take years and they might never have been able to cry with their family or in their relationship.

“For other people, they really do flood. But it doesn’t have the same valence for them, it’s just another form of expression that they know about themselves.”

Will crying make me feel better?

Both therapists agreed that crying isn’t always about sadness of negative feelings, and that “having a good cry” is sometimes just necessary. But Susie pointed out that we have different ways of crying.

She said: “If you’re crying because you feel vulnerable, you want to do that in a very protective space. If you cry because you are moved, you don’t need the protected space, you are in that engagement. They are different kinds of crying.”

You can listen to the full Women’s Hour clip on BBC Sounds here.

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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