Yesterday, in part two of this series looking at isolation, I wrote about roses and thorns and how those thorns, whilst being a defense, all too often hurt others. In this part (Part 3) I am writing not of roses but of walls and whilst these are often built solely to block and not to hurt can’t they sometimes also hurt others?
“One of the things that life has taught me thus far is to try to be understanding when people put up walls in order to feel safe – in order to keep others out, to keep themselves safely in, to guard their most precious and treasured possession – their heart. Indeed haven’t I done the self-same thing myself in the past and possibly all too often? But what I really struggle with is not so much the walls that we build but the shards of glass and the barbed wire that some folk seem to place on top of those walls.”
The above statement is (as much as I remember of it) a quote from a conversation that I had with a colleague many years ago concerning our clients and how they so often end up isolating, withdrawing, and pushing people away. Sadly I have to admit that it seems to me to be as true today as it was when I first said it.
In it there is a recognition that we do often put up walls, barriers etc, and that sometimes those walls do come with brutal, severe added defenses such as the shards of glass and the barbed wire that I spoke of and I guess these resemble the thorns that I spoke of in yesterday’s piece.
Of course not all walls that people put up come with these additional more severe defenses. The thing about the walls that we build is that we build them to order and according to our perceived personal circumstances. Because of this some folk may have only one or two walls – carefully positioned around their biggest vulnerability, some a few walls, whilst others seem to have many walls. And let’s be honest here, haven’t we all at one time or another met someone, sadly even children, with whom it seems difficult to see where the walls stop and the person starts?
As a child, as a result of my mental health and some things that happened to me, I was very much like this – presenting as much wall as I was child.
Not that many would have noticed them however, because I had almost instinctively worked out that not all walls have to look wall-like and that actually the most effective walls are not wall-shaped but mask-shaped.
By presenting a mask, I – the real me; the hurt, frightened, vulnerable, confused, disturbed and lost little boy, could still attempt to separate, could still try to hide, could still hope to retain some resemblance of safety and yet to all intent and purpose seem perfectly ordinary.
Of course what I had not quite fully understood way back then, is that this mask shaped walls would remain with me way past my childhood. If you have a mind too, check out my poem “The Image Weaver” on my poetry blog. You can find it here ‘The Image Weaver‘ , or alternatively (if this works) you should be able to listen to is by clicking on the arrow below
The truth is that I wore those wall-based masks for years even in when most active and the truth is even in my most active most sociable state, despite the fact that I was a fully involved, extremely sociable, and a very active Christian leader I was, in so many ways, still that hurt, frightened, vulnerable, confused, disturbed and lost little boy. Why? Well partly because as much as walls – even mask shaped walls – lock people out they also lock you in.
And additionally as much as they keep people away from the hurts and the vulnerabilities that we feel all too often they keep us away from them or prevent us from getting to them in a way that they can be healthily addressed and dealt with.
And that is the thing isn’t it? In this series I am looking at isolation, how isolated I am, how it affects me and where it comes from. Just as, in the previous part of this series, I had to recognize and acknowledge my own responsibilities for the thorns (and their subsequent effects) that I had grown over the years, so too do I have to recognize and acknowledge the walls (even and especially those mask-shaped one) that I have built and to understand the effects of them.
The poem that mentioned above – The Image Weaver – is one that I wrote many years ago. I published it on my Deep From Within poetry blog back in 2009 and I wrote these words at the end of it.
“The difficulty is, and trust me it is so very sad when this happens, that sometimes we can put on so many masks and become so adept at creating and wearing them that we simply forget which face is the real us.”
Masks and walls can both have the same effect in this regard. We can lose ourselves, the real ‘me’, or lose the; ability, the understanding, the instinct to heal, to be real, to be us, to be free. To run naked and raw and open and honest and even vulnerable even in the relative security of the closest and most intimate of our relationships.
And walls are strange things, whether built subconsciously or even consciously we can all too soon forget that they are there and that they can themselves, influence, effect and even distort things – perceptions, understandings, relationships.
Of course the fact is that if they do exist in us they were built for a reason and the argument that they have served a purpose and protected us is a valid one – just as the argument that a roses (and our) thorns were grown for a reason is a valid one. But I have to ask – do those reasons (and thus the purpose and need for those walls) still exist?
In one way, and I am trying to be so very candid here, I have to say that since the very same walls that have kept others away from my deepest and innermost wounds, hurts, fears and vulnerabilities also tend to keep me away from them (or at very least prevent me from dealing with them properly) yes the need for those walls does in a way still exist. But the plain fact of the matter is that actually instead of investing my energy into maintaining those walls what I should be doing is investing my energy into finding healing for the wounds, hurts, fears and vulnerabilities.
And this is a key point is it not? For as I have already mentioned as much as those walls protect and defend they also imprison and corrupt and very often they are in control of us instead of us being in control of them. How many times have I (indeed have you) experienced the panicked sensation of those walls crumbling or closing in on us?
In this blog I try so very hard to be open and honest and it is my sincerest hope that by showing my pain and my fears and my vulnerabilities I can find some sort of release, some sort of help, and that at the same time others will also be encouraged or helped.
So that as I openly share each of the bricks that I have built one on top of the other I will metaphorically and practically remove each of them and instead of using those bricks to build walls start building bridges instead.
As I said in the introduction to this series, I am a Christian and my faith is very important to me and will no doubt be a key element in this series. Yesterday I spoke of my thorns in respect of my faith and having given my life to Christ and here today in this piece I must consider may walls in the context of my faith and my life in Christ. And in doing so I find that I am left with two essential questions/thought processes…
1. Do I have faith in Christ? Absolutely! Really? Then if I have faith in Christ why the need for those walls?
2. Have you given your life to Christ? Yes I have – many years back and several times since. And are your walls not part of your life? Yes of course. Then if you have given your life to Christ and those walls are part of your life, then those walls are now Christ’s and are His for you to do with what He wills.