Do you dread crying or do you find it comforting? The answer reveals your parents’ parenting style.

Posted on February 9, 2009

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Mind – Crying as Catharsis Isn’t Always the Case – NYTimes.com

In her book “Seeing Through Tears: Crying and Attachment,” Judith Kay Nelson, a therapist and teacher living in Berkeley, Calif., argues that the experience of crying is rooted in early childhood and people’s relationship with their primary caregiver, usually a parent. Those whose parents were attentive, soothing their cries when needed, tend to find that crying also provides them solace as adults. Those whose parents held back, or became irritated or overly upset by the child’s crying, often have more difficulty soothing themselves as adults.

“Crying, for a child, is a way to beckon the caregiver, to maintain proximity and use the caregiver to regulate mood or negative arousal,” Dr. Nelson said in a phone interview. Those who grow up unsure of when or whether that soothing is available can, as adults, get stuck in what she calls protest crying — the child’s helpless squall for someone to fix the problem, undo the loss.

“You can’t work through grief if you’re stuck in protest crying, which is all about fixing it, fixing the loss,” Dr. Nelson said. “And in therapy — as in close relationships — protest crying is very hard to soothe, because you can’t do anything right, you can’t undo the loss. On the other hand, sad crying that is an appeal for comfort from a loved one is a path to closeness and healing.”

I’ve been meaning to post this since Tuesday and only got around to it today.

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