Lifestyle: Letting It All Out – Why Crying To Sad Media Can Be Therapeutic


Why are we so desperate to cry?

Before this article I hadn’t really thought about why I loved to curl up in front of a sad film with some ice cream and cry, it was just something I did every so often. Now, reflecting on it, I can see it’s actually quite strange. When I say I find it strange I really mean my boyfriend can’t understand why I do it. I had a conversation with him the other day that went something like this:

Me: “Do you ever have those times when you’re not necessarily sad, or you are but you can’t cry about it so you just watch a really, really sad film to let all the crying out?”

Him: “No, that’s ridiculous, if I’m sad I want to watch a happy film to pick myself back up again!”

Me: “But then how do you let all the sad out if you aren’t crying whilst eating a family-sized chocolate bar?”

Him:  “… Are you okay?”

I’d like to preface this by saying that I’m not entirely emotionally unstable, just a little bit, and I can usually express my emotions in more physically and mentally healthy ways than hysterically crying whilst watching (SPOILER ALERT) Kate die in My Sister’s Keeper and stuffing myself with tear-flavoured ice cream. However, I say usually because every so often (read: about once a month) it’s really the only way to open the floodgates and let it all out. Sometimes it’s hard to cry about the things you actually want to cry about, or you get embarrassed by the fact that even as a grown woman/awkward almost-twenty-year-old, little things make you want to cry. Don’t get me wrong, I cry all the time! I’m like a bloody fountain and anything and everything will set me off, but sometimes a good old sad film gives you an excuse to howl.

When I was 14 and my boyfriend (well, as much of a boyfriend as you can have at 14) broke up with me, naturally I was traumatised. And naturally no one really found it as big a deal as I did – except my best friends of course – most likely because I was 14. No one would validate our trauma, so what did we do? We stuck on a sad film and howled at the drama of it all and then we felt better. Later on, at about 17, my first, I guess, ‘proper’ relationship ended. This had been a year so people were somewhat more understanding, however I had a desire to pretend I wasn’t really upset. What did I do? I called up my bestie and we sat in her bed with a two-litre tub of ice cream, a family-sized galaxy bar and two spoons, and cried our eyes out to ‘PS I Love You’ until her mum came up to check if we were ok. Of course, eventually we were and – although the chocolate and ice cream helped – the film was definitely to thank for most of it.  It helped my friend to share my sadness, which lessened my emotional pain. By having other people there and crying with me, I felt less alone and embarrassed about crying and was able to direct my emotions towards a fictional death rather than thinking about my own personal ‘loss’.

At the start of writing this I wasn’t quite sure what conclusion I would come to about why I do this to myself, it was just something I’d always done. Now that I’m almost through I’ve come to realise why and suddenly it makes a lot of sense. When you’re seeking comfort from someone and it’s quite clear why you are sad – especially when said person can’t ‘fix’ your problem – it’s hard to think of what to say other than “I am sad”, which leads to you crying at them and them feeling completely powerless. By snuggling up in front of a sad film, you are taking the pressure off each other and directing it upon the characters. Additionally, the plight of a character in a film – whose purpose is dramatic effect – will probably be so much worse than your plight, though you might hate to admit it, which can help you to put things into perspective.

It sounds mad, really, to make yourself sadder in an attempt to make yourself feel better, however in my experience it really works. Perhaps, next time you need an emotional outlet, try watching a sad film and eating lots of junk food with a few friends, and who knows? You might end up cracking a smile – and I really hope you do.

Disclaimer: in case you think my parents were really mean, they did support me emotionally through my teenage dramas. However, when you’re 14, you love to think your parents don’t really ‘get you’ (even though they probably ‘got you’ better than you did).

Also, after reading this, my boyfriend can “sorta see it”, so that’s something.

[Chloe Tobin-Kemmer – @CTobinKemmer]

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