Whether we’ve been hurt before or not, we typically seek to avoid all sorts of damage to our precious hearts. We stay away from things that could potentially cause us to suffer. There are different ways to do that, but we almost always go for the famous and easily attained shield – the emotional wall. We build it around ourselves to feel protected and secure, eliminating the possibility of pain and heartache. It sounds apt because it provides security, right? But what we fail to realize is that it’s a false sense of security. It is quite ironic too – its purpose is to keep us from being victimized when building walls itself is victimizing us.
“Walls” Broken Down
An emotional wall is a kind of defense mechanism used as a shield from potential emotional distress. It is usually an unhealthy response to hurtful events that had occurred earlier. It is an inflexible process that is eliminates intimacy based on the belief that it could be afflicting or a cause of pain.
Think of being in a prison, what is it like? You’re isolated in a dark place, where there is absolutely no room for progress. You feel miserable because you’re stuck. You wake up everyday, do the same thing, and repeat. It feels like time has stopped. When you build walls around you, it’s sort of the same thing.
In order to secure your psychological wellbeing, you deny access to your soul. You avoid being vulnerable. You refuse to allow anyone in because if they get to know you for who you truly are – they might leave. You’d rather reject than be rejected. Your lack of trust prevents you from having intimate and raw connections with people. You think the stronger the wall, the less chance of getting hurt. You just don’t want to be found.
But what you are not aware of is that the negatives are outweighing the good. In the process of not allowing anything in, you are shutting out the good. You miss out on amazing people who are not only willing to love you for who you are, but also provide you with support and a sense of security. It’s ironic how by building walls you are trying to avoid emotional pain when the isolation itself will most probably lead you to depression or loneliness. You trap yourself in negative thoughts that prevent you from viewing the world in slightly more optimistic way. You live your life as if the past must continue to be reality.
So, how can you build intimate relationships with others AND keep your emotions secure?
The best we way we can avoid getting hurt and being taken advantage of is to set limits, that is by setting boundaries. It’s important to emphasize on the definition of a boundary.
1. a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
2. a limit of a subject or sphere of activity.
A boundary is a place where there is access, but it is limited. Contrary to a wall, it allows people to see you but not get to you. It isn’t a barrier. It allows you to be vulnerable, open, and trusting. Building intimate connections isn’t an issue. The purpose of a boundary is to set a line for people in which they cannot cross. The person you’re dealing with has to abide by your set of values and rules otherwise you’d be willing to show them where the door is. In other words, a boundary is a line you draw that calls for action when dishonored.
Boundaries means having a strong sense of identity and peace within oneself. Setting boundaries means you value yourself to demand being respected, and refusing to settle for anything less than that. It’s being strong, yet calm. The foundation of a boundary is self-worth. Forming a boundary is believing in your own right of personal space, set of values, and privacy. It’s mainly what provides you with the freedom to be your authentic self while preserving your privacy. Knowing where you stand with yourself helps you understand where you stand with others as well. You teach others how treat and love you.
Signs Of a Weak or Nonexistent Boundary
Here are the warning signs:
- Not being able to express refusal or dissatisfaction.
- Not knowing when to stop giving.
- Reacting to offensive comments with humor.
- Oversharing personal information.
- Taking responsibility for the actions/emotions of others.
Establishing a Healthy Boundary
- Self-awareness. Discover what makes you, you. Indulge in your inner world and invest your time in learning about your emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. You should be able to distinguish your strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to have a clear understanding of people and how they perceive you.
- Self-respect. Be confident about the set of values you’ve set. You should believe that it is entirely your right to set boundaries, it’s not out of selfishness. Your emotions are valid. You also need to remember that setting a boundary preserves your self-worth.
- Clarity. Don’t expect people to anticipate the way you’d like to be treated. Be clear and honest about your values. Also, make sure you use”I” instead of “you” when dealing with others because it makes them more at ease and less defensive.
- Boundaries. Once you know yourself enough and you truly deserve, be expressive about your concerns in an appropriate way.