A Good Cleanse
I just took another look at the title of this post and had a George Takei reaction. “Oh, myyy!” ‘A Good Cleanse’ sounds like something you do before a colonoscopy, doesn’t it? I promise that’s not what I’m talking about! My reference is actually to a good, heartfelt shedding of tears. The tears can be tears of joy, tears of pain, tears of sorrow, tears of loss, or tears of realization. I have frequently heard that tears are good for cleansing the soul, and I wholeheartedly agree.
Those who have spent time with me know that I wear my emotions on both arms. When I get emotional about something, you’re almost guaranteed to get a few tears out of me. That’s one of the reasons why my friend Leigh Daniel is so special to me. She’s a fellow tear-shedder, with most of her tears being tears of joy. Leigh’s happy tears show up so frequently she jokes about them and coined the term, “Leigh Daniel Syndrome,” or LDS for short. Now, whenever our mutual friends start crying happy tears, we jokingly say, “They’re having an LDS moment.” (My Mormon friends will appreciate that reference.)
What’s interesting is that even though I spent most of my life living in fear, I have never been afraid of being emotional in public. There were times when I might have apologized for shedding a tear or two, but the truth is that I’ve never been embarrassed of being emotional. Granted, being an emotional man in a society that expects men to be “tough” and stoic was hard, but I discovered at an early age that it took courage to be male AND be able to cry in public. I was never afraid of displaying that courage.
Fortunately, times have changed. Movements like The ManKind Project, which help men gain a new sense of purpose and transition into healthy, mature manhood are popping up around the world. Mental health and medical professionals are recognizing the psychological (and even physical) harm that comes from men repressing their feelings and failing to express their emotions in healthy ways. We live in a new society with new attitudes, and yet most of the examples we see portrayed in the news or in popular media are the stereotypical “macho” men who aren’t supposed to show emotion or who behave like women are the only ones who can be emotional.
Who the hell came up with that rule?
And how the hell did that idea gain so much traction? I could write a whole book on that question alone, but I won’t. What I will say is that men AND women have emotions. We have different ways of interpreting our emotions, and we may even express our emotions differently, but the need to openly express our feelings in a way that is free of judgment or ridicule is the same. All of us – men and women, but especially men – can be tough and kind, strong and nurturing, forceful and compassionate. Let all of us have the courage to express our emotions as we feel the need.
Flowing emotions are critical to our health. In my Living a Happy, Passionate Life class, I talk about the importance of flowing emotions in some detail. I compare bottled-up emotions to a dam. In the physical world, engineers focus a great deal of attention on a dam’s foundations, because when the natural flow of a river is stopped, it will still try to find a way around the barrier. Pressure builds up over time, with the greatest pressure being at the base of the dam. The water can start to seep into tiny cracks in the bedrock of the earth, and if the foundations of the dam aren’t deep enough or solid enough, the water will eventually make its way under the dam and weaken the foundation, leading to a catastrophic collapse.
Our emotions are just like a river. At times they flow so quickly they scare us, whereas other times our emotions meander at an easy pace. Regardless of how they may be flowing, when we erect a barrier and prevent ourselves from feeling what we want to feel (or need to feel), we immediately start to notice the emotional pressure build. Unlike a dam in the physical world however, no amount of engineering or willpower will keep our emotions from undercutting the foundations of our barriers, and over time they WILL collapse. The list of damaging effects that result from bottling up our emotions can seem endless, but some examples include substance abuse, physical abuse, or – in the most catastrophic “fails” – suicide.
That’s where a good, cleansing release of tears comes into play. Without exception, every emotional release is accompanied by tears. Tears are the physical expression of the emotional cleansing taking place inside. Tears are the body’s “rain” that purge, wash, and restore the natural sense of joy we feel when our emotions flow. Tears are not only healthy, but necessary in order for us to maintain our sense of balance and happiness.
When I work with clients on their emotional emancipation, I open myself up and allow them to release their feelings through me. In most cases I release their emotions (and mine) in real time, but sometimes I’ll continue to feel the residue of those sessions for several days. When that happens I find myself having spontaneous crying outbursts (usually when I’m alone). I don’t suppress the sudden rush of emotion, however. I allow the tears and the feelings to flow and within a few minutes I’m back to normal and I’m able to continue with whatever it was I was doing.
I have to say that I’m excited to see what’s going on in our world. I’m happily maintaining the vision and intention of witnessing societies around the world embrace the open, honest, and free expression of emotion AND tears from everyone – especially men. Until then, I will join my passion and work with the work of others, knowing that ever-flowing happiness will be achieved one person at at time.
Give yourself permission to cry, and let your tears be your release and your cleanse. When you do, you will love you, and the world will too.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.