May 11, 2012

Crying in the Dentist’s Chair. ~ Jacey Tramutt

Flickr: Creative Donkey

The importance of shedding tears.

As a psychotherapist, people come to see me, and we inevitably end up talking about emotions, and how they need to be felt, not just talked about.

And inevitably, I will hear some version of the following: “I can’t react to my feelings! I have work. I have kids. I have to keep it together. I can’t go around crying all day.”

My response: Why not?

I can’t help but wonder why we have all bought in to the mindset that it’s not ok to cry, especially in front of others.

Crying is a part of the human experience, a function of the body as natural and essential as any other. We tend to think that crying is some kind of design flaw, a demonstration of weakness, or worse yet, an admittance of personal failure.

In reality, the opposite is true. Crying takes incredible courage and confidence, and it is healing.

The Emotional Backlog

When we suppress our emotions they don’t go away. They get stored in the body, and they just keep piling up.

Have you ever experienced the “volcano syndrome?” Somebody looks at you wrong and you end up crying or shouting hysterically?  That’s emotional backlog. It’s the release of an accumulation of unfelt emotion.

In addition, when we suppress emotion, fear gets layered on top of it. We desperately try to control our environment so that whatever we don’t want to feel can stay safely locked up.

If we are avoiding our grief, we may avoid talking to people about loss. If someone brings up a loss, we may feel anxious or tense. We may even avoid situations like a relationship because we fear we might experience loss.

Crying in the Dentist’s Chair

My grandmother died on Jan. 5. My grandfather died on Jan. 17. On Jan. 18, I had a dentist appointment, of all days, but I didn’t want to cancel. I’d have to wait four weeks to reschedule it.

Overwhelmed with grief, I cried the whole way there, and sat in the parking lot crying some more. “I’m about to put my money where my mouth is,” I thought, and I had to laugh, “literally and figuratively.”

I walked inside and sat in the waiting room crying. They called my name and took me to the dental chair. The hygienist stared at me. “I’ve lost two people I was very close to in the past two weeks,” I said, “and I’m grieving. Please do what you need to do.”

She looked at me like I had two heads. “Do you need a minute?,” she asked, looking away. “I don’t think a minute will help much,” I said.

So she proceeded to do her job, and I kept on crying. The interesting thing was I didn’t feel embarrassed, ashamed, or uncomfortable. Oddly enough, I felt empowered.

Had I tried to suppress my grief, I probably would have felt embarrassed and ashamed, because suppressing my grief is synonymous with suppressing myself. When I suppress myself the message I’m sending myself is, “There is something wrong with you!”

The Benefits of Crying

Research is showing that crying flushes toxic chemicals out of our bodies. It reduces stress and creates a feeling of calm afterwards. Crying releases emotion, allowing for the natural progression of the emotion to take place. Finally, crying strengthens relationships through the act of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

Life is a series of losses we have to grieve. Creating the time and space to do this is important, whenever possible. When it isn’t possible, I propose that we create the space by being authentic and taking the risk to share what’s really going on—even if it means crying in the dentist’s chair.

“You have to feel to heal.” ~ Julia Butterfly Hill


Jacey Tramutt, MA, LPC, is a psychotherapist in Golden, CO who helps people struggling with anxiety gain confidence and get back to living the life they love.  She offers equine facilitated psychotherapy to clients that are interested in cultivating self-awareness through building connections with horses.  Besides her work, Jacey is passionate about maintaining old-school family values in a high-tech world and passing those along to her twenty-two month old son.  For more information about Jacey, please visit: http://www.cultivateconfidence.com.


Editor: Ryan Pinkard

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