I've always thought that expressing deep emotion through crying is a valuable cathartic response to emotional and physical pain. Although it is difficult sometimes to sit with somebody processing deep painful emotion, as a therapist I actively encourage expression of tears as a strength rather than a weakness as it's perceived by some.
I do think that stored pain can build up and present itself in other ways unless it is released. Clients I've worked with know that by crying they express and release emotions that sometimes take them by surprise. I was really pleased to come across some neurobiological research to back up this theory !
Here is the gist of the article from The power of positivity.
"According to neuroscientist and tear researcher Dr. William H. Frey II, PhD, “crying is not only a human response to sorrow and frustration, it’s a healthy one.Crying is a natural way to reduce emotional stress that, left unchecked, has negative physical affects on the body, including increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and other stress-related disorders.”
Research shows that 85 percent of women and 73 percent of men feel less angry and sad after crying than they did before. Many people feel that crying makes them weak and unable to cope with their lives and emotions, when in reality, crying represents the exact opposite"
Really interesting stuff. The article does on to explain those able to express emotion are mentally tougher, as they are able to accept their emotions and go with them. I'm not sure everyone I work with feels that way at the time but it is an interesting thought.
Being able to sit with a clients' intense emotions whilst bracketing off your own emotional response is a sometimes difficult but important part of a therapists' job. It's also a privilege to walk with others on their deeply personal journey while they learn to process their pain and hoping they feel therapy provides them a safe place to do so.