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It’s Okay to Cry

We were in Costco, browsing, which is my husband’s idea of a nightmare. He likes to race through the store with a map in mind, barely stopping as he grabs detergent to toss it in the cart. I often feel like I’m jogging to keep up. “Nine minutes in and out,” he will declare with pride as I slump in the front seat of the car, wondering what samples I could have eaten and what new items I might have missed.

Today, I said I wanted to find Christmas decorations and didn’t know exactly what I wanted. I informed him that we were going to take our time, and too bad if we weren’t out in nine minutes. And it was Saturday, so the crowds were even worse. 

About an hour into our browsing, with only one large roll of wrapping paper in our cart so far, I said I wanted to wait for a sample of popcorn. The line of people ran halfway down the frozen food aisle. My husband looked pained. “It’s not that bad. Calm down,” I said. A few minutes later, a small child standing near us in line began crying. The mom picked up the child and sternly said, “Stop crying. There’s nothing to be sad about.” I looked over at my husband, who was looking at the child with a look of complete understanding.  

Commanding someone to stuff down their feelings, or negating how someone is feeling – whether it’s a child waiting endlessly for popcorn or a husband trapped in the misery of browsing at Costco – isn’t very helpful. There is no one right way to feel in Costco. It’s okay to cry because it’s taking way too long to get a sample – or feel like crying because it’s been well over your nine-minute store limit. Feelings are human, and people of all ages can better manage their emotions when their feelings are first acknowledged as normal and okay.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.