From the day I was born way into my 30s, one of the most annoying things about myself, I felt, was starting to cry when I was angry. And if it got really bad, no words would come out either. Precisely in that moment usually where I didn’t want to be looked at as weak, or worse, “emotional.” Honestly, in any job I have ever had, including that of NL, emotional intelligence and positive psychology trainer, this crying thing was a huge problem, especially when one of my students would cross a boundary or violate one of my values. Those moments whereas a leader, I need to be in my power.
I fixed the problem in my professional life using NLP and psychology. In my personal life, I have gotten much better. It depends on the situation. Sometimes in very hurtful contexts, after a bad night of sleep, my buttons can be pushed enough that I start crying. I need my sleep! We all do; scientific research has shown that sleep deprivation can decrease our ability to regulate emotions by about 40%.
Why Do We Cry When We Are Angry?
Anger often is a byproduct of hurt and sadness. And when we get hurt or feel sad, when we experience pain, we cry. The expression of this through crying is in many ways beneficial scientists discovered. When you express anger, you immediately connect into your raw pain, and other deep emotions. This is why you cry. You cry because it is almost as if it is an expression of your deepest self; it comes from the soul.
Crying is a release, and in many ways, this protects us. Because other options for anger can be aggression, depression, and anxiety, it relates to reflexes of fight, flight, and freeze. The emotional part of the brain tries to regulate itself, one way or the other. We express it. And one way is through crying. And in these heightened emotions, we don’t always have full access to the thinking or logical part of the brain.
Crying allows us to self-soothe. And the physiological response to this is a regulation of the breath and decreases our heart rate. This allows us to calm ourselves.
Self-Judgement & Self-Compassion
We judge ourselves for being vulnerable, and Dr. Brene Brown, who most of us know and love, has something to say about that. All that our crying truthfully lets us know that this is a topic that is important to us. And in that importance lies a massive piece of personal development, to stop being so hard on yourself. And start finding ways to exercise self-compassion.
It is interesting that when we see others cry, we can show compassion. But when we cry, we see ourselves as weak. If you can cultivate compassion for others, you can develop them for yourself too.
We don’t want to wear our heart on our sleeve for the sake of learning self-compassion, self-soothing, and release, though. And yes, I did discover some hacks.
Hack 1: Deep Breaths
The simplest way is to take deep breaths. This reduces the distress signals in our body.
Hack 2: Regulate Inhale versus Exhale
I take deep breath, and when I feel the end of my inhale, I try get in a little extra air, almost like an additional breath at the end of my exhale. Then I aim to make my exhale longer. Both regulate the brain even further than the first hack and slow the heart rate.
Hack 3: Anxiety Relief
I force myself out of my head by finding three things I see in the room, two things I hear, one thing I smell. This reduces anxiety mainly, which is often precisely what I need. This is frequently taught inside cognitive behavioral therapy.
Hack 4: NLP Dissociation
This is an NLP technique. I float my mind out of my body in my mind’s eye, and iI imagine seeing myself. The emotions are inside the person I see.
Hack 5: NLP Audio Scramble
What helps me is to interrupt the pattern inside my brain by either:
Singing to myself inside my head.
Hearing happy, funny, or motivational music in my head.
Hack 6: Empathy
Float my awareness into the second perceptual position. Meaning I float myself into the shoes of the person I am angry with. In order for me to understand them better.
Hack 7: Switch Emotional States Using NLP
Without taking an NLP training, the simplest way to shift using NLP is by stepping into a context or memory inside your mind’s eye where you felt strong, confident, and on point.
Hack 8: Pattern Interrupt
A perhaps over-used tool used by motivational coach and NLP Practitioner Tony Robbins. To interrupt the flow of what is unfolding by doing something out of place or even outlandish. Remember you are not Tony; copying his statements directly may get you into trouble, especially if others perceive them as sexual or rude. You can do something else off-beat.
Hack 9: Communicate Your Feelings
Communicate Your Feelings, rather than holding them in—Express yourself in some other way than crying.
Hack 10: The More Permanent Solution
We start to cry because we haven’t communicated our feelings yet, or an emotion surprises us. A permanent solution is to begin consistently expressing and processing emotions be more open. Stop pushing stuff down, hold things in, and pretend it is not there. The best place to start is in safe places. If you start expressing and releasing your emotions in familiar and safe areas, they no longer have to process them in a moment of surprise when it is inconvenient to start crying when you are angry.