I was on a word game forum the other day. Someone had started a game where you complete a sentence and then leave a new fragment for the next person to finish. The prompt given was “I’ll give you something…”. The only thing that I could think of to finish it was “…to cry about!”. Needless to say, I didn’t participate in that game that day.



I don’t know how many times I heard that phrase. I would cry because I was scared of my mother. She would get so angry when she drank. I cried after dinner because it was time for my shower and I was afraid of what my father would do. I cried at night because it was time for bed and I was afraid of what was going to happen.

By the time I was 7 or so, I learned that crying would only earn me a punishment. Of course by the time I figured it out, the punishments had gotten pretty bad. As I got older, the punishments got worse. They went from being sent to my room without dinner to being hit with a hand to being hit with a wooden spoon to being hit with a belt. Crying wasn’t the only thing that earned me punishments and the belt got worse and worse.

I learned not to cry. I stuffed everything I was feeling. I turned to other ways of dealing with the feelings. It was about then I started hurting myself in various ways.

I was taught that big girls didn’t cry. And I was a big girl at age five because I had a baby brother. I had to act like a big girl. And big girls don’t cry.


To this day, I have a hard time crying. If I do, I’m really hurting. I’d much rather hurt myself than cry. There are times when I wish I could sit down and bawl my eyes out. But I can’t. I’m afraid to do that.

For me, it’s too much like letting my guard down. The few times I’ve cried in my therapist’s office, I was getting so overwhelmed I couldn’t control my emotions anymore. And I was having a hard time saying “I can’t do this”. But the tears didn’t last long. Only a minute or less. And then I went back to stuffing everything. Right now, it’s the only way I know to cope without hurting myself.

20 thoughts on “Crying

  1. nadcesca says:

    I have trouble dealing with emotion also. But when I read your posts, my eyes just fill with tears. I can’t imagine what it was growing up with so much pain and fear. I wish I was near you so I could give you a real HUG and give you all my support. For now I can only give you virtual (((HUGS))). Adults that abuse kids shouldn’t have kids. My heart is with you. xx

  2. Sigh. I was planning on writing a blog post in response to this, but I haven’t managed it yet. I also got “I’ll give you something to cry about” (as though I didn’t already *have* something to cry about?!).

    In some ways, though, “that didn’t hurt you!” was far worse for my ability to cope with adult life. Maybe because I learned pretty young to keep from crying, or at least to do so silently and in private. But if something happened–someone hit me, or I got burned while cooking, or something like that, their first response was almost always, “That didn’t hurt. Stop making a fuss.” Might explain why I have such a hard time being sure whether or not I’m in pain, now. I learned to just behave as though pain were immaterial; only to try to see a doctor if I could discern that there was actually something not functioning properly (ie, when a joint wouldn’t bend, or when there were white spots on my throat). My mother is also pretty much oblivious to physical pain, and she’s very disparaging of people who “make a big deal” of anything wrong with them.

    I think a lot of it is the notion that it would make us stronger, more able to cope with the world, if we weren’t allowed to be weak and fragile. I remember my stepfather getting upset that we “coddled” my youngest brother (who had a serious heart defect and had open heart surgery at 6 months, back when that was really rare). Because he would be “weak” and “spoiled” if he weren’t expected to behave just like the other kids, and if he didn’t get spanked (beaten) to make him “behave” and “stop whining.” Um, this is when the kid was less than two years old!!

    Good grief, I wish that extensive therapy were required before people were allowed to parent. If my mother had understood why her experience with her parents made her feel so bad about herself, maybe she wouldn’t have passed on so much of her garbage to us. And maybe she would have gotten out of the relationship with my stepfather far sooner…. **Sigh**

  3. “This hurts me more than it hurts you….”

    Well, my mother always said that was a stupid thing to say, because if it hurt her more, then she wasn’t doing it right.

    That said, I can kind of see where it comes from; I do think that some parents believe that beating their children is going to help them in the world–help them to be safe, help them to be societally accepted, help them to be responsible/honest/reliable/whatever. So they say that, thinking they are doing it for the child’s “own good.” They beat their children trying to keep them out of hell, or jail, or the hospital. They beat their children because this is what they experienced, and they love their parents, and believe their parents loved them, and think this is how love is shown. They can’t accept that their parents were abusive, so they do what their parents did, because it’s not abusive.

    I don’t agree with the logic, but I can see the thought process.

    Of course, there’s also the beatings that come simply because the parent is frustrated or overwhelmed or angry or drunk; but in our house, the adults rarely claimed those had anything to do with helping us to be good, simply they had to do with us having made them angry, or whatever.

    I sometimes worry about my ability to understand people who are being abusive–worry that it means I will also be abusive; on the other hand, maybe by understanding it, I can prevent myself from following that road, and understand how to prevent it. I can hope, anyways. I know I’m not mean or violent, but I also know that I am capable of being angry, overwhelmed, or frustrated. And if I recognize the signs, hopefully when I have children, I’ll be able to get help before I become abusive.

  4. I always hated that phrase. It doesn’t even make sense — if you want someone to stop crying, why would you threaten to make them cry more?

