I cry a lot. Like, much more than I really should, seeing as I’m a fully-fledged adult.
I cry when I’m sad, as might be expected. I cry when I’m in pain, I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m overwhelmed, I cry when I get told off, I cry at films all the damn time…
…and, most annoying of all, I cry when I’m angry.
And the fact that I cry normally makes me even angrier, so I cry more.
When I was young, I always assumed that crying when I got mad was something that I’d be cured of as I got older.
I just thought I’d get my act together and stop being so sensitive; that as I grew up, I’d be able to get angry without getting teary.
But, in my mid-twenties, I’m going to have to accept that getting older isn’t going to solve the problem.
Does this sound familiar?
Not everyone experiences it, but if you always find yourself getting upset when you’re angry…
…welcome to the club.
I can’t promise you’ll ever be able to leave the club, but there are a few things you can do to help minimize the problem, and train yourself not to react with tears.
After all, in western society crying isn’t seen as a positive thing.
If it’s to do with a break-up or the death of a loved one, then that’s all well and good, as long as you don’t do too much of it, especially in public.
But in other cases – particularly professional situations – it’s perceived as a sign of emotional weakness.
A man crying is still, unfortunately, seen as taboo in our society. And if a woman cries in a professional situation, she risks being seen as ‘overly-emotional’ or weak.
Whilst we should be striving to change the way our society works so that men and women can both express their emotions without judgement, we also need to learn to operate within the existing frameworks.
Even in your personal life, crying is not always helpful, as it puts you on the back foot.
If you try to have a discussion with a friend about something hurtful they said to you, or raise an issue with your partner, and you immediately burst into tears, then you’re automatically handing your power over to them.
And it makes the whole thing seem like a massive deal.
What’s more, on the practical side of things, crying isn’t normally a helpful reaction to a difficult situation.
When you’re sobbing, it’s hard to string a sentence together or think straight, partly because you’re trying so hard not to cry.
Coming up with a solution to whatever the problem is becomes practically impossible.
If you’re in the middle of an argument or heated discussion, or want to clearly explain your point of view to someone, crying is nothing but a hindrance.
But why do we cry when we’re angry?
Let’s take a look at the reasons behind it to help you figure out why you react the way you do, and then look at a few tactics that can help you work on it.
The Reasons Why You Cry Angry Tears
Science can’t yet give us any definitive answers as to why certain people always cry when they’re angry, but there are some theories.
Crying is a reaction that we generally can’t help, which is known as a physiological reaction. Think of it like flushing or sweating.
Some research suggests that it’s a way that humans have developed to soothe ourselves in tough situations.
We cry when we’re sad because it’s an intense emotion. Anger and frustration are both similarly intense emotions, which can produce the same physiological reaction.
Even strong positive emotions like overwhelming happiness can produce tears, after all, so it’s not so odd that anger should provoke them.
Crying might be our way of releasing all the emotions we’re feeling that we don’t know how to express in any other way.
But some psychologists also think that we might cry when we’re angry because, underneath it all, we’re actually sad.
Often, we get angry because someone or something has hurt our feelings, or because we feel a situation is unfair.
We’re the only species that cries like we do, as far as we know, which is why there’s a theory that it’s an advanced way of communicating, signalling to other people that we’re in need of help and social support.
When words fail us, tears are a powerful message to the other person or people that we’re struggling with the situation.
You may also like (article continues below):
- Why Can’t I Cry Anymore? And How To Get The Tears To Come
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- 12 Reasons You’re Feeling So Emotional Lately (That You Shouldn’t Ignore)
- How To Control Your Emotions In Situations That Call For A Cool Head
6 Ways To Prevent Or Delay Angry Tears
So, whilst you shouldn’t always see crying when you’re angry as a bad thing, in certain situations we can all agree that it’s just not helpful.
Bear in mind that none of the following suggestions are magical solutions and they can’t guarantee that you won’t end up bursting into tears.
But with a little practice, you should soon find out which tactics are effective in stemming your sobs, at least until you can excuse yourself and find somewhere to cry in peace.
I know, I know, this one sounds fairly generic, and doesn’t sound like it’s going to have much of an effect.
But focusing on taking long, deep, controlled breaths is an effective way of keeping the tears at bay, as it distracts the brain.
True, it might not be all that practical in certain situations, especially if you don’t want the person or people you’re with to know that you’re on the verge of tears.
You should be able to get away with taking one deep breath, holding it briefly, and exhaling, imagining that you’re pushing the need to cry right out of your body.
That may help to relax your body, slow your heart (which is probably beating quite fast), and counter the other signals that are being sent by the brain.
This one is easier said than done and will take plenty of practice before it’s actually effective.
But, if you can crack it, it is a great way to prevent angry tears.
You need to mentally check out of the situation, turning your thoughts to something completely unrelated.
You might find it’s helpful to have one thought that you always turn to, like how happy you’ll be to see your kids, friends, partner, or dog at the end of the day.
If you can perfect this technique over time, you might be able to stop yourself crying angry tears forever.
And wouldn’t that be wonderful?
3. Look up and blink.
This might work for you when you find yourself welling up.
It will be quite obvious to others what you’re doing, but it can stop you from actually breaking down in tears.
It’s a good one to combine with the two tips above.
You can also blink to drain any tears that have welled up away. Again, it’s not subtle, but it should help avert tears spilling down your cheeks.
4. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
This one might sound a bit strange, but it’s surprisingly effective, and it’s less obvious than some of the other strategies we’ve mentioned.
Push your tongue up into the roof of your mouth when you feel tears coming on.
On top of that, you can try to relax your facial muscles in general, particularly the ones around your eyes and eyebrows, which tend to tense up when you’re sad or angry.
On the other hand, you might find that consciously increasing said tension can actually help stop you from crying.
This is all a matter of trial and error and figuring out what works best for you.
5. Take five minutes.
This may or may not be possible depending on the situation you’re in, but if you think you might start crying, the best course of action is often to leave the room for a little while.
Even if you’re leading a meeting, you can always suggest a 10-minute bathroom and tea break.
But try not to give in to the tears if you’re going to have to go back and face the situation. I don’t know about you, but you can tell I’ve been crying for a good half an hour after the fact.
Take a short walk, have a drink of water, and breathe. If there’s anyone around that you know could give you a boost, head their way.
Don’t dwell on the situation that’s angering and upsetting you, but turn your thoughts to something else.
Once you’re calm, see if you’re ready to face the music by thinking about whatever it is that’s got you feeling this way.
If you can focus on it without tears welling up, then you’re ready to go.
6. Look after yourself.
This isn’t a technique that will help you avoid crying in the moment, but it’s something to bear in mind.
Your propensity to cry might be down to other stresses in your life.
Make sure you’re sleeping well, eating well, drinking enough fluids, and squeezing in some exercise.
If you can manage this, you’ll be far less prone to letting situations anger you and experiencing those angry tears.