Why Can’t I Cry Anymore? And How To Get The Tears To Come

Do you have difficulty crying when you’re sad?

If you do, you’re not alone.

A quick web search will bring up countless posts from people who just aren’t able to cry, even when in the throes of deep sadness.

This is incredibly unfortunate, as weeping is one of the most healthy and cathartic ways to release emotional build-up, from anger and frustration to utter despair.

Yet so many people feel that they just can’t cry.

Why does this happen?

And how can one get past the blocks to allow tears to flow again?

Learned Repression

If you find it difficult to cry, even though you want to, there’s a possibility that at some point in your past, you learned not to.

This obviously isn’t an innate trait, as every baby on earth knows how to cry.

They weep at the slightest provocation, and although that trait seems to fade a bit as they get older, young children will still cry at the drop of a hat.

When they’re sad.

Or disappointed.

Or if they fall and hurt themselves.

Or just because they’re overwhelmed with joy and can’t contain the power of their emotions.

At some point, parents – and teachers, and society as a whole – teaches them that crying is inappropriate.

Unacceptable, even.

Instead of being seen as a pressure release valve, it’s considered a sign of weakness, to be repressed at all times.

Haven’t you noticed that the only time western society deems it acceptable for people to cry is at funerals, and even then, only a tear or two seems okay?

Stoicism is admired and lauded. Bawling your face off because you’re gutted is looked down upon.

As a result, people everywhere have an incredibly difficult time allowing themselves to cry.

If you’re one of them, it could be due to a number of different factors.

Your repression might have been a self-governed trait, where you spent so much time willing yourself not to cry that you shut down your internal weeping mechanisms.

Alternatively, you might have been shamed, belittled, or even beaten if you wept.

If a young person learns early on that crying will result in pain and punishment, they’ll usually do whatever’s necessary to avoid it, right?

Over time, they’ll develop an instant response to emotional stimuli where their internal switch will flick “off” whenever emotions run too high.

So how can one get past that and learn how to cry again?

Embrace Vulnerability

A lot of people who’ve learned to repress their tears grew up in very difficult environments.

Some may have suffered abuse in childhood, or experienced situations that made them feel powerless.

Many of them have likely experienced betrayal, and had to deal with the fallout that ensued.

When a person has felt powerless and betrayed – especially if it happened over and over again – they often shut themselves down emotionally as a self-defense mechanism.

Basically, they make themselves invulnerable so they never have to feel so horrible again.

The problem with putting up walls around one’s heart is that it doesn’t just render the heart invulnerable: it traps it.

Those walls may seem impenetrable from the outside, seemingly keeping the person “safe” from unwanted emotions, but the heart is also unable to express emotions that it wants to let out.

Basically, those walls have become a cage.

One that can be incredibly difficult to break free from.

You may also like (article continues below):

Open Up Pandora’s Box

There’s an exercise some people use to prevent emotions from affecting them, and that’s the “put things in a box” technique.

Every time an emotion they don’t want to feel wells up inside them, they imagine that feeling (or thought) being placed in a big, strong box with a heavy lid, never to escape unless they choose to take it out again.

Most choose not to do so, and those emotional boxes end up sealed for a lot longer than they should be.

It can be helpful to set certain emotions aside in order to get through a difficult situation, but packing them into boxes and putting them in the closet forever won’t do you any good.

If you feel that you want to access those emotions, and learn how to cry again, then a good way to start the process is to open that box back up again.

Pick a day when you feel quite emotionally steady, and able to process potentially difficult emotions.

Then, choose a place where you feel absolutely safe and secure. Make yourself comfortable, with whatever creature comforts you may need.

This could be a relaxing bedroom where you’ve lit some scented candles and have healing crystals around you, or it could be a locked bathroom you’ve stocked with Gatorade and the stuffed sock monkey you’ve loved since you were three.

No judgement. Just unconditional self-love and acceptance.

Take a few deep, grounding breaths.

Then, imagine opening up the closet you’ve created inside yourself, reach inside, and remove a box.

Sit with it for a few moments, imagining that it’s in your hands.

You’re not powerless: you have full control over your circumstances, and no one is going to shame you, or judge you, or hurt you for feeling what you feel.

When you feel ready to do so, open the box, and pull out a memory.

You get to choose which difficult memory you’d like to face, but you might want to start with one that’s not too potent or painful.

Be Gentle With Yourself

Reactions to facing these memories will be different for everyone.

Some people might have put up such strong walls that they barely feel a blip when they pull these experiences out of storage.

In those instances, a stronger, more difficult memory might help them break through their walls.

Others might feel an immediate emotional surge, which may in turn provoke the knee-jerk response to repress and ignore, because that hurts so much less than facing the pain.

If this is the situation, try to accept it instead of running away from it.

Sit with the memory, and allow the emotion to run through you.

This will be difficult, but the goal is to be able to work through these emotions to learn how to cry about them, and thus release them, right?

This isn’t something that needs to be sorted out all at once.

In fact, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to tackle years of emotional repression in a single session.

If the first attempt is too much for you, then stop it whenever you need to.

YOU’RE the one in control here, so you get to decide how much you want to feel, and when.

Just try again when you feel you’re able to do so, and continue the process until you feel the dam crack enough for the tears to be able to flow.

When they do (and they undoubtedly will), try to avoid your normal response to stop them.

There is no shame here. No weakness.

No one is judging you poorly, or thinking anything negative about you at all.

You’re surrounded by unconditional love, and acceptance, and light.

Whether you only manage a tiny sniffle, a single tear, or a huge bawling session, please congratulate yourself on having the strength to push through your own fears about being vulnerable.

It may take a long time before you’re able to fully let loose to cry your heart out, and even longer than that to be able to show emotional vulnerability in front of someone else.

And that’s absolutely okay.

Take as much time as you need, even if it takes the next 50 or 60 years to get through.

Boosting The Signal

If you feel that you need something extra to help boost these emotional responses, try re-watching films from your childhood that you know you used to cry over.

Recreating those childhood experiences can trigger a lot of emotion, and some people might feel a bit silly watching the Lion King or other PG movies as adults.

Again, no judgements.

Hell, I re-read Bridge to Terabithia a few years ago and ended up sobbing for a good hour.

When it comes to bashing down those walls and learning how to cry again, the mantra to remember here is “whatever works.”

If you’ve been repressing your emotions for several decades, you might need a stronger jolt to crack those walls open.

Just be prepared that a sudden wave of powerful emotion might be quite overwhelming.

Having a person to turn to if you find yourself having a panic attack or emotional crisis is a good idea.

If there’s someone you trust implicitly, open up to them about what it is you’re trying to work through, and set up a system where they’ll know to step in if you need help.

Even just choosing an emoticon to text them so they can come over with ice cream and tissues is a good idea.

This buddy system might never be needed, but it’s better to establish it and not need it, than need it and not have it available to you.

Note: Many Medications Can Numb Emotions

Keep in mind that many antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications (such as benzodiazepines) can numb or blunt emotions significantly.

It doesn’t happen to everyone who takes them, but is one of the potential side effects.

That’s kind of what they’re meant to do, but it can be disconcerting when you want to cry, but can’t.

If you’re on these kinds of medications and feel that they’re hampering your ability to release emotion through crying, talk to your doctor/therapist.

They might be able to either adjust your dosage to alleviate the numbing effect, or offer therapy options to help you break through those barriers.

Blessings to you.

About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.