Can't stop crying
Originally Published: June 9, 2000 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 31, 2007
Are there any techniques for controlling crying? I doubt that my problem requires clinical attention; however, it frequently manifests itself as a serious handicap. During conflicts (particularly with professional superiors or with significant others), I find myself unable to defend my position, which only makes the problem worse. Sympathy only tends to aggravate the crying and it is impossible to stop once it starts. I am a twenty-four-year-old graduate student, and I don't seem to be growing out of it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Conflict is a normal and healthy part of any relationship. It's bound to occur, even in the best personal, professional, or casual relationships, as people enter these interactions with various life experiences and opinions. Examples of conveying conflict in a negative way can include yelling, screaming, breaking things, or name-calling. It could also be more passive-aggressive, such as making sarcastic comments, glaring, ignoring the other, or something similar. As you can see, the difficult part can be learning to express your feelings in the midst of a conflict without losing your cool, exploding, saying things you don't mean, or, in your case, crying. Sobbing at inopportune moments might feel like a serious handicap, but it happens to many people. It's helpful that you seem to recognize when, under what circumstances, and with whom your crying happens. Being able to identify what often triggers your weeping is an excellent first step in helping you control the urge to cry whenever conflict arises.
If you can think of conflict as a normal part of life, it might make it seem less intimidating. Learn to find other sources for responding to conflict by visualizing. Envision a situation with a partner or co-worker that could send you into tears. Imagine staying calm and taking some deep breaths. Picture yourself stating your feelings and thoughts in a calm, confident manner. It may sound too good to be true, but research shows that repeated visualizations of acting in a way that is contrary to our normal behaviors or responses can actually change the manner in which we react.
Write down all of the situations that have elicited crying for you in the past. What was it about the circumstances that made you cry? Find some things that you can say to express your feelings without getting choked up. Here are some examples you can use or adapt to particular situations:
- When you feel frustrated or angry at a supervisor at work, imagine some things you could say, such as, "I appreciate your feedback on _____. I was hoping we could include my input in the annual report as well."
- At a meeting when you disagree with someone, you could say something like, "Jack, I liked what you said about X and our company could definitely address that issue. I'm also thinking that we need to address Y so that we can prevent _____ in the future."
- Or, imagine that you're with your partner and you feel yourself getting teary-eyed because you're angry or frustrated. Try saying, "Honey, I don't agree with what you just said and I'm feeling angry. I need a minute to collect my thoughts so that we can talk about this and come to a solution." Telling your partner about your difficulty expressing conflict will hopefully make him or her more understanding, and give you the time and space you may need to collect your thoughts.
Rethinking your dilemma as a challenge to overcome, rather than as a serious handicap that prevents you from reaching your goal(s), may also be useful to you. Framing it as something that you can prevail over could give you the confidence to tackle the problem without feeling hopeless. For example, many have been able to successfully deal with anger management problems, a fear of public speaking, or whatever it may be that holds them back. So, view your crying as one way that you've been expressing challenging feelings, and now you're going to learn a different way of communicating that is more effective for you and still allows you to express how you feel, all the while maintaining your composure.
Talking with a counselor could help bring you some relief. Together you can explore the origins of your conflict resolution (or lack of) style that can shape how you communicate as an adult. Columbia University students can reach Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at x4-2468. If you're not a college student, try the services of a therapist, counselor, psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist in your area.
Good luck. Don't forget to be easy on yourself. You're learning new skills, and just like learning anything new, it takes time and practice.
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I completely understand where this person is coming from. I am a real cry baby, and it is so hard to stop because I am so emotional. I agree with the trick of picturing something...
I completely understand where this person is coming from. I am a real cry baby, and it is so hard to stop because I am so emotional. I agree with the trick of picturing something funny — it has worked for me before. Personally, the rehearsing trick just didn't do it for me. The tears would still flood on out.
I am so glad I am not the only crier out there.
December 14, 200520884
I am a 26-year-old female who has had the same problem of crying too easily. One trick that might help you survive a tough moment is to picture something hilariously funny in your...
I am a 26-year-old female who has had the same problem of crying too easily. One trick that might help you survive a tough moment is to picture something hilariously funny in your mind (a scene or speech from your favourite comedy, for example). I've found that this can stop tears in their tracks. You might even crack a smile, which will let the other person know how well you can keep your cool!
Crying is healthy and means that you are in touch with your feelings. I agree that a good cry in a private place is needed every once in a while. You may wish to delay showing your true emotions, but do let them out once the crisis has passed.
January 14, 200520841
Dear can't stop crying,
I am a 22-year-old female who also has times when I can't stop crying; a lot are related to conflict. I find that rehearsing beforehand what I want to...
Dear can't stop crying,
I am a 22-year-old female who also has times when I can't stop crying; a lot are related to conflict. I find that rehearsing beforehand what I want to say to the person I'm having problems with is really helpful. It also helps to feel good about yourself and to kind of coach yourself: I tell myself that I am a good person who deserves to be able to express my opinions in a respectful way.
I pretend it's a game; if I lose my cool or cry, I lose.
I tell myself that I won't let myself feel bad, no matter how ugly or disrespectful the other person is, I will not drop to their level or give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
Well, this sometimes works, though sometimes I only manage to get through the situation and then go home and cry in private. It's nice to know that other people struggle with this, also. Hope some of this helped.