The Practical Buddhist Blog – Practical Advice on Integrating the Practice of Buddhism in Contemporary Life


It is often said that crying is cathartic.  To what extent is that true?  I wrote a post last year that took the position that crying was not the release of pain but an expression of pain.   And as such, as an expression of emotion, it only strengthened the emotion and thus increased the pain.

After listening to a friend of mine’s deep, soul-based, crying recently, I retract that simplistic view of crying.   When someone is crying as an expression of rage, throwing a tantrum, screaming really more than crying, that is indeed an expression of emotion and is not productive.   It is not cathartic.   It does not lead to healing the pain.

But when someone’s crying is the soul’s expression of pain long pent up and creating terrible tension and depression within, that crying is a release and it is cathartic.   For it breaks the mind’s self-righteous, grasping hold on anger and feeling of victimization, and instead allows the soul to cry out for peace.   One can hear the difference; the one is gentle, the other angry.   This is crying not because of the things that have happened, but because the person has been robbed of his peace and sense of self by his mind.

I have written about how trauma is not just psychological but is held deep in the body and therefore one must undertake action, exercises, to release the trauma from the body.   (See my posts, “Trauma” and “Trauma – Its Release.”)  Part of that release is allowing the pain to rise up and express itself at long last through deep crying or primal screaming.   So much of our trauma exists because at the time of the original experience, usually as children, we did not have the capacity to express ourselves.   And so the trauma was buried deep within.   

Crying of the type I witnessed recently has the same effect.   After the crying, and a good night’s sleep, the person is present, centered, and can meditate with clarity on the issues that have bedeviled him.   He will see light.   This is not thinking with the mind; in this exercise everything is self-revealing and clear without involving the mind.

Keeping that clarity is a challenge, for the mind will without question reassert itself and attempt to divert the person back to a position of fear.   For the mind thinks that therein lies the only protection.   The mind doesn’t trust anyone or anything, least of all the ability of the person to be at peace regardless what life throws at him.

Whether one engages in the crying of the soul or the crying of the rage of the mind is not an act of volition; we do not make a choice.   It just happens.   

So what can one do to encourage the crying of the soul rather than the rage of the mind?  You encourage that by, on a daily basis, connecting with your heart, with your true Buddha nature, with your higher power be it your angels, your divinity, God – whatever you call it.   

Without that connection, when the fear and anger that is in your mind takes hold of you and won’t let go, you have no other place to go and you will be ridden by these emotions until you are totally spent and exhausted,  Totally devastated and bereft of energy and hope.

But if you have nurtured a relationship with your heart, your higher power, when the mind does grab hold of you, at some point, when you have reached a breaking point, something will happen that brings you out of the trance and your soul will cry, expressing its pain and its desire for peace.   

That is the beginning of a positive path forward; feeling at peace and secure.   But have no illusions.   The mind will almost certainly take control of you again when you have a weak moment, repeatedly, until you finally free yourself from its control.   (See my post, “How To Free Yourself from the Control of Your Mind.”)


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