Have you built a fortress around your heart?

heart wallIf we’ve been hurt in love, it is easy to say, “I’m not going to let that happen again.” We close off our heart, building a wall around it so no one can get close. The pain is too great. We don’t want to feel like that ever again. We do whatever we can so that feeling won’t be repeated.

Twelve years ago I took a 9-day intense personal growth seminar. After a week of deep work we did an exercise that sounds particularly cruel. It certainly felt that way at the time yet it caused a breakthrough for me, but I would never recommend it.

The exercise was done within our group of 15 people who had been working together and sharing ourselves deeply all week. We were to choose the three people we felt least connected to and tell them so. This was excruciating for me to tell someone else this, but it was more so because half the group told me I was one of the three. I was so devastated I cried uncontrollably for a long time. In fact, it was so painful I get tears thinking about it now twelve years later.

The breakthrough for me though, was to look at why I was causing such a disconnect with so many people. I always thought I got along well with most people so this feedback was like a bucket of ice water on my head.

After much soul searching, I saw there were many reasons I was off-putting to others. But one that hit hard was that I’d built a thick wall around my heart, thinking that if no one got close they couldn’t hurt me. Of course, all it really did was keep others — even people I loved — at arms length.

I visualized myself kicking through the wall to expose my heart once again. After more work, I began to connect with those around me.

In A Return to Love, Marianne Willliamson says:Marianne Williamson

Our barriers to love are rarely consciously chosen. They are our efforts to protect the places where the heart is bruised. Somewhere, sometime, we felt as though an open heart caused us pain or humiliation. We loved with the openness of a child, and someone didn’t care, or laughed, or even punished us for the effort. In a quick moment, perhaps a fraction of a second, we made a decision to protect ourselves from ever feeling that pain again. We would never again allow ourselves to be so vulnerable. We built emotional defenses. We tried to build a fortress across our heart, to protect us from any cold assault. The only problem is, according to the Course [in Miracles], that we create what we defend against.

Have you built a fortress around your heart so it is hard for love to get in? By breaking down the wall it means your heart is vulnerable, but without being open you can never fully love. Having your heart bruised is the risk you have to take to experience love. Are you willing?

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5 responses to “Have you built a fortress around your heart?”

  1. bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    In the immortal words of SATC’s Mr. Big, “abso-f**kin-lutely.” I know I have my guard up way too much, especially when I first meet a guy I’m interested in; this is something I need to work on. Unfortunately, I think most of us over 40s have relationship and/or personal baggage from our pasts that we bring into new relationships, whether consciously or on an unconscious level.

    I guess the real question IMHO is: how do you deal with your baggage? Do you ignore it and sweep it under the rug and hope it will go away, or do you spill your guts out about your past and present relationship issues to your latest and greatest in the hope that he will help you to deal with your issues instead of heding for the hills faster than you can say Jack Robinson? How do you feel if he opens up right away, does it make you feel queasy or do you gratefully embrace his sensitive side?

    This is definitely a hot button issue for me and something I need to do a lot more thinking about.

    Best wishes from bookyone 🙂

  2. Strblonde Avatar

    This was particularly poignant for me right now cuz I have just been rejected yet again by a man who I was POSITIVE was THE ONE this time. He seemed to fall for me hard right away and because he was not the handsomest man I’ve ever dated, I felt he was being truly humble. He professes to be a Christian too, and because he knew how he was supposed to treat people I felt was truly sincere. But because of HIS abusive, troubled past he had walls, no doubt, that cannot be broken down yet. In the meantime, my “baggage” of a broken heart through divorce, low self-esteem from childhood, an accident that killed my sister and nephew, discovery of my son’s homosexuality, did not allow me to offer him the comfort he needed. Yes, indeed, how DO you have a relationship with all those issues in the way?

    Peace in Christ,

  3. Mitsy Avatar

    On the other side of the coin, I have simply had my heart out on my sleeve way too many times. I have many more people “connected” to me than not connected, but I am continually hurt (very deeply, I might add) when a guy ACTS like he’s so very interested in me and then bails. I can’t deal with phony or dishonest people..that is my biggest pet peeve about people. I refuse to be phony with others and resent it big time when it’s done to me. If people were a little more honest and a little less self-centered, there would be fewer heartbreaks and unhappy people. Too many people put on a fake persona.

    As far as the wall goes, if you never take it down, you will never be able to get close to most people. I know that there is a fine line between that wall and leaving yourself vulnerable for more hurt. In my case, I have to find a way to balance both of those as I simply have been hurt about 3 too many times in recent years to deal with anymore grief. Sadly, most of that grief has come from MEN.

  4. Mitsy Avatar

    P.S. to Strblonde…

    The last two guys I was interested in or involved with were certainly NOT Tom Cruise lookalikes. They were both overweight and nice looking (to me), but I’m sure a lot of women might not find them attractive. This last guy “claimed” to also be a Christian. I was duped into believing he “could” be the one as well, but then he started playing games. He had some immaturity issues, control issues, etc. Never ceases to amaze me the number of men in their 40’s who have not grown up and do not know a thing about relationships or how to treat a woman. Just remember, it isn’t just you feeling the rejection. Many of us have been in that boat many times. I certainly have.

  5. Steve Lindsley Avatar
    Steve Lindsley

    Thanks for that. After 17 years single, and very little dating in that time, I can safely say I built “The Wall.” You’ve given me much room for thought … although I thought I’d delighted in the fact I AM a curmudgeon, but see where it’s gotten me.