The Importance of Laughter and Tears
Ron grew up in a household where laughter and tears were never expressed. Anger was the main feeling expressed by his mother, while his father was mostly withdrawn. By the time Ron was eight years old, he had managed to shut off both his laughter and his tears to avoid feeling rejected by his parents and controlled by his mother. Shutting down was his way of protecting against being invaded by his very controlling mother. He became a serious child – a controlled and controlling child.
Ron grew up, went to college, became a successful lawyer, married and had three children. Yet nothing, not even his deep love for his children, managed to break through his rigid, controlling way of being.
Ron reached out for my help because he was not only very unhappy, but was often in physical pain. All he could say about the physical pain was that he hurt. “My body hurts. My chest hurt, my stomach hurts, and my back hurts.” He had been thoroughly checked out by a physician and learned that nothing was physically wrong. The doctor told him it was stress.
Ron told me that he spent much of his non-working time daydreaming because when he was present with himself in the moment, all he felt was pain. He had learned to daydream to avoid the pain.
However, Ron was now 48 years old, and the daydreaming was no longer working well. The pain was breaking through, especially in the form of debilitating back pain, so Ron decided he needed some help.
The issue behind Ron’s pain was that his primary intention in his life was to control. He wanted to control how others felt about him. He wanted to control how well his employees worked. He wanted to control how his wife treated him, as well as how well his children did in school. He particularly wanted to have control over not feeling the pain of rejection and the fear of engulfnment that he had felt so much in his family.
Ron’s control had worked for him to a certain extent. He was financially successful. He had all the material things a person could want – a beautiful home, a vacation home, a boat, and all the electronics a person could ever use. He had a wonderful family, and he had good health, other than his pain. Yet he was often miserable.
The problem Ron was facing was that having control was far more important to him than being a loving person with himself and with others. As a result, Ron felt empty inside and was constantly looking to others to fill him up. He had no interest in taking responsibility for his own feelings – his own pain and joy. He wanted others or things to make him happy.
Imagine how a child would feel if you put him into a box and told him he could never laugh or cry. This is what was happening with Ron. His Inner Child – his feeling self – was in a box, not allowed to laugh or cry. Laughter and tears are our natural ways of releasing feelings. Without the God-given gifts of laughter and tears, our feelings get blocked up inside, eventually causing our muscles to go into painful spasms. This is what was causing Ron’s pain. He could no longer put a lid on his feelings without feeling physical pain.
It was a tough battle for Ron. At those moments when he let go of control and opened his heart to love, the pain went away. But his terror of being rejected or controlled was generally more powerful than his desire to be loving with himself and others, and he would close up in the face of his fears. He feared that if he opened to his feelings, he would be weak and would be seen as weak, which he feared would lead to both rejection and engulfment.
Ron wanted something he could not have – the illusion of safety that being so controlling gave to him, while not suffering from the physical pain of being so controlling.
After much hard work, Ron finally saw that being loving to himself by letting himself experience his laughter and tears did not cause weakness, nor the rejection and engulfment he feared. In fact, by being more aware of his feelings and allowing himself to express them, Ron learned that he actually felt safer and more powerful than when trying to control everything.
Laughter and tears are great gifts that allow us to release our feelings in healthy ways.