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  • Writer's pictureDr. C

To cry or not to cry, is that a question?

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

There’s a lot of debate about crying. The internet is full of articles about the benefits of crying. These include stress relief, catharsis (emotional release), and activating our relaxation center (the PNS, or peripheral nervous system).

Crying is said to be important, especially for trauma survivors. In Pete Walker’s book, Complex PTSD, From Surviving to Thriving, he talks about Crying as one of the 4 important steps in the healing process along with Angering, Verbally Ventilating and Feeling. And certainly when people do cry, especially after a particularly traumatic event, they feel emotional relief.

Imagine crying as similar to pulling a thorn out of our skin. Having a painful life experience can be thought of like an emotional thorn in our heart. As we walk through life the thorn elicits pain. Crying is like removing the thorn. There’s still a wound there and it bleeds a little when the thorn comes out, but removing it allows the healing to begin. Depending on the size of the thorn it may take a long or short time to heal, and it may take a doctor or a surgeon, but at least the healing has begun. (And in the case of an emotional thorn it may take a friend, a self-help book, therapist, life coach, or other health professional to remove it and heal it.)

On the flip side, not crying is like leaving the thorn in place. If not attended to it will not only keep hurting but may get infected and cause sepsis. So it’s important to get the thorn out. It’s important to cry.

But what if you can’t or don’t want to cry? What if you can’t seem to get the thorn out? Are there other ways to remove it besides crying? There are both psychological and medical reasons that people are unable to cry. For instance, if a child has been abused or threatened for crying he or she may not be able to cry. And certain medical conditions or medications can result in the inability to cry.

If crying is a tool to help release emotional stress then it seems logical that using other tools to relieve the stress can also help heal emotional wounds. Working with a therapist or trauma coach is a great way to heal. Art, movement, talking with a friend, volunteering, and self-care are important ways to heal painful life experiences. I’ll go into more detail about these in another blog.

In summary, crying is an important and valuable tool, but if you are unable to cry there are other ways to work through your stress and trauma.

If you are a survivor of childhood trauma I recommend Pete Walker’s book, Complex PTSD: from Surviving to Thriving, as well as The Complex PTSD Workbook by Arielle Schwartz, PhD. (I have affiliate links to these books and hope you consider purchasing through my links so I can continue to share valuable content and still pay my bills. 😊)

If you’d like to work with me as your coach please contact me at

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