A collection of essays discussing the various aspects of self-mastery, focus, and healing.

The Myth of Crying It Out

No, I’m not talking about babies. This isn’t a parenting blog. I’m talking about healing. I’m talking about dealing with old pain, things that happened in childhood, things that happened 20 years ago. I’m talking about all the stuff you didn’t deal with when it happened years ago, either because you couldn’t as a small child or simply because you avoided it as a teenager or an adult.

Crying out the emotional pain of an experience 20 years later will solve absolutely nothing. It might make you feel better temporarily but in the long term, it will heal nothing.


Because you’re reacting to a memory. This is literally watching a sad movie and crying about it. There’s nothing wrong with watching a sad movie that makes you cry. Watch all the sad movies you want. Just don’t do this as a means of healing because it’s not going to heal anything.

The reality is that the emotional release is only helpful in the immediate aftermath of something. Something hurts your feelings and you cry 10 minutes later. Perfect. That’s as it should be. Let it flow through and the experience will be done. Something hurts your feelings and you cry 20 years later. What’s the point? That’s not going to help you let it go now because at this stage you’re living from it. That’s a whole different kettle of fish to deal with.

The truth of pain 10, 20, 30, and more years later is that you’ve identified with it. It is ingrained in you now and you have to figure out how to untangle yourself from it. You have to figure out how to release your identification with it. Crying it out isn’t going to do that for you.

So spare yourself the emotional trauma of crying it out and instead focus on the thoughts, words, actions, ideas, and beliefs that you have right now that you are aware of and shift those. As you begin to shift the things you can see you will become aware of things that you cannot currently see. You will bring up the unconscious things so that you can heal them.

We like to use the unconscious as an excuse to not heal. All we’re doing is avoiding what is right in front of us. We don’t want to do the work to dig up the things we can’t currently see. We don’t like the idea of having to start from where we are with what we know now. We want to fast track to the core of the problem. But we can’t. We have to start with where we are and work from there.

We think crying it out is going to help us with that fast track. Maybe I can just cry through to the core of the problem. Nope. It doesn’t work like that. You have to be willing to do the work and that means becoming aware of yourself in the present moment. Become aware of your own thoughts, feelings, actions, words, beliefs, and ideas in the present. Use those to begin to shift and then slowly over a period of time, as you shift what you are aware of, you will begin to find the things you are not aware of.

Notice what we didn’t do – there was no crying it out. It doesn’t mean you won’t feel anything as a part of this process. You may still experience some minor emotional release. That’s good. Allow that to flow through and then let it go. Don’t get distracted by it. Don’t let it sidetrack you. Don’t let it stop you. Just wait for it to pass and keep going.

Emotions are the minds’ way of distracting you. Kind of like the brain and the ego are helpful and necessary but also somewhat problematic, emotions fall into this same category.

We need the mind. It keeps our bodies functioning. It keeps our hearts beating. It’s a good thing. We need our egos. They are the personality. They are one of the ways in which we engage with the world around us.

The ego and the mind have another important role – safety. Sometimes that drive to keep us safe can do more harm than good. It can keep us quite stuck in old pain.

Our egos like to take on pain and wear it like a costume. This is the ego identification with the pain. “I am my pain”. The problem with this is that it creates behaviors and patterns of behavior that cause us more pain.

Emotions can be quite helpful. They can be a guide to tell us whether or not we like something. They are a hint as to what the mind thinks of the experience. Emotions are a physical manifestation of what the mind is thinking. Emotions make the minds’ activity conscious to us, even when we’re not having conscious thoughts about those things.

Emotions are a physical manifestation of what the mind is thinking.

Emotions can also sidetrack us and distract us. Emotions encourage the mind to offer us more painful thoughts. Emotions encourage the mind and the mind brings on more emotions. It’s a loop. If it becomes a big enough problem then it distracts you from healing. It makes the healing too painful and then you don’t do it, you avoid it. Why does that happen? Because the mind overwhelms you with emotion and it feels out of control. That’s what makes you stop.

Somehow as a collective we’ve decided to just kind of give into this overwhelm. We’ve given into the mind that wants to play up emotions by offering us crazy thoughts and making us tell wild stories about what happened. From that was born this idea that we need to cry things out years later. From this came the idea of the “dark night of the soul”.

For those that aren’t familiar with it, the “dark night of the soul” is where we intentionally go down the rabbit hole of emotion and dive deep into dark undisturbed emotional territory. Sometimes people come back out of this a couple years later changed but reasonably okay and sometimes they just don’t. This strategy is painful at best and destructive at worst. I often question how much healing actually gets accomplished.

The reason why I question this whole idea of cry it out so heavily is because we’ve identified with pain. When we’ve identified with the pain it means it’s affecting our behavior. It’s affecting how we show up in the world. It’s affecting our relationships. It’s affecting our day-to-day experience. It’s affecting our choices. It’s affecting our perception of the world around us. It’s affecting everything. Cry it out only acknowledges the emotional effect. What about the rest?

If you don’t change the people-pleasing behavior you picked up from the pain, you will continue to live from the pain. Cry it out won’t heal this. It won’t solve it. You have to actively decide to shift that behavior over a period of time through consciously reacting to your experience differently than you have in the past. There is no crying it out involved in that process – none.

Now, that’s not to say there won’t be emotion. You may feel the fear of changing how you respond to things. You may feel the fear of saying no. You may feel angry when others get upset at you for saying no. Those emotions are real-time responses to current events. They aren’t you re-living the past. The way you deal with these emotions is by letting them flow through. They start and they stop and then you continue on with what you were doing.

You may even grieve over the loss of an old identity. Once again, there’s a beginning and an end. It is not re-living old pain. These emotions are a response to current events and you can let them flow through unencumbered by a mind that wants to keep you distracted by them. Don’t let the mind suck you in and keep you distracted with an over-abundance of emotions. You don’t need all that and you can get a grip on that. You don’t have to get stuck in it.

Why is the mind distracting you with extra emotions? Question it. Figure out what’s going on – logically or intuitively. What’s happening? What is the mind trying to get you to avoid?

Once you understand what’s happening you don’t have to go there anymore. You’re in control of this bus. You get to decide what happens. Your mind doesn’t have carte blanche unless you allow that. You don’t have to allow that. You can take conscious control over your own healing journey. When you do that you can avoid the pain of strategies like crying it out that don’t really acknowledge the truth behind the problem , which is the ego identification with the pain and the resulting behavior we actively display.

The next time your mind decides it wants to offer you an emotional fruit salad, keep your brain on your shoulders and engage the logical mind for a minute. Am I going to get anywhere? Where is this emotional roller coaster ride taking me? Is this useful?

It is okay to shut down emotions that the mind is offering you as a distraction when you are trying to work through your ego-identification with something. Learn to recognize when your mind is doing this and shut it down. Re-focus your mind and keep going with what you were doing.

Healing does not have to be emotional chaos.

The mind will stop offering you all that crazy when you stop accepting it. As you become more aware of which emotions are okay and which ones are just distractions, you will learn what you can shut down without creating more problems for yourself and what you can’t. Frankly, the quicker you learn this distinction the easier healing will become for you because healing does not have to be emotional chaos.

Emotions should flow freely – you just have to know which emotions to allow because not all of them should have that much freedom.

All of that to say that you can stop crying it out. Stop trying to heal from things that happened years ago by watching sad movies in your head that make you cry.

Focus on your present thoughts, ideas, beliefs, perceptions, actions, and words. Figure which of those are based on that old pain and shift those instead. It’s a much more constructive use of your time and effort than crying it out will ever be.

Love to all.