As professional counselors, we’ve helped hundreds of people become better able to deal with life’s challenges. No two people are alike, and no two situations are alike, but there is one thing that is nearly universal: people apologize for using our tissues.

I’m completely serious. At some point during the counseling process, tears will form in a client’s eyes, he or she will reach for a tissue, and then apologize to the counselor for using the tissue and tearing up.

It doesn’t bother us when people use the tissues we have in our offices. In fact, we buy tissues in very large quantities for just that reason. But the real reason the people apologize to us is that they feel ashamed for crying. We’re raised to think of tears as a sign of weakness. As children, we’re told to stop crying. As we grow older, society tells us that tears are inappropriate. So it’s no wonder that when tears well up in her eyes, we assume that something’s wrong with us, and we become embarrassed.

No need. In fact, there is no shame in our office. That’s an important part of counseling. We try to help people move past negative reactions such as feeling shame, so they can focus on resolving the issues and situations that make them feel that way. Crying doesn’t make you a bad person. What makes you cry doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s part of who you are and what brought you to where you are now in life. The fact that you’re sitting in a counselor’s office is a clear sign that you want to move forward.

A researcher named Brené Brown has devoted her life to studying shame. She says that “we can’t be brave in the big world without a least one small safe space to work through our fears.” She also regards failure is nourishing, assuming that we’re willing to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, human, and curious about ourselves. Her description of shame for women is “a web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straitjacket.”

In “The Song of the Soul,” Edwin Leibfreed describes tears as small baptisms that cleanse the soul. We see our role as helping to encourage those baptisms. So please don’t ever feel the need to apologize for taking a tissue. We have plenty, and they’re there for you. And if you do apologize, know that we understand.

Call us or contact us today to begin your healing journey. 317-790-9396

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