Who we are, or at least who we think we are, rests in large part upon the walls that we have built inside ourselves. These walls are our self-defined limits, constraints on our own potential put that we inflict on ourselves.
We’re not really aware of that when we build them, though… we build them for other reasons, not even recognizing how much we are limiting ourselves. Eventually we even forget that there is a wall that we built… we just perceive it as part of our natural environment, something that has always been there.
We build these walls to shelter our inner, vulnerable self. We build them to provide safety, safety from pain, safety from risk. We build them to keep others out, so that they can’t see our weaknesses.
Unfortunately, they don’t truly work the way we intend. They block pain… but only from our conscious mind. Our subconscious mind still feels it, and reacts to it… we just don’t know where that reaction originates. Since we don’t know why we do something, we can’t control it… we can’t fix the cause if we don’t know what it is.
It does protect us from risk, but when building our walls we seldom consider the fact that reward is generally closely related to risk, meaning that if we experience no risk, we experience no reward. If we did consider it, we might be less likely to build them… knowing that we are limiting our future potential.
Walls also keep others away… but they do so by walling your self off from the world. As you build more walls, the part of the world that you can see keeps shrinking. Eventually, if you build enough, you can’t see anything but your self… and that’s an awfully lonely place to be.
When people are in prison for a long time… they become “institutionalized”, used to walls around you all the time and strict limits on their potential. When they get out, they are uncomfortable and disoriented. The outside world is such a chaotic place, filled with so much activity.
Mental walls work the same way… you are, essentially, building your own prison. As you spend more time in your prison, you become more comfortable with your limits, with your smaller version of the world, and the world outside your prison seems more and more scary.
That, in turn, makes you build your walls thicker and higher, to keep that world away. Sometimes something comes along, or more to the point someone, that makes you open your walls a little bit. You let them inside the outer walls of your prison, to continue our analogy, but you don’t let them past the visitor area. This could be a spouse or child, or even a true friend.
If that person hurts you, which is essentially a given when you are around someone enough, that can reinforce your fear, and cause you to push them back outside your outer walls, which you then proceed to build yet higher. This walls you in even further away from any opportunities in the outside world, in fear that they might turn out to bring pain.
Within your own prison, there is no parole, and you are serving a life sentence. The only way out, long term, is to break down the walls that make up the prison.
This is a very uncomfortable thought for many, perhaps most, people. That’s because they look at it as all or nothing… essentially you don’t change anything, or you have to let go of all your walls.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, if you attempt to do it that way, you’re very likely to fail to make your freedom permanent. It’s like digging a tunnel to escape your prison… you may escape, but if they catch you, they’ll put you back inside, in a different cell, probably one that’s much harder to escape.
You can, however, break down your walls a little bit at a time. You can make the conscious decision to tear down individual walls, releasing individual pains and fears. When you release them, you’ll have to face them, but once you face them and accept them, they lose their power and depart.
As each wall crumbles, you grow stronger… less of your time and energy is spent maintaining your prison, which leaves more available for tearing down more walls, and reaching for outside opportunities.
That effect snowballs, too… as you break down each wall, it adds to the energy you have available to break down the next. That makes it easier and easier to do… you build up momentum, and after a while you may find that some walls are falling apart on their own, without you even having to make a conscious effort.
The sense of openness and freedom that you experience as you do this can be both exhilarating and uncomfortable. The strength of those feelings is directly related to how fast you’re moving in tearing down the walls… that’s why I recommend that you start slowly: you can find a speed where the change is slow enough for you to handle.
Each wall that you break down is one less restriction on your self, one less limit to your potential. Even very early in the process you can feel this, and it is often the motivation to continue.
There’s nothing like that first sight of the outside world, that moment when you can see just how much potential you really have. It’s scary, exhilarating, and powerful, like the moment on a roller coaster when you’re just starting a free fall.
If it doesn’t scare you back inside your prison, though, the world is out there for you to conquer.