Our emotional and psychological identities develop throughout our lives. But at some point, they can become fixed and we lose the fluid adaptability that we have in our earlier years.
I don’t understand why I can’t cry. Even when my partner told me he was leaving I didn’t cry. I felt the sadness, I felt upset, I felt the lump at the back of my throat, but I couldn’t cry. And I could see that he found this very hard to understand and take in.
The truth was I think that we had both come to a place in our relationship with things just couldn’t continue and me not being able to cry with a symptom of that. I think I had turned into a person who just could not express or even engage with their own emotions.
I don’t know when things started to be like this but that’s how they ended up. My partner started to leave; he was taking the last of his things from our flat. I could see he looked at me as though I was some kind of hard unflinching emotionless person. I didn’t know what had happened to me really, but I knew I needed to find a way to change.anonymous client
Our Emotional Identities – why can’t I cry?
Our psychological identities develop throughout our lives. But at some point, they can become fixed and we lose the fluid adaptability that we have in our earlier years.
At this point, we become less able to express our feelings, to be spontaneous, to respond in a meaningful way that reflects how we are engaged with ourselves and with other people.
One way of thinking about this is that our personas instead of becoming flexible, have in fact become fixed on certain identity points.
Understanding Jung’s concept of the persona
Jung viewed the Persona as an element of the personality that arises in order to facilitate adaptation. we can think of it like an actor’s mask. We all might use different masks in different situations, the persona is like the public relations aspect of yourself. persona.
The problem occurs when we identify too strongly with our personas. This can limit our personal growth and we cannot develop properly.
When our persona becomes fixed
We all develop personas, masks if you like, that we use to present ourselves to other people and to the world. This is a natural and healthy part of our development. But, when these personas become fixed, then our capacity to create meaningful relationships with ourselves and other people becomes restricted.
When this happens, it is helpful to find a way to do improve the flexibility and to loosen the hold that the rigid persona places on us.
- Psychotherapy provides a confidential and contained framework in which to explore the way in which our persona may have become restricted. In psychotherapy, through the relationship we develop with our therapist, we may find a way to loosen the rigidity of the persona, and by doing this we allow a greater range of responses and emotions to inform and influence the way we live.
Why can’t I cry? Working in psychotherapy
In the case above, where somebody has lost the capacity to cry, we might speculate that this has happened through the development of such a rigid personality.
This is something that happens not because of a moral cause, but because of psychological experiences.
So if we grow up in an environment and family which is less interested in us being spontaneous, is less interested in us displaying a range of emotion from crying to anger to laughter, if we learn to follow these principles at an early age, then our emotional and psychological range starts to become limited.
A process is initiated which over time has a consequence of restricting us. One outcome of this is that we stop being able to cry.
Learning how to cry again
- It is possible to loosen the hold of this rigid identity so that, as in the case above, we engage with our emotions and communicate with other people in a way that does justice to the full expression of who we are.
- It takes a particular kind of work and patience. If you have lived with this kind of rigidity for many years then it might take some time to find a way of loosening that hold and becoming a more adaptable spontaneous person.
- This becomes an advantage in your personal relationships. It’s very difficult, for relationships to flourish if they have a restricted emotional and psychological bandwidth.
Why can’t I cry? Developing emotional relationships
Our partners are likely to want more from us, and if we don’t become able to express that, then it is likely to cause problems as in the case above.
Similarly, if we want to become parents of children that are not just intellectually developed, but children that are emotionally alive, healthy, and spontaneous, then we don’t want to present a restricted and rigid version of emotional expression to them.
We want to mirror our children’s emotional responses and encourage them more so that they get used to expressing their full emotional range. Children who grow up like this may be more able in later life to express appropriate emotions and so, as in the case above where the restricted emotional quality is part of the breakup, that situation may become avoidable.
In a sense, we can think of this work we do to loosen up the rigidity of our personas as a kind of return to ourselves. As a retracing of our steps until we make contact with the people we were when we were more able to express, engage with, and articulate true and spontaneous emotional responses to ourselves and to other people.
Psychotherapy and emotional development
In Jungian analytic psychotherapy, we work to find a route back to when we could be more spontaneous, flexible and adaptable. This might be understood as a return to a more spontaneous experience of ourselves. Psychotherapy is undertaken in order to help us find a healthy and natural point from which to start to move forward again.
Undertaking this kind of work may feel daunting, but it is through doing so that we find a way of reconnecting with the emotional wellsprings of ourselves. And it is from these areas of ourselves that both our laughter and our tears may start to flow again.
This is a healthy part of ourselves and our identity. Our personas become malleable, adaptable parts of us, and not parts of a framework that limits our meaningful engagement with ourselves and other people.
Talking confidentially in psychotherapy may be a route to understanding more about what limits you and why you can’t cry. It may make it easier to start to relate better to your partner and other people.
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