An Open Letter to My Clients
Your tears are valued in therapy.
Posted Mar 19, 2018
“I’m so embarrassed,” she said quietly, dabbing her face with a tissue. “I promised myself that I wouldn’t cry today.”
This is a letter to you, to each of you who possess the courage to sit with me in therapy. This message comes from the very bottom of my heart, and I only hope that I can do this justice. I want you to know that I see you sitting across from me on the couch. I can feel your pain, and even your discomfort. Your eyes are glassy and you’re fighting tears. You are trying so hard to remain composed because apparently, stoicism is what our culture values most. In all honesty, I praise you for the moment when you decide to let go. The tears tumble softly down your face, and I wish that instead of shame or embarrassment, you would feel a wave of relief. This bravery is my hope for you.
I want to applaud your decision to come in today; I know it was anything but easy. Perhaps you looked forward to coming in to talk to me. It might be the only part of the week that belongs to you entirely. Maybe you saw a reminder on your phone and immediately felt anxious. Regardless of where you were earlier today, I want to recognize that it was not easy to make the choice to come to therapy. I can acknowledge that this choice is never a simple one because what we do in therapy is something that society has told you was shameful.
Sadly, crying has since evolved into a sign of narcissism, childishness, and self-indulgence. Heroic epics from Ancient Greece through the middle ages depicted men crying, though over time men were encouraged to be emotionless and stoic. Displaying tears became a symbol of weakness for all of us. Some of the earliest writings about human emotion describe tears as a soothing, satisfying, and even an intoxicating response to intense grief. Throughout history, tears have been described as almost a pleasure to offset pain, as well as a mark of sincerity.
I want you to know that when I see you crying, I do not see weakness or self-pity. Though your experience probably feels raw and painful to you, please know that I do not think you are small or feeble. I look at you, and I see that you are brave. You speak about your deepest pain, your toughest moments, and your most significant trauma. You share about pain and loss. Sometimes you utter words that have never been spoken out loud. You made the choice to come to therapy, and you had the courage to share these precious tears with me.
Why is it that something so natural, the very thing that our eyes are equipped to do, is viewed so negatively? Perhaps we should question this notion. Maybe we should turn this idea on its head and view crying as catharsis, a release. Your tears are freeing. They represent the anguish your body is harboring, and I want to give you the permission to let it go.
Please remember that you are only human. Your vast expanse of emotions is beautifully expressive. When you cry, you are allowing your body and mind to connect and converse. As children we cry to express a need, a pain, or a frustration. This mechanism does not change as we get older, even though we may shed fewer tears. Perhaps we should stop and listen to our inner voice. Maybe instead of hastily wiping our tears when we cry, we should honor them and ask ourselves, “What do I need most right now?”
© Megha Pulianda