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Breaking Down Walls: Dealing with Emotional Barriers

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“I don’t allow people to get close to me because I don’t to
get hurt.” “I’ve been hurt one too many times to let anyone hurt me again.” People
use those lies as a way to justify why they distance themselves emotionally
from others. These responses are often a result of failed relationships that
left hearts broken and dreams shattered. While it is important that a person
learns how to guard their emotions as to not appear vulnerable, many people
guard their emotions so closely that they create permanent distance between
them and others resulting in emotional isolation and the inability to build
relationships beyond the surface level.
When one builds walls around their emotions, it not just keeps people
away from him/her, but it prevents him/her from moving forward. A person
becomes a prisoner. He/she desires to connect to others, but is unable to move
beyond the false protection of the walls they have built in order to form those
bonds and build relationships.  We relate
to the world through our life experiences as well as our feelings.  Because we felt the heat from the stove, we
know what “hot” is. Because we made mistakes in the past, we can now make
better decisions as we learn from them. These past experiences are used as
reference points as we encounter new situations.  Those emotions, however painful or blissful,
are also reference points for us as we encounter new relationships.  To go through life strategically in emotional
isolation from others deprives the individual from the connections he/she longs
for as relational beings.

In order to overcome
these barriers or walls, we must first identify what our barriers are made of.
Is it fear? Is it the attempt to avoid pain? Is it the attempt to maintain
control?  We can’t just think we can hop
over them when we are ready and be adequately prepared for relating to others.  That ideology gives the excuse to surround
ourselves again in isolation when we get hurt again. Hurt and pain is just as
much a part of life as happiness and pleasure.  It is important to destroy the false beliefs that
create walls and toss them so that you are able to move forward in life. Those
beliefs sound something like, “If I allow this person to get close to me, they
will hurt me.” Anytime you have an all-or-nothing thought, you have a cognitive
distortion that convinces you of something that really isn’t true. Old patterns
or lifestyles are easy to regress into because it is what is familiar. However,
you cannot proceed in life if you are retreating into the safety of
self-destructive behaviors. This pattern handicaps you from being able to grown
and be equipped with tools you will need in order to survive emotionally and mentally.
The key is to deal with whatever key
issue has been holding you captive.  You
have to learn how to reject irrational beliefs and self-defeating thoughts. You
have to learn how to become empowered to the fact that you are in control of
your emotional ties while making informed decisions about how you invest your
time and energy into another person or situation. Learning these techniques is
not as easy as they may sound. It is important that if you feel you struggle
with emotional boundaries and emotional disconnect that you ask for help.
Remember, we are social beings; we were not made to go through life alone.

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October 2011
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