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I woke up today thinking I hadn’t had a good cry in a while. There was an Everybody Loves Raymond episode where we learned that Ray’s wife, Debra, sets aside time on a regular basis just to let herself cry – on purpose.

Now I did cry the other day when I watched the last half of the last episode of Sex and the City. I know it well, but it never fails to elicit tears from me. Still I’m not sure those are the type of tears I’m talking about. Although it did feel great. In fact, a friend of mine called me and we sobbed together. That was nice.

And then there’s the spontaneous cry like when something reminds me of my mother or Harry (my cat) or my good friend Julia who all died within the last 14 months. I know those are good cries and honor those moments for the love they represent.

But we all grapple with lots of tough things on a daily basis. And our friends do too. And sometimes it all feels overwhelming – and we can’t always let ourselves cry in the moment. Like at work. Or around our family, like Debra. And then of course, there are all the horrible things going on in the world that we see and hear about every day. People right now are dying for the want of clean water, food, or basic medical care. And they are dying from war. If we were fully in touch with our feelings, wouldn’t we be crying every day – every moment?

But of course, that’s no way to live. So we have to be able to distance ourselves. It’s how humans survive. But how much distance? Don’t all the sad things we hear about and encounter build up somewhere inside us? Don’t we need to let some of this out somehow? Taking action where possible and giving to charities that help directly is a good way to deal with the horrible things we see. At least we are doing something. But what about our own emotional needs? Are we ignoring something deep and primal by being so “adult”?

I was raised not to wallow in sadness – to just get on with things. There have always been a lot of bad things in the world and there will always be. Get over it. Or at least that was the message. But what do we do with all these feelings? Is it really good to teach ourselves to store these feelings away somewhere or learn not even to take them in at all since they can be so overwhelming? Maybe that’s what growing up is. And maybe it isn’t. I’m not sure.

I know people who never seem to let themselves think much about such things and they definitely don’t allow themselves to be stopped. They just move ahead, pushing through the tough stuff. And things seem to work out for them using that method. But are they denying themselves some much needed contact with their own emotions? Will this rise up one day in some big oozing boil or is this actually the healthiest way to live?

And then there are others who wallow in their tears and self pity and anger day in and day out – and can’t see beyond the feelings that hold them hostage. And they are not happy. They bathe themselves in tears and the tears don’t cleanse at all.

But those are extremes. What about the rest of us? Is Debra right? Do we sometimes have to make time to let ourselves think about all the really sad things and just cry and cry for a while as a release? Or does that simply reinforce the negative imagery and keep us from moving on?

So…does a regular cry help? Is any cry good enough – like crying at a film or TV show or book – or do we need to make special time to cry for our own hurts too? Or for how lost or lonely or scared we feel at times despite the loved ones still in our lives? Or for the pains and challenges many of us have to face on a daily basis.

What do you think? Was Debra right? Is it a good thing to set aside some regular time to just cry for everything we are holding inside? Or is that a bottomless pit of sadness best left alone except when triggered by the moment?

Your thoughts?