• The assignment, in a nutshell, is to cry hard for a stretch of time (which might be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour). Most students find it helpful to set aside a full hour.
  • The “goal” is to let yourself experience crying very hard without restraint. (Some people call this “ugly crying”.)
  • Make sure you will be alone and have privacy for the time you set aside, so you won’t feel inhibited by how other people (friends, housemates, family, or whatever) might react.

If crying comes easy to you, it’s fine to just sit down and cry. If it doesn’t, or if you want to try it with a prompt, try listening to a song or watching a movie that you believe might make you cry.

  1. Pick out a movie that has made you cry in the past (best plan) or feel like crying (second best).
  2. Then watch it, or watch only the parts that make you cry (and the part leading into them)
  3. Or you can choose a song or a book… whatever you think will work.
  4. The goal is to let yourself cry, and to cry hard and loud.
  5. If you do the exercise more than once, try playing with the volume of sound that you’re making. Some people cry silently; others let go and wail. Either is fine. If you normally cry quietly, see what happens if you let yourself make sound. If you normally wail loudly when you cry, see what happens if you cry silently.
  6. The goal is to cry hard, i.e., to have a good, cathartic cry that lets some emotion out.
  7. You can’t “fail” the assignment — it’s fine if your crying is more subdued — but be aware of crying hard as an objective.
  8. Some people find it helpful to think about what’s called a balance of attention: part of our attention on what’s sad, part of our attention on something good or hopeful. (For example: if we think about something, sad, we may not cry. If we think about something hopeful, we may.)
  9. A variation on this exercise is to listen to a song or songs that make you cry.
  10. Because crying can involve feeling both “good” and “bad” feelings, and feeling things we may have papered over, after the exercise, I recommend doing some activity you find pleasant, that tends to “rebalance” you and remind you of good things in the world. An example might be walking in a park or doing some gardening.

Movies recommended by former students:

Students have used an amazing number and variety of movies for this exercise in past quarters.

Whatever movie makes you cry is what’s right for you. One student reported that he had cried hard while watching a scene in Die Hard in which Bruce Willis’s character walks barefoot over broken glass trying to save his ex-wife and others from death. (So – whatever works!)

Here’s a list of movies students have mentioned from previous quarters: 

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Up (animated)
  3. Bolt (animated)
  4. Toy Story 2 (animated)
  5. Toy Story 3 (animated)
  6. 12 years a slave
  7. Marley and Me
  8. Grave of the Fireflies
  9. Dancer in the Dark
  10. Die Hard 
  11. Spirited Away
  12. The fault in our stars
  13. Les Miserables
  14. The Love Letter
  15. 22 Jump Street
  16. It’s My Party
  17. Jack (Robin Williams)
  18. A Walk to Remember
  19. The Notebook
  20. Good Morning, Vietnam
  21. Enemy of the State
  22. The Fault in our Stars
  23. Life is Beautiful
  24. Midnight Cowboy
  25. Schindler’s List
  26. Sleepers
  27. American Beauty
  28. The Way Way Back
  29. It’s a Wonderful Life
  30. Death of Eleanor Rigby