    I hope you will find more and more space in which you can cry and feel other feelings safely.

  5. The entire phrase usually went something like “You want to cry? I’ll give you something to cry about!”

    But no. It doesn’t make any sense.

    It tended to come out of my mother’s mouth much more than my father’s. I think a lot of it had to do with her complete inability to deal with her own emotions. It’s distressing to watch a child cry. I remember feeling helpless while babysitting or when one of my students would cry (so much pressure on Korean kids to perform academically). But I’d never threaten any of those kids with physical violence for expressing their emotions.

  6. Boy do I know that phrase as well as “Who do you think you are?” and “Who told you to think?” One of my alters goes by the name No One because that is the “right” and safe answer to the question “Who do you think you are?”
    Sheshh…we even have a hard time with the phrase, “Lets play a game.”


  7. It took a lot for me to cry back then. I cried on command because that was what was safest for me. I learned that if while being hit I didn’t do a bit of crying and squirming that she’d just keeping hitting. so i squirmed, did a bit of screaming, she was satisfied and then done. These days, it seems crying comes easier. I even joke about it sometimes saying, I about broke into tears or I about fell on the floor and cried. I even do the silly hunched over, face messed up, rubbing my eyes kinda thing. It’s a true reflection of how I view tears. I know on an intellectual level that they are healing but on an emotional level I know them as a command response.

  8. Oh boy… that triggered a bunch of memories. “Who do you think you are?” My answer then, and now, “I don’t know.”

  9. thememoryartist says:

    You know what makes “I’ll give you something to cry about!” even more ridiculous? When it is prefaced with, “Get over here right now!”

    “Get over here right now! I’ll give you something to cry about!”
    Yeah, I heard that everyday. I even remember how crazy that sounded to me when I was only five. So, I always tried to run, and that just made it worse.

    I think that type of response toward a crying child does have a lot to do with one’s inability to deal with one’s own emotions.It is especially distressing for parents who can’t deal with their own emotions to try to be emotionally available for their kids.I think it also has to do with feeling shame and guilt – as if the crying is an accusation that one is a bad person or a complete failure as a parent.

    The whole “I’ll give you something to cry about” is an invalidation of the child’s feelings and the hurt that is expressed by the crying. The abusive parent needs to deny the wrongdoing as having been hurtful to the child.It’s just one of the many things abusive people say as a way to turn blame back on their victims. that’s the only way I can make sense out of that saying, and to a child- it’s impossible to understand what those words really mean.

  10. It sounds so crazy to me as an adult. All I remember as a child was the terror. Because I knew I was going to get it.

    You’re so right. The entire screwed up thing invalidates how a child feels and the reasons he/she is crying.


    It hurts right now…

  11. I don’t know how they could think it hurt them more than it hurt us. A leather belt ripping into my skin versus her lifting her arm to swing the belt.


    It’s a good thing I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow.

  12. thememoryartist says:

    As for how they think it hurts them more than it hurts us- I think it’s a messed up kind of kind of boundary thing. We were just extensions of their own selves and subject to their own self-hatred.

    I got that one too. “This hurts me more than it hurts you!”, my mother would say while she was siting on top of me beating on me. It’s ironic, that this one came up too, because I just made a reference to it in my last blog post.

    I think that was her way of trying to convince me that I was causing her pain by “forcing” her to have to punish me so severely- as if it was something she was doing for my own good to help me even though she didn’t really want to do it.
    Oh, the sacrifices she has made trying to save my wayward little soul…

    but anyway that’s my take on what that means from my experience.

  13. bluepeony says:

    Reading these comments made my shoulders tense up so tight. I can’t even express it.

    In regards to your post, I can relate to not being allowed to express feelings. Then you get all grown up and don’t know what to do with them. It sucks.

  14. I think it’s not a totally irrational fear, and it’s paying attention to your behavior that will prevent it. If you didn’t have the fear, at some level, I think you’d be more likely to repeat the behaviors (or come up with some new ones on your own).

    But I think people who take the time to pay attention to why they behave the way they do, and who realize that what happened to them was not ok, are less likely to be abusive.

    It’s the people who either think their parents were abusive because they were bad, and think that because they are not bad they are not abusive, or who think their parents were perfect, and that anything they did was all right… those are the people who continue the cycle. At least by my observation.

    That said, since I can recognize that it’s more likely for a parent to be abusive when they are overwhelmed and frustrated, my partner and I are waiting on having children until we’re more confident 1, that we will be feeling less overwhelmed, and 2, that we will have good strategies for dealing with frustration.

    But I also think people should only go into parenting if it’s something they deeply want to do, and I think there’s nothing wrong with people not wanting to have kids.

  15. I worry too about becoming abusive. I think that’s one of the reasons (albeit a minor one) that I never want to have kids. I don’t want to be a parent like my mother was. The thought of hurting an innocent child scares me more than anything.

  16. kprsjohn says:

    not wanting to be a parent like yours were is a valid point but somehow we feel you would not be. you seem caring and sensitive, probably as a result of what your survived.

    peace and blessings to you


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