Sunday, April 10, 2011

There is No Safety Behind an Emotional Wall (Read Time: 3 min.)

When do your emotional walls go up?

How often do you find yourself hiding behind a stoic front?

Why do some people trigger your emotional walls and others don't?

In psychology terms, an emotional wall is similar to what we call suppression, being vaguely aware that you feel how you feel but working very hard to push it away. Emotional walls take on a bigger meaning because they involve the exertion of energy to such a point where you literally erect an emotional wall around your feelings, thoughts and behaviors as a means of protecting yourself from the possible rejection, hurt, and abandonment coming from someone else.

When you're in the presence of someone who you don't feel emotionally safe with, there's a tendency to erect an emotional wall. Rather than dealing with what bothers you about the interaction or having an open discussion about how this person makes you feel, the emotional wall lets you be physically present and emotionally/spiritually unavailable to this person. The thinking goes: "If the real me is locked away, this person can't hurt me." Truth be told, you're hurting yourself.

After a while, people become so good at erecting emotional walls that it's a natural, subconscious occurrence. You enter a room full of strange people, you put up your guard and you go about your business. It's not until we leave emotionally "dangerous" situations and feel free to be who we really are that we realize that what just showed up in us was actually an emotional wall. After a while, though, emotional walls get tiring. It's hard to live on the defensive, to feel like you have to protect yourself from everything and everyone. At some point, we all come to a place where we say, "Can't I just be myself and know that I'll be safe?" That's the break-free point for most people.

There's nothing safe about living behind emotional walls.

There's no real creation of intimacy if you clam up every time someone gets close. People feel when your emotional walls go up, even if you have a smile on your face and a pleasant tone to your voice. Fakeness shows. If what you want is to be free to be who you are, you've got to begin by knowing that you create your own sense of safety. Until you give yourself the security and safety that you require, it will be difficult to stop using emotional walls as protection mechanisms.

When you get that no one can hurt, anger, upset, or offend you without your permission, you also understand that you get to choose who you allow into your space and when. You get to decide. More than this, when you know that you can be fully yourself and still be able to say yes or no to what you do want or what you don't want, you gain a sense of self-efficacy that transforms your everyday living into a powerful demonstration of what it means to be who you are, where you and without apology. Somewhere, we learned that it was unsafe to be the real us. Somehow, we've got to unlearn that and teach ourselves how to be who we are wherever we are and know that we are always safe and secure.

Here are three ways you can do that:

1. Create rituals that enforce your feeling of safety. Whether that's music you play in your car on the way to a hostile work environment or a room in your house that's your sacred space in the midst of a rocky relationship or affirmations that you say in the mirror to evoke a sense of love and approval for yourself, find daily rituals that reinforce your sense of safety.

2. Remind yourself that no one has the power or ability to hurt you. Be mindful of your reaction to people when they don't behave the way you want them to. It's not their behavior that hurts; its your expectations not being met that hinders. Change your reaction and you your level of safety will increase.

3. Make a conscious effort to pull down emotional walls as soon as you feel them going up. Say to yourself, "I can be myself. I love and approve of myself. It doesn't matter who's in this room. I'm here to be me and if they don't like it, they can find some other place to be. Who I am IS enough." That kind of inner mantra goes a long way in helping you to, in the moment, take down the emotional wall. Recognizing its erection goes a long way in shortening its duration.


  1. Wow. Thank you, Kassandra, for this excellent article. I'm delighted to have connected with you through twitter. Keep shining. The world needs to hear your words. :-)

  2. Thanks. I am going through my own self-improvement plan after a childhood where my father physically and emotionally scarred me. I have not dated in over a decade because I do not trust enough, and I really trying to break through this and move on with my life. Good to know that there are people who care.

  3. My emotional barrier is extremely rigid so which later had me end up in depression and anxiety, and a mix of random emotions ( positive and negative ) and thought that everyone is always bad, never good. I have expressed myself some regret that I want to find a way out of the barrier or tearing up the emotional wall to free myself of my inner demons so that I can get a relationship, if possible.

  4. It's just a small part of me that had regret, which is my younger childhood self.

  5. Excellent information & strategy to comprehen & effectively deal with the emotional walls one may erect to keep others out, yet while hurting themselves and the potential relationships they may have. Thank you for this post. It was very enlighten.

  6. Excellent information & strategy to comprehen & effectively deal with the emotional walls one may erect to keep others out, yet while hurting themselves and the potential relationships they may have. Thank you for this post. It was very enlighten.


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