Hell Sobbing. It comes from the core of hell and knocks you flat, shooting through your whole body like a current, electrocuting you with pain from heel to forehead. Every muscle turns against you, wringing you out like a soiled dish rag. The tormented choirs of the damned possess your body trying to grieve the entire pain of human existence at once through you alone. You bury your face in the pillows so the neighbors don’t call the cops. It only ends when you are too exhausted to move. The Hell Sobbing grabs your collar, sticks it’s nose in your face with a snarl and promises to come back, then tosses your lifeless body aside as it sidles away to find a new victim.
These are not healing tears. These are tears of internal destruction. That threat is not idle. The attack will come again, like a seizure. And you think to yourself, I just can not do this anymore. Because this has been happening for years. Maybe your whole life.
I used to view these episodes like an emotional migraine. Something to survive. Something to dread. An avalanche that might bury me at any time.
Eventually I noticed that there were messages in the sobbing. I might feel a particularly sharp pain in my chest (I had all the tests, my heart was fine) or recall a vivid and painful memory from childhood. I had thought these were just ways of kicking me while down. But when I turned towards them, I realized that they were in the eye of the storm and they were the whole point. Parts of my self were screaming for my attention: “Hey! Look at your heart! You are refusing to acknowledge that you have feelings that are hurting!” “Hey! Remember this traumatic event from your childhood? You realize you are still carrying this around with you and it’s dictating your reactions 40 years later!?”
One by one, I started addressing the messages in the sobbing.
I got a list of feelings and started going through them to explore which ones I was experiencing. Let me tell you, there was a lot of sobbing during that exercise. But it was a completely different kind of tears. A very real, very relevant aspect of my being was crying in gratitude to finally be acknowledged. As I allowed her to tell me what was really going on for her, she was able to stop beating at the walls of my psyche for attention. This crying was healing. It was an experience of integrating an aspect of myself that I’d long rejected (my Fi, introverted feeling).
I turned inwards towards the aspect of myself that harbors the memories of a small, frightened little girl. I relived the events with her, acknowledging with her the legitimacy of what she had experienced. Only then could I explain to her that I was an adult now, with resources and options. I could comfort her by letting her know that she no longer needed to find ways, with her limited understanding and influence, to cope. Now I could prove to her that I would use my adult capacities to keep us safe and provide for our needs, by showing her concrete evidence in the new ways I chose to live life. Oh yes, there are many, many tears when I sit with my Si (introverted sensing) in this way. But now that she has my attention and can speak to me freely, she no longer needs to cower and hide in fear, dragging me with her.
As I have used my understanding of human cognitive capacities to address aspects of myself that I’ve long neglected, the Hell Sobbing as decreased in frequency and duration. I rarely experience it at all anymore. Now when I cry, it’s over a very targeted message that a piece of me has brought to my attention — I listen better now, so the various members of Function Family don’t have to scream so loudly to be seen and heard. We have a short healing cry, we hug it out, then I move on.
Contact me if you would like to work on the transition from hell sobbing to constructive crying.