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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.



  1. Joy says:

    i have had pain in my whole life i have had Emotional abuse physical abuse sexually abuse my 5 yr old died at 5 fell though ice on a river bad Relationship i stay in my room with the door shut my self off from the world i do go to work every day i put on a fake smile am lost in side with these walls up know one can hurt me but i feel so alone


    • Thank you Joy for being transparent about what you are currently experiencing. Going through difficult times can seem very isolating; as if no one understands what you are going through. I hope you are able to identify a good person of support that you trust that can walk with on your journey to healing. If I can be of any assistance, please let me know.

  2. Joe says:

    I am 43 and have for the past 35 years or so been carrying a lot of pain and suffering in my heart that have built up thick walls. I hold on to all the negatives through life and let go of all the things that were good. I am just now trying to let go and open up.

  3. Remains Unknown says:

    One thing you may not know about emotional barriers (speaking as a teenager of 13 years of age) is that those walls, there what keep us from our lives being destroyed. My choir director wanted to add some more emotion to a song so he said partner up with someone and look into their eyes and relax and lower those walls. Now for one is he didn’t know that we Jr. High kids could even do it. But we did, and it was so sad and depressing and it made almost all 32 kids cry and the rest that weren’t crying left with a blank face. One thing you need to realize as adults is that we need those walls. Guys apparently have bigger walls then girls but when those walls are lowered, for one it brings back very very sad memories that were berried in our heads and for two it lets those emotions break lose. We were all happy and cheerful at the beginning of the class, but at the end we were extremely depressed and in tears. Sometimes it is not good to lower those walls we have set to protect us. Now that doesn’t mean “don’t touch me” or not have a social life at all, if those kinds of walls then yeah sure break em’ down but if it’s emotional walls, especially for other teenagers, don’t you dare.

    • I agree that people, young and old, often to create barriers as a means of protection. I can only imagine how difficult it can be for a teenager to be able to confront some of those painful experiences or memories. Thank you so much for your comment!

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October 2011
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