Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Walls We Build

I'd venture to say that everyone has, at some point in their life, gotten hurt by someone that they cared about, or trusted, or, most likely, both. For many of us, it's probably happened numerous times. In some cases, it may have been an outright betrayal and in others it might have just been a situation that didn't work out, and the hurt isn't the result of blame, but of disappointment. Regardless of the reason, when hurt happens, we tend to build up walls. The next time we encounter a similar situation, we're more guarded. We trust less easily, and we're more protective of our heart and our spirit.

It's totally understandable. If you touch a stove and it burns you badly, you don't want to touch it again unless you absolutely know it's been turned off for a substantial amount of time. It's common sense, really. It's how we learn from our past so that painful history doesn't repeat itself time and again. At the same time, the higher the walls you build, the more you're not only keeping others out, but you're closing yourself in. And one day, you may wake up, look around, and realize you've completely walled yourself in, and you're trapped inside. The line between learning from the past and protecting yourself a little, and stranding yourself inside of your own fortress, can become very thin.

Getting hurt is no fun. I think we can all easily agree on that. But neither is not feeling anything, or at least very little - which is exactly what can happen as you build higher and higher walls. And it therefore becomes a careful balance, and a question you have to ask yourself. Would I rather risk being hurt, but also take the chance that I'm going to experience some very positive things, or would I rather cut off the pain, but also cut out all of the positive as well? I think it's a question that each of us have to answer for ourselves individually. And of course, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing - you can close up a little, but still leave some room for emotion - but you may risk it getting more and more severe.

I've personally come to the conclusion that I'm an emotional being. I love feeling happiness, and laughing, and the feeling of companionship and comfort I find with close friends and loved ones. And I have come of with a few questions that I have to ask myself when I'm tempted to wall myself up after a seriously painful experience. I thought I'd share them, in case they could help anyone dealing with the same.

  • Am I holding the mistakes of others against someone that has no connection to them? 
  • If so, has the (new) person I'm holding them against given me any actual reason to do so? It's important that "they care about me" or "this situation feels (emotionally) scary" aren't in and of themselves legitimate reasons. It's nothing they've personally done that indicates you should close them off.
  • What could happen if I build up walls against this person? Is it worth risking this to avoid potential hurt?
  • What could happen if I (possibly slowly) let down the walls? Is this worth the risk of getting hurt? 
  • What is the absolute worst thing that could happen if I stop building walls? (ie, will you physically perish, or will you be emotionally hurt for a while?). 
  • In the long run, being totally honest with myself, would I be ok if this absolute worst thing happened. This doesn't mean would everything be fine right away. It means would I survive if it happened, and eventually, over time, be ok? Even if that eventually was a year from now or more. 
I can honestly say, I've been through a lot. I have trusted people time and again only to get hurt. I can also say, I wouldn't have changed any of it. I would not have traded all of the good experiences just to not get hurt. And sometimes, it helps to make a list of all of the positive experiences in those situations, and how you'd feel if they never happened. I think in the end that's what it comes down to. Weighing the good, and the bad, and deciding how much you can handle. For me, the good always wins, because I never want to look back and wonder what would have happened. I'd rather know I gave it everything I had and gained every possible experience from it as a result, even if it meant getting hurt.

This blog has been written as part of the 30 Day I AM WOMAN Blog and Linkedin Challenge. 

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