I realized that if we’re going to talk about the heart brain, we should probably talk about heart walls. “Heart walls” isn’t an official phrase. It’s more my phrase. Science speaks of the “heart wall” as three physical layers of the heart. But my version of heart walls is something we all know a lot about.
To Guard the Heart
We’ve all experienced heart walls because we all have them. And if we’ve gone out on a limb and explored new relationships, we’ve likely run into a few, too. If we were to describe what a heart wall feels like many of us would simply say we’re “guarded.” Or perhaps a lover “won’t let me in.” And we know the results of a heart wall, because we’ve either pushed someone away or couldn’t get close. What we probably don’t know is why we have them. Or just how limiting they are. But then again, maybe we do know those answers but choose to avoid them. Willful ignorance is bliss.
So let’s explore how heart walls came to be, their effects, and how to dismantle them. But keep in mind, you can only tear down your own walls. It’s a process of self awareness which requires willingness and self reflection. And even though you can’t tear down another’s heart wall, having a better understanding of your own helps you be more patient and understanding of others.
A Matter of Trust
You’ve probably been around the block at least once in life and by now you know to keep your guard up. It would seem that I have been around the block thousands of times because my guard is extremely high. There was a time when I would trust someone until they gave me reason not to. I learned (the very hard way) that my parents were right and I had it backwards. Trust is earned, and for good reason. Because when we trust someone we see them as we think they are. And although we see this as faith in that person’s essence, it places a heavy burden of expectation. We don’t realize that our vision of this person is actually an expectation. All too often visions and expectations simply don’t materialize as we think or hope they will. And broken trust leads to heartbreaking disappointment. And disappointment hurts…bad.
Heart of Stone
Learning the hard way is an all out jading experience. Trust was once a symbol of regard but became a weakness overnight. It seemed that the less I trusted others the easier it was to see through a facade. And it didn’t stop there. I actually found myself honing in on any weakness I could find to prevent getting too close. Let’s call it “mitigating vulnerability.” I found this extremely handy for guarding my heart, but also extremely limiting in my experiences with others. Fortunately, or unfortunately (I haven’t decided yet), I proved myself right one too many times. With each validation I erected another layer of stone around my heart. What made matters worse was the moment I was willing to take down a stone for someone I was quickly reminded why the stone was there in the first place.
The Guarded Heart
There are a lot of romantic ideas defining the reason for a guarded heart. There’s even a self-assessment to determine whether or not you have a guarded heart. But I’ve always found that people know themselves better than they’d like to admit. You know if you’re guarded, and you likely know why. The foundation for that fortress you began erecting around your heart was almost always poured in your childhood. Patterns in your life emerge every day. You repeat decisions and behaviors based on other’s responses to your words, actions, and yes, even your inadequacies. And if you found yourself making the “same mistakes” or the same “bad decisions” which got you a negative reaction from your family, friends, or peers, you have likely found yourself with a massive wall surrounding your most precious asset.
Sorry, But You Can’t Love Them Enough
I find it interesting that when you Google “Guarded Heart” there’s a plethora of advice on how to love someone with a guarded heart, to get them to open up, or how to let your own guard down. If there’s one thing I’ve learned thus far in life, if someone wants to be with you, they will be. If they don’t, then they’ll find a way to show you (if they don’t simply tell you) that they can’t. Sometimes I think that people are so wrapped up in being loved that they can’t accept that the object of their desire just isn’t in the right space to return their affections. No matter how much time, space, and understanding you give them, some people simply have more work to do on themselves before they can remotely begin to live up to your vision of them.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
And if it’s you who can’t/won’t let your guard down, then you are most certainly not in the position to drag someone through the mud of your emotional journey. It’s unfair. You simply can’t take from the vessel of their love to fill yourself up while leaving them empty. And that actually brings us full circle.
At the Heart of Personal Responsibility
I suppose my jaded nature is about to shine brighter. Can someone tell me why people feel the need to coax love from someone? Why do people even Google “how to love someone with a guarded heart”? If someone isn’t open to you, why must you change to help them open up? I simply don’t understand this need to be like an octopus and contort ourselves to make it through the keyhole of another. At what point are we, as individuals, worth more?
As someone with a guarded heart I can agree with lists such as these, but find them completely unnecessary. I am responsible for my own heart, as you are for yours. You do not need to change yourself to open a guarded heart. Love just doesn’t work that way. But for some reason people think it does. A great example is when a woman told me that she was trying to “love [her boyfriend] enough” so he could manage his alcoholism. It sounds so wonderful, doesn’t it? But how is loving someone “enough” at the neglect of her own desire for love altruistic? Why do we insist on suffering for the sake of love?
Tearing Down a Heart Wall
There is no one way to start easing your guarded heart. Honestly, why would you want to? In some ways it allows you to focus on the true essence of a person without getting lost in romantic visions. I think the best thing you could do when dealing with a guarded heart, or carrying a guarded heart, is to get to know your own heart. Dive deep into yourself. Meditate. Face your demons. Get to know yourself. There’s truly no sense in tearing down a wall that is built so well. Plus, you’re not a damsel in distress. Instead, maybe it would be best to build a ladder for the one you deem worthy of letting in.